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Albert Einstein

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Einstein daydreaming at the Swiss patent office.
The poetry of reality
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Though everybody knows me, there are very few people who really know me. I am a revolutionary.
—Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a theoretical physicist of the highest caliber. Unfortunately, being one of the most influential scientists in history means his quotes are appropriated by theists and atheists alike. As one of the founders of modern physics,[notes 1] he contributed to quantum mechanics, and developed the special and general theories of relativity. He advocated a one-world government hoping that it would put an end to "an infantile sickness" known as nationalism. Einstein believed the Soviet Union could be persuaded to join and that this would solve the incipient Cold War: "Better to let Russia see that there is nothing to be achieved by aggression, but there are advantages in joining [a world government]: Then the Russian regime's attitude will probably change and they will take part without compulsion."[1] As someone who fits the stereotypical image of a scientist, he was a cartoonist's dream come true.

Major contributions to science[edit]

  • Statistical mechanics — demonstrating the reality of atoms with Brownian motion, and explaining why the sky is blue, Einstein's model of solids.
  • Special relativity — a more general theory of motion than Newton's laws that is fully consistent with Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism. Fundamental predictions are time dilation, length contraction, and loss of simultaneity. It has been fully incorporated into the Standard Model of particle physics and modern gravitation theory.
  • General relativity — the modern theory of gravity, predicting, among other things, gravitational waves, gravitational time dilation, expanding (or contracting) Universe, and black holes. This is considered to be his magnum opus. Einstein's principle of equivalence, Einstein's field equations, the Einstein summation convention, the Einstein-de Sitter space, the Einstein-Rosen bridge, and the Einstein-Kahler metric are thus named in his honor.
  • Old quantum theory — explanation of the photoelectric effect using Planck's quantum hypothesis, recognition of wave-particle duality, description of atoms as quantum harmonic oscillators, quantum theory of radiation, quantum theory of monoatomic ideal gases, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox.
  • Quantum statistical mechanics — Bose-Einstein statistics, prediction of light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (laser), Bose-Einstein condensation.


Myths[edit]

Being a famous scientist, Albert Einstein is subject to many myths. Here are some common ones:

Albert Einstein worked on the Manhattan Project.
Wrong. While his work in physics was crucial to the project's success, Einstein wasn't involved due to the US government seeing him as a security risk due to his pacifist leanings. However, it is true that he was appointed Adviser on Highly Explosive Materials by the U.S. Navy.
Albert Einstein failed math
By his own words "I never failed in mathematics … Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus."
Albert Einstein was a Soviet spy
While Albert Einstein was an admitted socialist and somewhat of a USSR apologist, he wasn't a spy.
Albert Einstein failed in school
No. He was pretty good in almost all things education. This view is most likely based on the fact that German and Swiss grades are exactly reversed from each other (6 being the best in Switzerland and the worst in Germany) and the first biographers were mostly German. The only thing he ever did fail at was getting into university at age sixteen — incidentally due to a failed French test. Also, he got into ETH Zurich, a famous school in Switzerland.

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Albert Onestone.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. The other founder of modern physics is Max Planck, who discovered that light comes in discrete packets now called photons.

References[edit]