June 1, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

A century later, Einstein's first ideas still hold power

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regardless of the speed of the observer. The same beam of light will appear to be a different color to two observers moving at different speeds, but the beam will still be moving at the same speed compared with either of them.

One consequence of this theory is that there is no single universal clock ticking in lockstep across the entire universe. Rather, time passes differently for different clocks moving at different speeds.

In September, Einstein submitted a follow-up paper that introduced another notion: Mass and energy are equivalent, and a change in a particle's mass is associated with a change in its energy. The paper didn't include the famed equation E=mc2, but it laid the groundwork, Stachel said.

It wasn't until 1932, Stachel said, that physicists observed that a tiny amount of mass disappeared in radioactive decay--mass that was converted into the energy of emitted gamma rays or beta particles. A more notable illustration came at the end of World War II, when the mass lost from fissioning atoms became the energy of the explosions over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Einstein's relativity work wasn't done with the debut of special relativity in 1905. A decade later, the broader general relativity theory emerged, complete with its predictions that gravity could bend the path of light through an effect astronomers now call gravitational lensing.

Where Einstein's rubber hits the road
Einstein's work remade science, but most of its effects on today's technology industry have been indirect.

"It's a stretch to talk about Einstein's contributions to computing," said Tom Theis, director of physical sciences for IBM's research group. But Einstein's work has been relevant to the field, and more need to follow in his footsteps, Theis said: "Continued support of basic research is necessary to lay the foundations for tomorrow's technology."

special report
New life for Moore's law
Emerging technologies could extend the life of the chip dictum whose demise has been predicted repeatedly.

Robert Chau, director of transistor research and nanotechnology at Intel, deals with Einstein's legacy daily as he tries to create ever-smaller transistors, the on-off switches at the heart of microprocessors.

"It laid down the foundation for modern physics, for what we do today for nanodevice study," Chau said. Quantum mechanical constraints arrived in microprocessor design in about 1990, when electron behavior called "tunneling" began affecting the thinnest transistor components. This quantum mechanical effect leads to wasted power and heating problems and now is a dominant concern.

Einstein's 1905 papers did have some direct connections to today's engineering work. One widely cited example is the Global Positioning System, the navigation technology based on satellite signals with precise timing information. The GPS satellites move fast enough compared with the Earth's surface that relativistic time changes must be taken into effect.

The photoelectric effect also is employed in a technology called X-ray photoemission spectroscopy, which underlies diagnostic tools in the microprocessor industry. "It lets you characterize the interfaces between materials," for example how electrons move between metals and semiconductors in chips, said Rice's Natelson.

Einstein's theories were connected to experimental reality, and physicists taking inspiration should follow that strategy--especially proponents of today's string theory--said Philip Anderson, a Princeton University physics professor whose essay on Einstein appears in Robinson's book.

"In the half a century since his death, the mystique surrounding Einstein has created a cult that in my view starts clever physics students by the thousand off in the entirely wrong direction," Anderson wrote. "The cult makes Einstein into the embodiment of a 'pure' theorist, a genius so brilliant that he snatches his ideas from thin air and achieves revolutionary advances solely by the exercise of mathematical reasoning."

Experiments to prove Einstein's theories are still active. Today, physicists involved with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project are trying to verify the existence of gravity waves, which physicists agree is a consequence of Einstein's general relativity theory. Einstein himself became skeptical of the prediction and even tried to disprove it, Stachel said.

It's a measure of the scientist that his ideas are still at the forefront of physics. "In my opinion, he was a true genius," Chau said, "well ahead of his time and, in many aspects, beyond modern days."

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Celebrating Einstein: Better wait on that!
Before we go off on the wonders of Einstein's theories one should take a close look at a self published book written by a young electrical engineer from Canada named Mark McCutcheon. His book, The Final Theory: Rethinking Our Scientific Legacy, provides a logical and consistent "Theory of Everything". The establishment has been profoundly quiet in response. Has this young man recognized that the "Emperor has no clothes!"?
From gravity theory ala Newton to electricity and magnetismm, and on to the limits on the speed of light his explanations, while at first startling, make perfect sense to me (and are logically consistant without resort to "paradoxes")-but then I am an economist (albeit, with some significan technical training).
I don't know this guy personally and have no monetary interest in the book nor in any of his ideas. But this has been the most thought provoking book I have read in years--and I read a lot of thought provoking books. For more information go to www.TheFinalTheory.com
James P. Savage III
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Just because it 'makes sense'
Doesn't mean it is correct.

Nature is full of paradox. Forcing science to 'make sense' is not science.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
One chapter is enough....
... to prove that the author is an overworked amatuer who
doesn't really understand what he is talking about. He makes a
case, mostly by omitting facts, which wouid impress the casual
reader, but fails to come up with anything useful.

It's a shame in a way. I'm sure that the author expended
considerable energy (and money) to get his book published. And
i'm equally sure that the author really thinks that he is
presenting a new and revolutionary idea. But the effort and
conviction is for naught.

And please don't begin 'The Great Conspiracy of Science'
argument. If there was any credibility to 'The Final Theory', it
would be making a big impact in the world in the three years
since it was published.

Unfortunately, this volume will go on the library shelves next to
Velikovsy and Von Daniken. But that's where it belongs.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Before writing "New Physics", one should at least know "old physics"
That McCutcheon guy needs go get a clue. Before listing "science flaws" he need some education. His answers to those "paradoxes" are like: "Where the light goes when it's turned off? To the refrigerator. Open it and you'll see".
1. Black holes. They don't stop shining just because they cool off. It's impossible to cool such enormous mass instantly.
2. Tunnel through the Earth. In ideal case (enclosed in vacuum), an object will oscillate back and forth indefinitely, just like an ideal pendulum, or ideal LC circuit, etc. The net energy produced is zero. In the real worls, the frictional losses will cause it to settle in the center of Earth. The net energy lost to friction will be the same as produced by fre fall to the center.
3. Work function. The guy obviously doesn't know that force and movement are vectors, and work is a scalar product of those. Scalar product of two perpendicular vectors is zero.
4. Fridge magnets. As long as the friction produced by the magnetic attraction is more than the object's weight, there is no motion and no energy spent. It can stay in that state indefinitely.
5. Freezing water. As strange it may sound for him, the energy released because of expansion is cooling the ice further. If you apply enough pressure, the water will stay liquid at 0C, but as soon as you relieve it, it will expand and freeze.

Et cetera,
Don't touch relativity, of you don't even know school physics.
Posted by alegr (1590 comments )
Link Flag
The next step
John Dobson has published some work which provides
food for thought in the next step to the "Theory
of Everything" Check <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://johndobson.org/jarticles.html" target="_newWindow">http://johndobson.org/jarticles.html</a>

- Gomu.
Posted by Gokulmuthu Narayanaswamy (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry folks...
Here's another candidate for the bookshelf. Magic yet ever?????
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
 

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