Revisit E=mc2… Einstein’s prime concern was creation not annihilation…

As parties of various political hues jeer or cheer the Indo-Us nuclear deal, spare a thought for the man who made it all possible. No, not George Bush but Albert Einstein. For the real power behind nuclear reactors is Einstein’s equation. Yet this legendary equation is not even primarily about nuclear processes; rather, it’s a crisp statement of far-reaching relevance. Once you understand it, there’s something magnificent about it: I’ll confess that when I see the equation E=mc2, I sometimes feel the same shudder and awe that I feel standing in front of the Taj Mahal.

So, what does it mean? Well, lets look closely.(relax, it wont hurt). On stage left, we have E. E stands for energy, and energy is the ability to move things. When Sachin’s bat strikes the ball, we say it has a lot of energy because it can move something, in this case that poor battered ball. Meanwhile, to the right we m, for mass, which you can roughly think of as weight. Mass is applied by ‘c squared’, which is the speed of light. Ignore the speed of light for a moment. What the equation is telling us, pure and simple, is that energy and mass can be equated, converted to each other-like rupees and dollars.

This is a profound revelation. Here’s why. We are used to thinking of fast-moving objects (a train, a plane) as highly energetic. Similarly, we had previously thought that an object that had come to a standstill had used up all its energy. But the equation says that there’s actually vast untapped reservoir of energy left, stored up in mass itself. It’s as if we’ve discovered that gas tank that we thought was empty in fact holds a secret reserve.

Now, because light travels so absurdly fast-seven rounds around the earth in one second flat- mass is multiplied by a huge number, in our usual units, when converted to energy. In terms of analogy, its as if the conversion is not between dollars and rupees but between dollars and some tinpot currency, like the old Turkish lira. Just as you would get over a million Turkish liras for one dollar, you can get a lot of energy for a tiny bit of mass. And so it is: the devastation unleashed by the Hiroshima atom bomb came from converting less that single gram of mass to energy.

Nor is it all nuclear. Every breath u take..every move u make.., involves E=mc2. As u move that mouse, a miniscule amount of mass is used up to provide the energy for that action. As you blink, some mass is converted. To power your heartbeat it’s again the omnipresent equation in action.

Beautifully, the very equation that destroys also holds the the key to creation. Indeed, what appeared in Einstein’s paper was not E=mc2 but m=E/c2. Although that’s an equivalent equation, the emphasis is rather different. Whereas E=mc2 tells us how much energy is released when mass is destroyed, m=E/c2 tells us how much mass can be created from energy. Creation and annihilation, in one.

Einstein was after creation, not annihilation. He wanted to know where mass came from. And in his glorious equation an important part of the answer lay revealed. Mass comes from energy. After the Big Bang, our universe was filled with intense hot radiation. Magically, that energy turned itself into matter, using m=E/c2, matter that was to later become you and me.

As for nuclear weapons, this is what Einstein, an ardent pacifist and a deep admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, had to say: “I made one great mistake in my life when I signed the letter […] recommending that atom bombs be made.”

P.S: Article by Maulik Parikh for Outlook, January 2007.

Maulikh Parikh is a theoretical physicist at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.

## 40 comments:

hmm.. profound thought!

ayilaaaaaa!!!!!

wow!! that was simply amazing... i had to learn the energy mass derivation durin my grad in college n this is one of the few things that ever interested me.. I bet u love the relativity theory!! :-).. dont c many girls who have an eye for pure physics :-) loved the post ... completely :-)

out of the box post joieee

awesome template...

i like i like :)))

about the post...

some inspirational stuff, huh???

and i thought you had just brainstormed this out with your alter ego until i read the last line...:D

hmmmm !!!

pretty logical and sensible ..well u knw wat ...once my physics teacher told me that if u somday can understand the deep down meaning of this particular eqn in ur life u wud probably understand the existence of GOD !!

god is a form of energy and if probably u can travel wid the speed of light ur mass wud be converted to energy that wud be like enormous and u wud become eternal ..coz ur one second in life wud be like never ending & then probably u can understand the meaning and existence of Time machine also ....!!!!

I think he was very much right ..think over it and tell me do u agree wid mah physics teacher and me ??

and as far as ur post is concerned one suggestion if u actually call it a suggestion ..u shud have given the eqn like dis E=MC^2 instead of givin it as E=MC2 !!

happy blogin and thnks for reading my post (tho twas crap i knw ) lol !!

Nice post.

But I think you got a bit carried away

//Nor is it all nuclear. Every breath u take..every move u make.., involves E=mc2. As u move that mouse, a miniscule amount of mass is used up to provide the energy for that action. As you blink, some mass is converted. To power your heartbeat it’s again the omnipresent equation in action.

Every breath, etc then energy comes from respiration. Chemical energy of food, relased by oxidation. Mass is not lost in that is it?

The equation is

1 gram carbohydrate = 4 Calories

1 gram fat = 9 Calories

definitely speed of light squared is not involved here.

Or are you talking of some even deeper phenomenon?

Is it something like, in the respiration reaction,

total mass of carbohydrate and oxygen reacting is equal to total mass of co2 and h20 produced by reaction practically, but on subatomic scale there is a miniscule difference (even less than electron mass) and that extremely tiny diff X C squared gives the paltry 4 Calories?

Wow! That was de first thing i read today! Mate ur post has given me a good start!n after a long long time you've dropped me pondering over one of de most fascinating subjects...physics.seems its time 4 research again.but here at campus im outta resources(its just de physics of human body here!).n gal you've left ma brain puzzled.this comment will continue a while later.

N kudos 2 peter 4 de wonderful add on. Yeah moving at de velocity of life will render our masses infinite! N time comes 2 a standstill! But its again what u "feel" na...life being "relative"...

:-( hmmm...what is real then? U travel faster than light n then u "feel" that time is slower).someone clarify ma doubts pls...im not fresh wid physics!

@ nithin .

dude i vil derive the whole equation for u ...wait !!

p=E/C

(where E is the energy of photon and C is the speed of light an p is the momentum of the photon particle)

and the above eqn comes from Maxwell's equation

the whole momentum of the body wud be

p=MV

(where v is the velocity and M is the mass of the body )

velocity of the photon particle can be given by :

v=delta X/delta t

(coz it is for small intervals and the formula comes from simple distance,speed and time relation)

so manupulating the above eqns we can have

M(delta X/delta t)= E/c

if the lenghts of the body is suppose L then the time rqd 4 the photon particles to move from one point to the other wud be

delta t =L/c

Substituting into the conservation of momentum equation and rearranging:

M(delta X)=EL/c^2

now we can think that photon will have some mass say 'm' too and position of the body is at X1 and that of the photon is at X2

so the center of mass wud be given as !

x bar= MX1+mX2/M+m

now the center of mass of the whole system even if it is the universe wud never ever change

so

MX1+MX2/M+m=M(X1-deltaX)+mL/M+m

The photon starts at the left of the box, i.e. x2 = 0. So, by rearranging and simplifying the above equation, we get:

p=E/C

(where E is the energy of photon and C is the speed of light an p is the momentum of the photon particle)

and the above eqn comes from Maxwell's equation

the whole momentum of the body wud be

p=MV

(where v is the velocity and M is the mass of the body )

velocity of the photon particle can be given by :

v=delta X/delta t

(coz it is for small intervals and the formula comes from simple distance,speed and time relation)

so manupulating the above eqns we can have

M(delta X/delta t)= E/c

if the lenghts of the body is suppose L then the time rqd 4 the photon particles to move from one point to the other wud be

delta t =L/c

Substituting into the conservation of momentum equation and rearranging:

M(delta X)=EL/c^2

now we can think that photon will have some mass say 'm' too and position of the body is at X1 and that of the photon is at X2

so the center of mass wud be given as !

x bar= MX1+mX2/M+m

now the center of mass of the whole system even if it is the universe wud never ever change

so

MX1+MX2/M+m=M(X1-deltaX)+mL/M+m

the photons start at one side that is at X2 so by rearranging and manupulating we have :

mL=M deltaX

and hence,

mL=EL/c^2

and hence,

E=Mc^2

now if u see the 4th eqn properly u wud see that time limit delta t wud be very large coz we are multiplying it by 3*10^8 so that one small part moment like eternal !

@ abhishek

yeah!!

tght provoking

@ mayz

hehe

aare wat happened??

@ arun

thanx

:)

@ buzzz

yeah dats simply out of d box not only d post d content also.

...a new perspective...

@ devil

:)

thanx thanx

@ stupidosaur

hmm

u r talkin of process n dis was abt theory..

@ peter

wow

gud to see people r taking intrest..

..derivation huh..cool

..dat added to post..

@ nithin

even m out of d subject now..

E=mc2..nice post....

Peter...hooo...! Cool... :-) loved that! N hey joei de vivre! Clap clap...4 bringing this up! Hi hi...2 be honest i never really thought about explaining de existence of god using science...donno what 2 say! N gal here's a kutti slap now u've pushed me into reading another book!de "God Delusion"...gotta c what 'they' have 2 say...waitin 4 ma free times!

@ roo-ba-roo

thanx

@ nithin

hmm thanx..

by the way wat is KUTTI??

Yupp :-) kutty means 'tiny'... 'kid'...a nice kutty means a nice kid...n when i say kutty slap a tiny slap! Hi hi ...

@ nithin

ohh

tiny huh..

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO YOU

@ peter

true..very true

agreed wid ur teacher

@ pj

hapy independence day to u also!

joie its a very deep thot i luved to read it and am happy that I am a science student as I could understand it very well. It was one of the most discussed issues in our tuition classes last yr.

The last line the statement by the man himself is wat makes me ponder.

keep it up

wanna see more physics here buddy

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."--Albert Einstein

very good article

One of my most favorite topics! :D

Peter actually gave pretty interesting insight and details about what I learnt few months back!

Physics is just as amazing (and perplex at the same time) as Life!

Thanks for posting, Di! :)

@ pj

u wanna see more physics..huh

waise i dnt lik physics a lot..but yeah if i get sumthing gud having science added wid other perspectives..i'l post dem here.

@ dosth

:)

@ an experience

thanx...

@ deranged insanity

:)

thanx dear

so hapy to see u again wid blog

WHOA!!!

That's a different post by you. A lot of new information.

MMmmm guess you underwent a lot of change or simply suddenly became a fan of Einstein?

:)

@ aneesh

well m not his fan

but yeh i liked d content..

it was altogether different

and i was wonderfully amused as to how knowledgeable and how deep a thinker u are! :)

nevertheless.. at least you appreciate depth !

cheers

@ crimson feet

u thght m d writer..yeh..

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