TED Ed: How Einstein Revolutionized Our View of The Universe in One 'Miracle Year'

Friday, 25 November 2016 - 3:33PM
Physics
Friday, 25 November 2016 - 3:33PM
TED Ed: How Einstein Revolutionized Our View of The Universe in One 'Miracle Year'
What made Albert Einstein a synonym for "absolute genius"? You've no doubt heard the phrases "special relativity" and "E equals MC squared" and have the general impression he was ironically bad at math during school, but everything else is probably kind of hazy. Well, the actual story of Einstein's rise to prominence and the impact he had on physics is actually pretty remarkable, and one worth learning. It all revolves around one year, 1905, which has been called the 'miracle year' due to the string of not one but four groundbreaking, world-changing papers published by a previously unknown patent clerk (spoiler alert: that clerk was Einstein). Here's the story, provided by TED-Ed:



You might remember coming across a couple of these ideas in school, where they were presented as pretty matter-of-fact. Of course light acts like both a wave and a particle! Of course atoms are real! Of course matter and energy are the same thing! Sure! Of course all motion is relative to the viewer! Wait, what?

This is where things got weird. To regular people without advanced degrees, quantum physics comes off as some kind of supremely complicated, counter-intuitive science that doesn't make much sense but still works somehow. As the video says, Einstein's discoveries began opening the doors to the 'quantum' chapter of scientific thinking, where the universe was revealed to be much more bizarre and mind-bending than anyone ever expected.

With that in mind, it's pretty amazing to realize that Einstein's papers were published over a hundred years ago, just forty years after the end of the American Civil War and decades before modern computers were available. It's even more amazing to realize that each of Einstein's "miracle year" papers represented a fundamental shift in how we perceive not just physics, but reality itself.

Where's that "The More You Know" banner?

NBC's The More You Know

Ah, there it is. Go, science!
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