Einstein in Ten Minutes

Summary—Einstein in Ten Minutes tells the story of Albert Einstein and his physics.

Anyone who has ever presented a rather abstract scientific subject in a popular manner knows the great difficulties of such an attempt.  Either he succeeds in being intelligible by concealing the core of the problem and by offering the reader only superficial aspects of vague allusions, thus deceiving the reader by arousing in him the deceptive illusion of comprehension—or else he gives an expert account of the problem, but in such a fashion that the untrained reader is unable to follow the exposition and becomes discouraged from reading any further.  If these two categories are omitted from today’s popular scientific literature, surprisingly little remains.  But the little that is left is very valuable indeed.  It is of great importance that the general public be given an opportunity to experience—consciously and intelligently—the efforts and results of scientific research.  It is not sufficient that each result be taken up, elaborated, and applied by a few specialists in the field.  Restricting a body of knowledge to a small group deadens the philosophical spirit of a people and leads to spiritual poverty.  Lincoln Barnett’s The Universe and Dr Einstein represents a valuable contribution to popular scientific writing.  The main ideas of the theory of relativity are extremely well presented. Moreover, the present state of our knowledge in physics is aptly characterized.  The author shows how the growth of our factual knowledge, together with the striving for a unified theoretical conception comprising all empirical data, has led to the present situation which is characterized—notwith­standing all successes—by an uncertainty concerning the choice of the basic theoretical concepts.  Albert Einstein—Princeton, New Jersey—1948.

Early Days.  So goes the forward by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) to the book The Universe and Dr Einstein by Lincoln Barnett.  Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879.  Although his family lived by modest means, they were cultured and loved books and music.  His family feared that Albert was mentally impaired because he was slow in learning to speak.  He inherited his dislike of authority from his father.  Albert had an aversion to organized religion, a disregard for social conventions and a lack of respect for mainstream physics.  Even as a child Einstein recoiled from authoritarian ideology.  He shuddered at the sight and sound of military parades.  While other children looked forward eagerly to the time when they could don parades uniforms, Albert loathed the very thought of marching in mindless unison to the empty beat of a drum.  And even though he was slow to speak, Einstein later declared that we know all the physics we will ever need by the age of three.

College Days.  In 1900 Einstein enrolled in the Swiss Polytechnic Institute in the same year that he renounced his German citizenship and obtained his Swiss citizenship.  Although Einstein was a hard worker, he tended to only work on problems that he found interesting.  Einstein spent much time in coffee houses where students met to work out worldly problems.  Einstein, like Newton before him, did not depend on his professors but relied on self-study.  His instinctive striving after the truth was finely honed during his college days.  He claimed that his intellectual development was retarded and so he only began to think about space and time only when he was grown up.  Einstein posed some of the most fundamental questions about the universe—When did the universe begin?  What is the smallest unit out of which everything can be made?  How do we determine time?  Can we transcend space?  In what came to be the landmark question of relativity, Einstein asked what a light wave would look like to someone keeping pace with it.

Relativity Theory.  He stated in a lecture that relativity was the natural completion of the work of Lorentz, Faraday, Maxwell, Newton and Galileo.  In 1905 Einstein revealed with special relativity that space and time are the combined concept of spacetime.  He concluded that spacetime dilates as a function of velocity relative to light­speed in accordance with the Pythagorean Form—ie. h^2 + (v/c)^2 = 1^2, h = height, v/c = velocity relative to light­speed.  As a corollary to relativity Einstein set forth his famous equation E = mc^2, E = energy, m = matter, c = light­speed.  In 1915 Einstein revealed with his general relativity that gravity and inertia are the same thing.  With special relativity Einstein refurbished Newtonian physics in respect of uniformly moving bodies traveling along straight lines.  General relativity then upgrades special relativity so as to account for bodies traveling at varying speeds along curved lines.  Even if he had not written a single line on relativity, Einstein would still be one of the greatest physicists of all time.

Photoelectric Effect Theory.  While Einstein was best known for his theory of relativity—it was his theoretical work on the photoelectric effect theory in 1905 that both won him the Nobel prize and profoundly influenced later work in quantum theory.  The photoelectric effect theory is the basis of television cameras.  The American physicist Robert Millikan spent ten years trying to disprove the photoelectric effect theory—but in the end vouched for its unequivocal validity.  Interestingly, Millikan also receive the Nobel prize for his empirical work on the photoelectric effect theory.  Einstein was greatly aided by James Clerk’s Maxwell’s (1831-79) discovery that light is but one type of electromagnetic radiation.  The photoelectric effect theory describes the ejection of electrons from metal by particles of light and other electromagnetic radiation—ie. light quanta or the photon.  This realization that electromagnetic radiation was particlelike was in direct conflict with Maxwell’s wave theory asserting that electromagnetic radiation is wavelike.  In fact Einstein was the first to recognize that light and other electromagnetic radiation are both wavelike and particlelike.  Interestingly, in 1900 Planck discovered that matter and energy are also both wavelike and particlelike.

Unified Field Theory.  Relativity is the natural law of space and time and is based on both light­speed and the Pythagorean Form.  Quantum theory is the natural law of matter and is based on both Planck’s constant and a probabilistic wave equation.  I have solved the problem of how to unite relativity and quantum theory with my theory of one—by recognizing that light­speed and Planck’s constant are the very same boundary of the space­time continuum.  Einstein spent the last thirty years of his life trying to formulate a unified field theory.  A field is a region of space that operates according to a set of rules.  In 1905 special relativity revealed that linear spacetime represents a field operating under all five Euclidean field rules.  General relativity in 1915 revealed that gravitation is a realization of curved spacetime operating under four of five Euclidean field rules.  The dream of Einstein’s unified field theory was to integrate the four types of interactions between matter and energy—gravitational, electromagnetic, nuclear-weak and nuclear-strong.  I propose with my unified field theory that the last three interactions between matter and energy—electromagnetic, nuclear-weak and nuclear-strong—are found operating under three, two and one Euclidean field rules.  Although this theory may not be exactly correct, it is most assuredly biting in the right direction.

Later Days.  Einstein spent his later days at Princeton, New Jersey.  At its inception special relativity was little more than a set of algebraic equations making only a modest impact until 1909 when Hermann Minkowski presented a geometric interpretation of relativity—as characterized by the four-dimensional spacetime continuum—that the scientific community took notice.  In his early days Einstein sought elemental conceptual pictures first before considering mathematical complexities.  In considering relativity, the Pythagorean Form plays the role of elemental conceptual picture.  Quantum theory is based on a simple wave equation.  The theory of one employs Pascal’s sphere—ie. the universe is a sphere in which the centre is every where and the boundary is nowhere.  This fixation on elemental conceptual pictures is a trait most often lost on the youth.  Einstein was twenty-six when he discovered relativity.  Heisenberg was twenty-four when he laid the foundation of quantum theory.  Unfortunately, in Einstein’s later days he strayed from his original approach of seeking elemental conceptual pictures and instead became lost in the world of obscure and twisted mathematics.

Conclusion.  Barnett’s book tells the story of a profoundly simple man.  The essence of Einstein’s simplicity lay in his artistry and his appreciation of beauty.  During his time he was treated by the public more like a movie star than as a scientist.  He was looked upon like an oracle even though very few people understood his theories—now or then.  The problems that come with fame had no power over Einstein.  He showed no sign of self-importance.  Einstein was a loner by instinct.  He had a passionate sense of social justice.  In 1925 Einstein wrote—He who finds a thought that lets us penetrate even a little deeper into the eternal mystery of nature has been granted a great grace.