One of the greatest scientific facts ever discovered has to be Albert Einstein’s Equation, E=mc², because it led to a new discovery in classical physics as well as advancing technology for the better and for the worse in which it was indirectly used for killing of thousands of innocent people. Albert Einstein was one of the, if not the greatest scientist to have ever lived, and his amazing theories of the universe will always be remembered as greatly as him. I believe E=mc² is a great scientific fact solely due it being such a powerful equation, but yet so simple. It has allowed mankind to advance in knowledge of the universe and has allowed to better technologies, whether it be good or bad. E=mc² is a brilliant discovery that has led to great advancements in technology, but it also was partly responsible for one of the most horrific incidents in history, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
To understand the power of E=mc², it is critical to analyze the equation itself. “It says that the energy (E) in a system (an atom, a person, the solar system) is equal to its total mass (m) multiplied by the square of the speed of light (c, equal to 186,000 miles per second)”(Jha). In laypersons terms this means that energy and mass are related and can equal each other, therefore being the same at times. The speed of light is just a constant which never changes and is used in the equation because it is one of the three critical parts of nature, the other two being energy and mass. It is much more than a mathematical equation, akin to other equations, it very profound and led to the realization of measuring the same thing but with two different ways. For example, a person can weigh himself through their mass, but can also be weighed according to energy by measuring the amount of joules. Joules is just a subunit of energy, just as mass has a subunit of grams. The significance of E=mc² is that it led to the realization of converting mass into energy, and energy back into mass. Which led to other discoveries in physics, as well astrophysics, where it was learnt that when a sun emits energy its mass is being converted into that energy and is being emitted. As one can see the equation is so powerful because it led to other discoveries to be made because of its simplicity and power.
To have a better understanding and to try to grasp the power of this equation, it is valuable to see how it has affected other technologies. This equation led to advancing physics, by helping to discover a new branch of physics, high-energy particle physics. Particle physics is concerned with the microscopic properties of matter and energy such as the very particles that create everything like protons, neutrons, and electrons. Particle physics consists of a technology known as a particle accelerator. Which is just a machine that collides sub atomic particles at incredible high speeds. An article written by Peter Tyson, “The Legacy of E=mc²”, suggests that “proper design of particle accelerators, as well as analysis of the high-speed collisions within them, would be impossible without a thorough comprehension of the equation”(Tyson). Tyson is referring to E=mc² as the equation, and this makes sense because within the particle accelerator only energy and new particles are left as a byproduct of the colliding particles. The mass of the old colliding particles transitioned into new energy, which are “constantly transmuting into newly fashioned particles”(Tyson). So again, as stated before, it is direct use of the equation because mass is transferred into energy, and then to a new mass, creating new particles. Tyson realizes this and he quotes another man named Grant, who brings more attention to the equation when he says “ ‘our species has repeatedly used an understanding of the equation to convert E into new forms of m that had never previously been seen’ ” (Tyson). This quote proves how mankind continues to use E=mc² in advancing science, and in this case, creating particle physics as well as advancing it.
After analyzing the effects of E=mc² on advancing the field of physics, lets analyze more familiar objects in our society. Many things used in hospitals are directly linked to he discovery of E=mc², for example a PET scan. Positron emission tomography uses radioactive substances to detect anomalies within the body. Positron is a unique sub-atomic particle which is the opposite of electron, used a lot of the time in either high-speed particle colliders, or even radioactive machines to detect diseases in the body. In the article by James Tyson, Sylvester James Gates, a physicist at the University of Maryland was quoted stating, “ ‘whenever you use a radioactive substance to illuminate processes in the human body, you’re paying direct homage to Einstein’s insight’ ”(Tyson). This is directly linked to E=mc² because as particles move within the body, their energy can be converted to mass and allow machines to detect any sort of abnormality within a patient. Another advancement of E=mc² is radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating is a method archaeologists use to date ancient substances. Has allowed mankind to date back ancient civilizations, and has allowed us to date back how far the Earth has existed. Tyson quotes Grant again in his article, and Grant states, “ ‘The decay products that we see in carbon dating—that energy is directly obtained from the missing mass that you see in E = mc2’ ”(Tyson). As stated before, mass can be converted into energy, and over the time of hundreds or thousands of year we can detect that energy through radiocarbon dating. There are many other great advancements through the use of E=mc² from everyday objects like smoke detectors, exit signs, to even advancing astronomy, and overall spawning the advancement of radioactive sciences, but through radioactive science the equation appealed to a more nuclear world.
E=mc² can now be understood as to why it such a great equation, but it is also important to know the capacity of this equation that can elicit a great deal of destruction to the world. Francis Fukuyama wrote a book entitled, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Fukuyama writes about biomedical advancements and argues manipulating genetics will have negative consequences even if thought to be used for good intentions. Many of his points can be linked to E=mc² because although the equation led to many great advancements the world has ever seen, it has also been key to the one of the most horrific incidents in history, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During World War 2, humans created the atomic bomb, the most devastating weapon in human history. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities in Japan. All this was done to shorten the length of World War 2, and scare to the Japanese into surrendering as well as to shock the Germans. Reading Fukuyama’s book, his ideas can be linked to this devastating attack when he says, “science and technology, from which the modern world springs, themselves represent our civilization’s key vulnerabilities” (Fukuyama Preface). This is an accurate description of most technologies, but specifically for E=mc² it can be rightly assumed that the description is relevant to this particular scientific fact because even though it has allowed for many great advancements in the modern world, it is also key to having the power to eliminate civilization and has the power to destroy the world.
Upon writing this paper, I believe it is necessary to give my own perspective on E= mc². Coming from a scientific background and the appreciation of new scientific advancements, many which are spawned from E= mc², I believe the equation is a great invention used to advance human knowledge. It has allowed humans to become better astronomers, understanding laws of the universe, creating new branches of science like particle physics, allow humans to treat patients better, and overall a general understanding of energy. With almost every technology it is rational to assume it has excessive positive features, but also has defects. There will always be a good and a bad. For E=mc² it has brought very positive results through many advancements in society, and to give a better understanding of the universe. However, it has also led mankind to wield such a power where it can kill millions of people with a nuclear bomb, directly linked to the fundamentals of E= mc². I believe this discussion is linked to the discussion in class about gun laws, simply because E= mc² can be used as a weapon. This scientific fact should not be considered a weapon merely due to having the potential to create weapons of mass destruction, but seen as a great scientific fact which has the potential to further advance society, and if willed can be used as a destructive force by someone. It is not the equations fault that hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese citizens died, but rather the people who are using the equation in what I would consider a negative manner. Overall, it has been a great discovery to enlighten humans more about the laws of nature, but it should not be at fault for resulting in weapons of mass destruction.
Through this paper I hope it has allowed people to see why E= mc² is a great and powerful equation. Not powerful in the sense that is has the power to spawn weapons that can cause a great amount of destruction, but rather powerful in the sense that it has the power to lead to better advancements in science. Which is why I believe it is Einstein’s most accomplished work, and evidently most of his theories are built upon this concept like relativity. Not only were his theories better resulted through the understanding of the equation, but also others theories of creating new advancements, and to create new branch of sciences simply due to the existence and understanding of E=mc². It is a great equation in magnitude, and it is only about an inch long in length, it truly is a remarkable scientific fact.
Fukuyama, Francis. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. Print.
Tyson, Peter. “The Legacy of E = Mc2.” PBS. PBS, 11 Oct. 2005. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.< http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/legacy-of-e-equals-mc2.html>.
Lasky, Ronald C. “What Is the Significance of E = Mc2? And What Does It Mean?” Scientific American. N.p., 23 Apr. 2007. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.< http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/significance-e-mc-2-means/>.
Jha, Alok. “E=mc2: Einstein’s Equation That Gave Birth to the Atom Bomb.”Theguardian. N.p., 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/apr/05/einstein-equation-emc2-special-relativity-alok-jha>.
“E=MC2.” Fine Art Print by Unknown at FulcrumGallery.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fulcrumgallery.com/EMC2_700663.htm>.