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Albert Einstein

QUESTION: What are some accomplishments of Albert Einstein?


The accomplishments of Albert Einstein in the 20th century were profound and varied. When Albert was five years old, his father gave him a compass. He was filled with wonder when he discovered that the compass needle always pointed in the same direction, to the north. This made him think that something deeper was behind things and perhaps lead to his brilliant career.

After a less-than-stellar academic childhood and early adulthood, starting in 1905, Einstein made giant forward strides to initiate a revolution in human understanding of light, the atom, time, space, motion, and matter. Taken together, these strides have had impacts far beyond physics into philosophy, politics, religion, even art and music.

In that year, Albert Einstein published some important papers in a German scientific magazine. They included one of the most important scientific documents in history. It explained what came to be called his Special Theory of Relativity. Ten years later he expanded his Special Theory of Relativity to a General Theory of Relativity.

The Special Theory of Relativity identified that no absolute reference frame existed, only relative inertial frames of reference. It also identified that all the laws of physics work the same in any reference frame. It incorporated the newly learned fact that the speed of light (in a vacuum) is always the same in any reference frame regardless of the speed of the light source or the observer or the measuring device. He also developed the Lorenz transform equations to relate time and position in two reference frames. The results indicate that as an object approaches the speed of light from our vantage point the speed cannot exceed the speed of light and time runs slower on the speeding object with the length of the object becoming shorter and the mass increasing from our vantage point.

The General Theory of Relativity added the effects of large masses or gravity to the special theory. This limited the infinite inertial reference frames to local areas where gravity does not have an effect and added the effects of large masses bending and slowing light.

In 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics. It was given to him, not for his theories of relativity, but for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect. This scientific law explained how and why some metals give off electrons after light falls on their surfaces. The discovery led to the development of modern electronics, including radio and television. In one paper, he stated that light travels both in waves and in particles, called photons. This idea is an important part of what is called the quantum theory. Another paper was about the motion of small particles suspended in a liquid or gas called Brownian motion. It confirmed the atomic theory of matter.

His theoretical concepts in physics formed the basis for technologies that developed the atom bomb. His philosophical concepts formed the basis for the League of Nations and the United Nations. Consequently, what he did in the first half of the 20th century is extremely relevant to the precarious strategic situation we find ourselves in today with the threat of nuclear weapons and with the United Nations claiming to be the salvation of the world by preserving peace.

Einstein's life and beliefs turned out to be somewhat of an enigma. He was a strict pacifist until Hitler came to power in Germany and began to persecute the Jews. It is ironic that a pacifist would lay the foundation for the atomic bomb with his e=mc2 equation. Although he firmly believed in democracy, he was a "globalist" and believed that nation states should give up their sovereignty to the United Nations. He believed in a god, but not the God of the Bible. Although he never intended his scientific relativity theories to imply moral relativism, that is exactly what many humanists have implied.

It would be interesting if Einstein were alive today to see what positions he would take. Would he be sorry that he discovered the mass/energy relationship? Would he still favor the United Nations? Would he believe in the God of the Bible?

Learn More about the Theory of Relativity!

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