100 years ago, Albert Einstein formulated the equation E=MCSquared, that expresses Einstein’s theory that as one accelerates an object, it not only gets faster, but gets heavier. I must admit it is not very often that I come across the anniversary of a theory like this. We normally mark dates of births, deaths, battles, elections or great reforms. Theories don’t quite have the same resonance. I don’t imagine that there will be grand parades marking Einstein’s achievement.
I have read a bit about this incredible man and his life, and to this day I’ll frankly admit to finding it pretty hard to get my head around some of the ideas of relativity. (Physics was never one of my stronger subjects, something I intend to fix at nightschool. Never too late to learn). But there can be no doubt at all about the impact this man has had on the subsequent 100 years, in terms of our understanding of the universe and of course in fields such as nuclear power, both in its benign and not-so-benign forms.
And Einstein of course is incredibly famous not least for personifying the “eccentric genius” with his mass of scruffy hair, wild-eyed expressions and casual manner. How often are scientists in the movies, television and theatre portrayed in this way (assuming that scientists are portrayed at all). More recently, the late great Richard Feynman continued the tradition for iconoclastic irreverence, famously deflating science establishment in a marvellous collection of books about science and public policy.
For those interested in Einstein’s contemporaries in the science community in America, I can strongly recommend this book by Ed Regis.