Mike Lafferty: 100 Years Ago Einstein Rocked The World

Roundup: Talking About History

By all measures, E=mcc is the most famous equation in history, and its author, Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist.

It turns out, according to Frank Wilczek, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2004, that Einstein originally wrote the equation as m=E/cc, in which E stands for energy, m for mass and cc for the speed of light squared.

As any seventh-grader knows, the equation works either way. But Einstein was interested in matter, so his first stab at it concentrated on the m.

Writing the equation for energy, however, provides a more cataclysmic insight into nature.

"E=mcc famously leads to the idea of getting huge amounts of energy out of a small amount of matter," Wilczek, an MIT physics professor, recently told an audience of scientists, Einstein buffs and Case Western Reserve University students in a packed hall in Cleveland.

Wilczek and a group of others were there to honor Einstein and his contributions in 1905, when the young physicist published three seminal papers describing ideas that have since influenced all of modern physics.

Beyond science, these ideas also have affected the rest of us, in developments ranging from lasers and global positioning satellites to DNA identification.

Not bad for a guy who dropped out of high school at 15.

[Editor's Note: This is a very short excerpt from a much longer piece. Please see the Columbus Dispatch for more.]

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