Einstein… the person…
Einstein… the person…
He is the synonym for god-gifted intelligence, he is the first ‘guru’ of any little kid who newly discovers the wonders of physical sciences….he is the inspiration of a million free minds. He authored the Theory of Relativity, which brought him to instant fame…but what was special in this weird and absurd Jew from Germany? His theories provide the highest contradiction to all notions, but what was he trying to do? How did he ever perceive such a brilliant Theory?
Einstein’s childhood played a big role in his radical thinking. He was born in a time when there was constant turmoil in the society…..the cultural and social atmosphere was seldom stable, and there was constant upheaval. At an early stage, Einstein learnt not to blindly believe what his mind saw at first glance…he began reasoning out even the most insignificant things before accepting them.
When he was a teenager, Einstein had the following dream:
‘There was a long electric wire-fence with me standing at one end and the operator at the other. Between us, there were a few sheep who were poking their head through to fence to eat the grass on the other side. The operator switched on the supply, and I saw that the sheep began jumping with the shock! What I saw was that the sheep nearest to the operator jumped first, and then the second one, and then the third….. But when I went to talk to the operator, he said that I was foolish, and that according to him, when he switched the supply, he saw all the sheep jump at once, simultaneously!’
Now, how many of us would even remember such a dream? It means nothing to us, does it? It is just as absurd as any dream we always have. But herein lies the real secret to what made Einstein, Einstein…His dream displayed a key component of what would go ahead to become his Theory of Relativity. His dream showed him that even if both people see different views of the same event, both of them can be true! Truth is relative, and may differ according to the frame of reference of the observer! This insight was of key importance, because with this courageously absurd notion, he proceeded to derive conclusive results and calculations for his Theory.
Einstein has powerful insights. His Theory is the most complicated and philosophical of all theories known to classical physics, but he chose a simple name for it, the Theory of Relativity… His insights were able to show him that beneath the junk load of formulae and corollaries, the basic framework was simple. That everything physical is relative. That space and time are related to each other, just as matter and energy are related….none can exist independent of other, rather, none can exist without the other! That is the beauty of Einstein. He made his theory sound like a child’s jingles…
Relativity is a fact, so someday or the other, it would have been discovered. Today’s GPS satellites need to take into account Relativity induced effects, or their calculations for position go off by several feet, likewise, solar photography would have inevitably showed that light does bend around huge objects like the Sun….The Michelson-Morley experiment showed that speed of light is constant irrespective of frame of reference, irrespective of how fast or slow you are moving, Lorentz made mathematical structures for a system where the electro-magnetic properties of any object remain constant in any frame, thus giving us the Lorentz Transformations….many theories and observations hinted towards Relativity, but no scientist could gather the courage to bring them all together into one big theory. Einstein was the person, with the gifted brains, courageous mind, and a wild but melodious heart, he was the person, who had just the right glue to stick it all up….he was able to challenge that one little thing which everyone took for granted, the fact that Time is not absolute, as was believed, and in a twitch, he gave birth to the Theory of Relativity, the most elegant of all theories known to classical physics.
Towards the end of his career, Einstein has many heated debates with Bohr, because Einstein was just not ready to accept the haphazardness of the newly emerging field of Quantum Mechanics. Einstein was stuck to his belief that God can never create a world that is so random and so absurd. He could not accept the fact that scientists were building huge towers using bricks that were themselves entirely a mystery. Perhaps Einstein went wrong, because till date, Quantum Mechanics has always passed all hurdles and tests it has come across. Or perhaps Einstein was truly an Einstein, perhaps beneath the apparent randomness and chaos, beneath the long trail of paradoxes that haunt the average person to even talk of quantum mechanics, there is an underlying simple structure, which was Einstein’s dream..his dream Theory of Everything.
I remember a fine quote by a well known scientist whose name I don’t remember…he had written a book on ‘Quantum Mechanics’ and the book started with the title ‘Chapter II’. At the end of the book, the author quotes, “The first chapter of Quantum Mechanics is yet to be written, only then will we know everything about the very basic foundations on which the entire load of theories is currently resting on. We don’t know what matter and energy actually is. We have woven long theories but still don’t know anything about the thread. So let us all wait in anticipation for the time when ‘Chapter I’ will be written, and the final queries on the working of the universe will be answered…”