Monday, August 11, 2008

The Universe and Dr. Einstein (1)

Lincoln Barnett
New York: Time, Inc. Book Division
1957 (1948)

Why read it? Haven't you always wondered about what Einstein said concerning the universe? Well, after reading this book, you probably won't still be able to talk about it at cocktail parties, but Barnett does shed light on Einstein's ideas. And after you have read even these highlights, you will be struck with the wonder of the universe in which we live and the intellect and force that created it.

We can no longer know the reality of the world around us through our senses. It can only be described by mathematical equations. Equations were the method by which the atomic bomb was developed.

When man attempts to observe his universe, he changes it because he is part of that universe.

Since everything in the universe is moving there is no stationary frame of reference to use in measuring its motion.

Nothing moves faster than light.

E = MC squared. Mass becomes energy at the square of the speed of light and becomes radiation. "This extraordinary relationship becomes more vivid when its terms are translated into concrete values: i.e., one kilogram of coal (about two pounds), if converted entirely to energy, would yield 25 billion kilowatt hours of electricity or as much as all the power plants in the U.S. could generate by running steadily for two months."

"In other words matter is energy and energy is matter, and the distinction is simply one of temporary state. Matter and energy are interchangeable." Man turned mass into energy at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945.

Magnets do not attract. They create a field that operates on the piece of iron. Stars, the moon and other celestial objects also create fields.

The Einstein universe is curved, but can't be visualized, can only be described mathematically.

The process of finding the unity beneath reality began with the 90 elements, then reducing those to electromagnetic forces and then to space, time, matter, energy and gravitation; then Einstein in Special Relativity showed the equivalence of matter and energy and in General Relativity, the indivisibility of space and time. This urge to find the unity behind the variability of the universe is the passion of science and the human intellect. However, as this unity is discovered, reality becomes even more remote from direct experience.

Concepts like gravitation, electromagnetism, energy, current, momentum, the atom and the neutron are theoretical concepts that are metaphors, inadequately described, because we lack direct experience with them.

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