rotating gif.gifFor more about Albert Einstein, see World History II 37.

  • Einstein's work was a continuation of the progress made by past scientists to produce a fuller and more complete picture of the nature of reality.
    • Especially Issac Newton
      • Newtonian Physics was fully accurate when dealing with common phenomena at easily observable scales
        • but it often broke down at the newly observable levels of the very small and very large.
      • These apparent failures of Newtonian Physics had produced one of the greatest mysteries of science for most of the 19th century.
  • Einstein's Theory of General Relativity finally filled much of this gap, producing a theory of gravity which appeared to be consistent with all observable phenomena.
    • General Relativity gave a description of gravity as a property of space and time
      • allowed physicists to make more accurate predictions about the behavior of matter.
        • In particular, its predictions about the effect of gravitational force on light and delays of time were different and more accurate than those of previous Newtonian models.
Visual representation of some aspects of Theory of General Relativity
Visual representation of some aspects of Theory of General Relativity

  • Today, nearly 100 years after Einstein first presented it, General Relativity is still the most accurate theory of gravity known to modern science.
    • It is consistent with all known macroscopic observations of gravity
    • It stands with Quantum Mechanics as one of the two basic foundational principles of Physics.
  • One of the largest current issues in Physics is that Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity appear to contradict each other on the microscopic scale.
  • The laws of Quantum Mechanics make predictions about the impact of gravity on atoms which appears to be inconsistent with our current Relativity-based understanding.
    • This has made it notoriously difficult to accurately describe the workings of quantum gravity.
  • Resolving this apparent contradiction between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics is the major obstacle to formulating what physicists often call a "Theory of Everything".
  • Physicists continue to work on resolving these contradictions to produce a still greater understanding of the world
    • most of the rest of us enjoy and marvel at the positive impacts that have come from Einstein's work.
  • General Relativity is the basis for the inferred existence of black holes, where space and time have been warped so that nothing can escape.
  • It also allowed physicists and astronomers to gain one of the now fundamental observations of cosmology
    • that of the expanding universe.
  • From this observation scientists can now be confident about the origins (the Big Bang) and the age (~13.8 billion years) of the observable universe.
  • The photoelectric effect, another of Einstein's major contributions is essential for the creation of most electronic devices.
    • it stated that light shining on metal causes emission of electrons

Theories of the Universe: Quantum Mechanics vs. General Relativity Brief encyclopedia entry about the apparent contradictions between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, and its possibility for producing a unified theory of Physics .

Albert Einstein: History Channel Documentary

Empty space, according to Einstein’s theory, can contract, expand, or curve depending on to massive objects. The rate at which time passes can change dramatically as well. Space and time can even change depending on who is measuring them. The hands on a clock will look smaller and tick slower the faster the clock is moving with regard to you.[1]

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity: A simplified and brief explanation of Einstein's theory.

Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer
Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer

  • Primary Source: Albert Einstein's first letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. Einstein's letters "were the catalyst for the establishment of the Manhattan Project and the eventual development of the atom bomb." This resource also includes a lesson plan to explore this letter regarding its implications around nuclear threat, the vocabulary, as well activities around the Nobel Prize.
  • 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto: Open letter to world leaders signed by Einstein and Bertrand Russell, among others, urging peaceful settlements to international conflicts and nuclear disarmament.
  • Albert Einstein Radio Interview: A 1940 radio interview with Albert Einstein about his recently obtained American citizenship and his views on the then-present problems of humanity.
lessonplan.jpg offers a number of multimedia and interactive links about Einstein and his theory. It also includes a teacher's guide companion to episodes of PBS' NOVA on Einstein.