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EXPLORATIONS - August 1, 2001: Albert Einstein - 2001-08-01


ANNCR:

NOW THE VOA SPECIAL ENGLISH PROGRAM, EXPLORATIONS. TODAY LARRY WEST AND FRANK OLIVER TELL ABOUT THE THE WORK OF THE GREAT SCIENTIST, ALBERT EINSTEIN. HIS THEORIES CHANGED THE WAY WE UNDERSTAND THE WORLD.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

IN THE YEAR NINETEEN-OH-FIVE, ALBERT EINSTEIN PUBLISHED A SCIENTIFIC PAPER. IT WAS ONLY THIRTY PAGES. BUT IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC DOCUMENTS IN HISTORY. EINSTEIN'S PAPER -- FILLED WITH MATHEMATICS -- EXPLAINED WHAT CAME TO BE CALLED HIS "SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY."

UNDERSTANDING EINSTEIN'S IDEA OF RELATIVITY IS NOT EASY FOR SOMEONE WHO IS NOT AN EXPERT IN MATHEMATICS. WE CAN UNDERSTAND IT FULLY ONLY BY UNDERSTANDING THE MATHEMATICAL STATEMENTS THAT EXPLAIN IT. PARTS OF THE THEORY SEEM IMPOSSIBLE TO BELIEVE. BUT EXPERIMENTS PROVED THEY ARE TRUE.

THE "SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY" IS ABOUT THE BASIC IDEAS THAT WE USE TO DESCRIBE NATURAL HAPPENINGS. IT IS ABOUT TIME, SPACE, MASS, MOVEMENT AND GRAVITY.

VOICE TWO:

ALBERT EINSTEIN WAS BORN IN ULM, GERMANY, IN EIGHTEEN-SEVENTY-NINE. HIS FATHER WAS A BUSINESSMAN. HE OWNED A FACTORY THAT MADE ELECTRICAL DEVICES.

ALBERT WAS A QUIET CHILD WHO SPENT MUCH OF HIS TIME ALONE. HE WAS SLOW TO TALK AND HAD DIFFICULTY LEARNING TO READ. BUT HE WAS INTERESTED IN HOW THINGS WORKED. AND HE ASKED A LOT OF QUESTIONS.

WHEN ALBERT WAS FIVE YEARS OLD, HIS FATHER GAVE HIM A COMPASS. THE CHILD WAS FILLED WITH WONDER WHEN HE DISCOVERED THAT THE COMPASS NEEDLE ALWAYS POINTED TO THE NORTH. HE ASKED HIS FATHER AND HIS UNCLE WHAT CAUSED THE NEEDLE TO MOVE.

THEIR ANSWERS ABOUT MAGNETISM AND GRAVITY WERE DIFFICULT FOR THE BOY TO UNDERSTAND. BUT HE SPENT MUCH TIME THINKING ABOUT THEM.

VOICE ONE:

ALBERT DID NOT LIKE SCHOOL. THE GERMAN SCHOOLS OF THAT TIME WERE NOT PLEASANT. STUDENTS COULD NOT ASK QUESTIONS. ALBERT SAID HE FELT AS IF HE WERE IN PRISON.

ALBERT TOLD HIS UNCLE JACOB HOW MUCH HE HATED SCHOOL, ESPECIALLY ALGEBRA AND GEOMETRY. HIS UNCLE TOLD HIM TO SOLVE MATHEMATICAL PROBLEMS BY PRETENDING TO BE A POLICEMAN. "YOU ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE," HE SAID, "BUT YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO. CALL HIM 'X'. FIND HIM BY USING THE MATHEMATICAL TOOLS OF ALGEBRA AND GEOMETRY."

VOICE TWO:

UNCLE JACOB'S GAME MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN ALBERT'S SCHOOL WORK. HE LEARNED TO LOVE MATHEMATICS. ALBERT SOLVED ALL THE PROBLEMS IN HIS ALGEBRA BOOK. HE WAS STUDYING CALCULUS WHEN ALL HIS FRIENDS WERE STILL STUDYING SIMPLE MATHEMATICS. ALBERT EINSTEIN DECIDED THAT HE WANTED TO TEACH MATHEMATICS AND PHYSICS.

EINSTEIN ATTENDED THE FEDERAL POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE IN ZURICH, SWITZERLAND. HE GRADUATED WITH HONORS. BUT HE COULD NOT GET A TEACHING JOB. SO HE TOOK A JOB IN THE SWISS GOVERNMENT PATENT OFFICE. THE JOB WAS EASY. HE HAD LOTS OF TIME TO WORK ON HIS OWN IDEAS.

VOICE ONE:

SOME OF THOSE IDEAS WERE ABOUT RELATIVITY.

EINSTEIN HAD BEGUN TO BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE WAS MOVING. EVERYTHING FROM THE SMALLEST ELECTRONS OF AN ATOM TO THE GREATEST PLANETS AND STARS. MEASURING ANY OF THESE MOVEMENTS DEPENDS ON WHERE THE MEASURER IS STANDING.

IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT THAT YOU ARE DRIVING A CAR.

YOUR SPEED, RELATIVE TO THE GROUND, IS FIFTY KILOMETERS AN HOUR. AN INSECT INSIDE THE CAR WITH YOU FLIES FROM THE BACK OF THE CAR TO THE FRONT. RELATIVE TO YOU, THE INSECT IS FLYING TEN KILOMETERS AN HOUR. BUT TO SOMEONE STANDING AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, THE INSECT'S SPEED WOULD BE SIXTY KILOMETERS AN HOUR.

WHILE YOU AND THE INSECT ARE TRAVELING, THE EARTH IS MOVING AT THIRTY KILOMETERS A SECOND RELATIVE TO THE SUN. AND THE SUN IS MOVING AT TWO-HUNDRED-FORTY KILOMETERS A SECOND RELATIVE TO THE CENTER OF OUR MILKY WAY GALAXY.

VOICE TWO:

EINSTEIN SAID THAT THE SPEED OF LIGHT -- THREE-HUNDRED-THOUSAND KILOMETERS A SECOND -- NEVER CHANGES. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHERE THE LIGHT IS COMING FROM, OR WHO IS MEASURING ITS SPEED. IT IS ALWAYS THE SAME. HOWEVER, TIME CAN CHANGE. AND MASS CAN CHANGE. AND LENGTH CAN CHANGE.

LET US USE OUR IMAGINATION AGAIN.

IMAGINE TWO SPACESHIPS WITH A SCIENTIST IN EACH. ONE SPACESHIP IS RED. ONE IS BLUE. EXCEPT FOR COLOR, BOTH SPACESHIPS ARE EXACTLY ALIKE. THEY PASS EACH OTHER FAR OUT IN SPACE.

NEITHER SCIENTIST FEELS THAT HIS SHIP IS MOVING. TO EACH, IT SEEMS THE OTHER SHIP IS MOVING, NOT HIS. AS THEY PASS AT HIGH SPEED, THE SCIENTIST IN EACH SHIP MEASURES HOW LONG IT TAKES A BEAM OF LIGHT TO TRAVEL FROM THE FLOOR TO THE TOP OF HIS SPACESHIP, HIT A MIRROR, AND RETURN TO THE FLOOR. BOTH SPACESHIPS HAVE A WINDOW THAT LETS EACH SCIENTIST WATCH THE EXPERIMENT OF THE OTHER.

VOICE ONE:

AT EXACTLY THE SAME MOMENT, THEY BEGIN THEIR EXPERIMENTS. THE SCIENTIST IN THE BLUE SHIP SEES HIS BEAM OF LIGHT GO STRAIGHT UP AND COME STRAIGHT DOWN. BUT HE SEES THAT THE LIGHT BEAM IN THE RED SHIP DOES NOT DO THIS.

BECAUSE THE RED SHIP IS MOVING SO FAST, THE BEAM DOES NOT APPEAR TO GO STRAIGHT UP. IT GOES UP AT AN ANGLE AND COMES DOWN AT AN ANGLE. IT FORMS A PATH THAT LOOKS LIKE AN UPSIDE DOWN "V".

THIS PATH IS LONGER THAN THE STRAIGHT UP-AND-DOWN PATH THAT THE BLUE SCIENTIST SAW IN HIS OWN SHIP. BECAUSE LIGHT TRAVELS AT THE SAME SPEED, TIME WOULD HAVE TO PASS MORE SLOWLY IN THE RED SHIP TO LET THE LIGHT BEAM TRAVEL THE LONGER PATH.

VOICE TWO:

THE SCIENTIST IN THE RED SHIP WOULD SEE EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS HE WATCHED THE EXPERIMENT BY THE BLUE SCIENTIST. HE WOULD SAY THAT TIME PASSED MORE SLOWLY IN THE OTHER SHIP. EACH SCIENTIST WOULD BE CORRECT, BECAUSE THE PASSING OF TIME IS RELATIVE. EACH WOULD BE RIGHT IN SAYING THAT THE OTHER SHIP HAD SLOWER TIME.

EACH SCIENTIST ALSO WOULD SEE THAT THE OTHER SHIP WAS SHORTER THAN HIS OWN. THE HIGHER THEIR SPEEDS, THE SHORTER THE OTHER SHIP WOULD APPEAR. AND ALTHOUGH THE OTHER SHIP WOULD SEEM SHORTER, ITS MASS WOULD INCREASE. IT WOULD SEEM TO GET HEAVIER.

THESE ARE DIFFICULT IDEAS TO ACCEPT. DOES TIME REALLY SLOW DOWN? DO OBJECTS GET SHORTER AND BECOME HEAVIER AT HIGH SPEEDS? EXPERIMENTS BY OTHER SCIENTISTS HAVE PROVED THAT EINSTEIN'S "SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY" IS CORRECT. NO EXPERIMENTS HAVE PROVED IT WRONG.

VOICE ONE:

TEN YEARS AFTER HIS PAPER ON THE SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY, EINSTEIN PUBLISHED ANOTHER PAPER. IT DESCRIBED WHAT HE CALLED HIS "GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY." IT OFFERED NEW IDEAS ABOUT GRAVITY, AND ABOUT THE CLOSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MATTER AND ENERGY.

EINSTEIN SAID MATTER COULD BE CHANGED INTO ENERGY. HE DEVELOPED A SIMPLE MATHEMATICAL STATEMENT THAT MEASURED THE AMOUNT OF ENERGY IN MATTER. IT IS: "E EQUALS MC SQUARED."

"E" IS THE ENERGY IN A PIECE OF MATTER. "M" IS THE MASS OF THE MATTER. "C SQUARED" IS THE SPEED OF LIGHT, MULTIPLIED BY ITSELF.

THIS STATEMENT, OR FORMULA, SHOWED THE GREAT AMOUNT OF ENERGY THAT COULD COME FROM A TINY PIECE OF MATTER. IT EXPLAINED HOW THE SUN COULD GIVE OFF HEAT AND LIGHT FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS. EINSTEIN'S FORMULA ALSO LED TO THE DISCOVERY OF ATOMIC ENERGY.

VOICE TWO:

EINSTEIN WON A NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS IN THE YEAR NINETEEN-TWENTY-ONE. HE RECEIVED THE AWARD -- NOT FOR HIS THEORIES OF RELATIVITY -- BUT FOR HIS DISCOVERY OF THE LAW OF THE PHOTOELECTRIC EFFECT. THIS LAW EXPLAINED HOW AND WHY SOME METALS GIVE OFF ELECTRONS AFTER LIGHT FALLS ON THEIR SURFACES. THIS DISCOVERY LED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN ELECTRONICS, INCLUDING RADIO AND TELEVISION.

VOICE ONE:

EINSTEIN BECAME A FAMOUS MAN. BUT HE HAD FEW CLOSE FRIENDS. "IT IS STRANGE," HE WROTE, "TO BE KNOWN BY SO MANY AND YET TO BE SO LONELY." HE WAS A MAN WHO SAW GOD IN NATURE. "WHAT I SEE IN NATURE," SAID EINSTEIN, "IS SOMETHING MAGNIFICENT THAT WE UNDERSTAND ONLY IMPERFECTLY."

EINSTEIN LEFT GERMANY WHEN ADOLPH HITLER CAME TO POWER IN NINETEEN-THIRTY-THREE. HE SAID HE WOULD STAY IN A COUNTRY ONLY WHERE THERE WAS POLITICAL LIBERTY, TOLERATION AND EQUALITY OF ALL CITIZENS UNDER LAW.

EINSTEIN CAME TO THE UNITED STATES TO CONTINUE HIS RESEARCH. HE WORKED AT THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY.

EINSTEIN SPENT THE LAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF HIS LIFE WORKING ON WHAT HE CALLED THE UNIFIED FIELD THEORY. HE HOPED TO FIND A COMMON MATHEMATICAL STATEMENT THAT COULD TIE TOGETHER ALL THE DIFFERENT FIELDS OF PHYSICS.

IT WAS WORK THAT EINSTEIN NEVER COMPLETED. IN NINETEEN-FIFTY-FIVE, ALBERT EINSTEIN DIED. HE WAS SEVENTY-SIX YEARS OLD.

(THEME)

ANNCR:

THIS SPECIAL ENGLISH PROGRAM WAS WRITTEN BY MARILYN CHRISTIANO AND FRANK BEARDSLEY. YOUR NARRATORS WERE LARRY WEST AND FRANK OLIVER. LISTEN AGAIN NEXT WEEK AT THIS TIME FOR EXPLORATIONS ON THE VOICE OF AMERICA.

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