Seeking Justice for E=mc2

By Priyarshini Ghosh

albert-einstein-62931_1920In February of 1950, a devoted follower of Albert Einstein wrote him a letter prompted by the death of his son. He questioned Einstein’s belief that physical death cannot be transcended. His grief could only be overcome if Einstein were to endorse a theory wherein his love for his son would render the latter immortal [1]. Einstein wrote back to the grief-stricken father, grimly but pragmatically choosing to focus on nursing his mental health back to a more peaceful state, than on any theories about his son’s death.

Einstein was no longer be confined to the boundaries of simply being a scientist, after having overhauled the basics of physics and laying down critically fundamental theories about the intricacies of the atom. His theories and ideas had crossed over the realms of physics, and poured heavily into philosophy and religion. But because he supported his ideals with equations and research papers instead of placards and politics, many a common man believed him—some even sought consolation from him on their cloudy days. He was a one-man revolution, who was unknowingly—unwittingly, even—going to change the course of the world.

Einstein never kept his gifts to himself; he was known to encourage and inspire intelligence. He found time amidst his career and increasing fame to exchange letters with Tyfanny, a South-African girl who would write to him about her ambitions and past reservations about her gender being a handicap. He had once promptly replied to her, stating that he was glad she discontinued her doubts [2].

Although Einstein received significant help in establishing his many theories (Max Planck defended his theory of relativity over Newtonian physics), his habit of intentionally questioning authority, and persistent abstinence from conventional views of life, death and philosophy garnered him rejections from the scientific community that he frequently displeased. This exam-failing and experiment-exploding reckless student eventually emigrated to America in 1933 and proceeded to unify different realms of physics into a single theory, an approach that clashed with most physicists at the time.

In 1939, before the start of the war, fearing that the Germans might devise a bomb, Einstein signed a letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt urging the hastening of research into nuclear fission and chain reactions. This concluded Einstein’s direct involvement in creating the atom bomb, an action he would later come to deeply regret. His intentions regarding the capabilities of chain reactions were quite peaceful, though. It is Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalence equation that has become the fundamental basis of nuclear energy generation, although Einstein himself was doubtful about the practicalities of their use. He said:

“To give any estimate when atomic energy can be applied to constructive purposes is impossible. … Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present it is a menace.” [3]

It is not difficult to believe why a man of highly progressive ideals would also possess discouraging views on the peaceful use of nuclear power—he felt partially responsible for the deaths caused by the atom bombs. It would also be unfair to infer that he had created a monster—his theories enabled the future generations to build processes to harness nuclear power for the production of continuous, reliable, clean and cheap electricity. Any technology that exists is inherently capable of being misused, which would be a fundamentally short-sighted approach towards any personal or political ideal. But using the technology to enable growth and prosperity would prove us worthy of the planet we have been gifted to share.

Today many countries depend on nuclear power to power their homes and appliances and daily lives. On the occasion of his 139th birthday this day, the best gift the world can give him is the promise of continuing, and increasing, the use of nuclear power for the betterment of the world, the one thing he desired to achieve yet also regretted. Einstein may not be with us anymore to receive the gift, but his peaceful mass-energy equation will have sought justice.

[1] https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/03/14/einstein-grieving-father-letter

[2] Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children

[3] https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/802/albert-einstein-nuclear-weaponss

[4] http://immigrationtounitedstates.org/473-albert-einstein.html 


Priya GhoushPriyarshini Ghosh is a nuclear engineering graduate research student at Kansas State University She is an aspiring writer and an advocate for nuclear as a clean, safe and cheap source of energy. She loves to talk about nuclear power @priyoghoshX on Twitter. She has a background in chemical engineering that guides her with the intricacies of designing detectors. Priyarshini is an active member of the ANS Social Media Team.

 


Feel free to leave a constructive remark or question for the author in the comment section below.


 

 

8 thoughts on “Seeking Justice for E=mc2

  1. Priyarshini Ghosh

    Russell Joyner,

    Thank you for your work! Our efforts show that his equations truly were a blessing for technology, environment and research!

  2. Priyarshini Ghosh

    Hank Phillips,

    That sounds like an interesting read, I will have to read the essay and the book, too.

  3. Priyarshini Ghosh

    Valerie Gardner,

    What a beautiful coincidence! Best wishes for your venture!

  4. Priyarshini Ghosh

    Ed Pheil,
    That expansion would have been a great addition to the article, considering Dr. Hawking sadly passed away that same day. But both their equations will live up to their true potential if we utilize them well.

  5. Ed Pheil

    Actually E=mc^2 is a special case of
    E^2= (mvc)^2 + (1/(1-v^2/c^2)mc^2)^2
    by Stephen Hawking, I believe

    Which collapses to Einstein’s E=mc^2, if v=0, i.e. when the particles/system are at rest.

  6. Valerie Gardner

    I enjoyed reading this article and getting a little refresher on Einstein. Plus I learned a few things, including that 3/14 (Pie day) was the 139th anniversary of his birth. “Today many countries depend on nuclear power to power their homes and appliances and daily lives. On the occasion of his 139th birthday this day, the best gift the world can give him is the promise of continuing, and increasing, the use of nuclear power for the betterment of the world, the one thing he desired to achieve yet also regretted. Einstein may not be with us anymore to receive the gift, but his peaceful mass-energy equation will have sought justice.” Serendipitously, on the 14th, I started the process on a venture to do just that!

  7. Hank Phillips

    Einstein’s “Why Socialism?”, a defense of some flavors of force-initiating collectivism (not including German National Socialism), never convinced me. The weapon that defeated Germany’s last ally made even the most altruistically cute forms of socialist aggression obsolete, to the chagrin and despair of many other socialists besides Einstein. Nor have the classicists necessarily lost. By adding Maxwell’s equations to Newton’s arsenal, the late Dr. Petr Beckmann circumvented relativistic methods to obtain solutions in Einstein Plus Two.

  8. Russell Joyner

    Ms. Ghosh,
    Great article. I can only aspire to be as contentious and as relevant as Dr. Einstein was and still is. I also had forgotten he was born on “Pi” day .. how perfect. I work on nuclear propulsion to help send us across the solar system. Without Einstein’s work it would not be possible to even consider it possible, as demonstrated in the 1960’s. Thank you and keep up the great articles.

    C.R.Joyner

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