Saturday, February 04, 2006

Albert Einstein - Biography - Life and Physics

The greatest effect on the current understanding of physics: Of all people, Albert Einstein has probably had the greatest effect on the current understanding of physics. His theories of relativity help explain the structure of the universe and the creation of new particles in matter colliders, his Nobel Prize winning explanation of Brownian motion sealed the atomic theory of matter and his explantion of the photoelectric effect was instrumental in building quantum mechanics. The trademark hair and colorful personality has made him an enduring icon.

Fast Facts::
Albert Einstein:

Born: 14 March 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany

Died: 18 April 1955 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA

1895: Failed entry exam to electrical engineering at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich.

1921: Received Nobel Prize for Photelectric Effect.

1932: Left Germany just ahead of the Nazi regieme's rise.

1952: Refused an offer to make his Israel's president.

Famous Theories: 1905: Earned PhD, Wrote three seminal papers - Photoelectric Effect, Special Relativity and Browning Motion.

1912: Began work on General Relativity. This required him to learn an extensive amount of new, complicated mathematics known as Reimann Geometry (the geometry of curved surfaces) and Tensor Calculus.

Special Relativity: A new theory based on a reinterpretation of a long held belief in physics: relativity - the laws of physics had to have the same form in any frame of reference, regardless of relative motion.

A complication, required by Maxwell's Theory of Electromagnetism, was that the speed of light remained constant in all frames of reference.

Special Relativity has a number of confusing implications, like length contraction and time dilation.

Photoelectric Effect: In the 1830s, Bequerel discovered that when light shines on certain metals, electrons are ejected from the metal and can flow around a circuit. From this discovery, we have modern solar cells and lightdetectors. Interestingly, the energy of the ejected photons increased, not with the intensity of the light, but with its frequency. Borrowing Plank's theoretical concept of "quanta," Einstein showed that this property of the photoelectric effect was due to light existing in lumps called photons.Brownian Motion: A botonist by the name of Brown noticed that pollen grains suspended in water followed random paths through the fluid. While Brown took this to imply that the pollen had some sort of motive capability, Einstein showed that it was the result of huge numbers of atoms buffeting the pollen from all sides, sometimes slightly unevenly - leading to the random force. This demonstration of accessible evidence of atoms further deomnstrated the still contentious atomic theory of matter.General Relativity: In 1915, Einstein expanded his theory of relativity to account for accelerating observers and gravity. This theory is based on the notion that gravity is a manifestation of curvature of space and time. It leads to some startling predictions, like "The Big Bang" and black holes.
Quotes from Einstein:
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Later: After his move to America, Einstein moved to the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, NJ (in the town, not an actual part of the eponymous university), where he worked on many things, including his attemps to unify all the forces of nature into one coherent theory.

No comments: