Today, most people are familiar with news-making scientists such as Sir. Stephen Hawking (Universe Physics) and Tim Berners Lee (Internet). Hawking developed many groundbreaking theories all while suffering from the debilitating disease of ALS. Despite needing around the clock long term care to complete daily tasks, his brilliant mind still did not falter. But Einstein is perhaps one of the most well-known household names in the world of science. Einstein’s lifetime work appears to have profound implications for modern day research a century later. Recently, a collaborating team of researchers in the United States found evidence that gravitational waves exist, proving right a prediction made by Albert Einstein in 1916. Using an Advanced LIGO detector, the researchers were able to hear the explosive bang of two black holes colliding and merging. In this article, we briefly highlight Einstein and his popular theory.
Einstein is popularly known for his general relativity theory, which (unfortunately) is so mathematically complicated that most ordinary people can’t make anything out of it. To avoid burdening students with these complex relations, upper-level physics textbooks just briefly touch on Einstein’s theory. Be that as it may, Einstein’s General Theory describes how gravity operates by bending space coordinates.
Einstein graduated from the Zurich Polytechnic in 1901. Finding employment opportunities scarce, he eventually took up a position at the Swiss Patent Office two years later. His work there involved reviewing modern mechanical technology. He was also pursuing graduate education at Zurich University, a different campus in the city. He obtained a Ph.D. in 1905 after crafting a dissertation on molecular sizes. Later the same year, Einstein published four groundbreaking research papers in four different areas of physics: on the Brownian motion, photoelectric effect, equivalence of mass and energy, and special relativity. He was just 26. In 1908, he was recognized as a budding scientist, and given a lecturing job at the University of Bern. 12 months later, he traveled back to Zurich as an associate professor at his old Alma Mater.
THEORY OF GENERAL RELATIVITY
Einstein’s Special Theory was his first dive into relativism. This theory was a major breakthrough, explaining the relationship between magnetism and electricity in non-accelerating coordinate systems. But soon after, he was already thinking of how he could bring in gravity. Starting with a few simple postulates, Einstein began an 8-year journey searching for a gravity theory. Following many incorrect detours and wrong turns, in 1915, Einstein presented a set of equations spelling out how the geometry of space is impacted by whatever radiation and matter that are present within it. Stating out a simple experiment, he argued that if you were inside an enclosed rocket ship journeying in outer space, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between whether the rocket was accelerating, or you had landed in a gravitational field. Within the ship, things would move and fall in the same way since they were subjected to the same forces. This accelerating reference was said to be the equivalent of a gravitational field.
To prove his concept, Einstein in 1915 proposed a test. Due to the World War 1, this was not done until in 1919, when British scientist Arthur Eddington confirmed through a light-bending arc experiment. The results made news headlines, making Einstein famous. Einstein’s equations as well predicted multiple other phenomena, including gravitational time dilation, and the presence of gravity waves emanating from disturbances made by moving masses.
The February 11th LIGO discovery proves Einstein right, and probably opens a new frontier for scientific study.