More than a century has elapsed since Einstein unveiled his famous equation equating mass with energy.
It is perhaps one of the most quoted and widely seen physics equations in the public domain. Yet contained in this short and concise equation is the heritage and ultimate destiny of our species.
This equation expresses succinctly the process by which all the matter found in stars, planets, galaxies and people came into being. This equation expresses the very essence of cosmic history in a very brief and yet poetic phrase. For contained in this equation is the very essence of cosmic history and how in the span of fourteen billion years energy evolved into matter and matter evolved into life and consciousness.
It also explains how within the first three minutes of the big bang pure energy condensed into matter and later , through the process of nuclear fusion, heavy elements were forged in the hearts of distant and massive suns. It’s the existence of these elements that make the existence of living things a possibility. Porpoises, petunias and people owe there existence to the laws of physics expressed and revealed within the expression E=mc2.
Yet, E=mc2 also reveals the Ying and Yang of humanity’s nature in the way we employ the mysteries and secrets revealed to us by the Physics of the last century.
In 1939 on the eve of the second Word War Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote the first and perhaps fateful, of four letters to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. It expressed their fear that the Nazis could use Einstein's discovery to build an atom bomb. This letter set off a chain of events which were to culminate with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Albert Einstein would latter describe writing this letter as the one mistake of his life.
August 2nd 1939
President of the United
Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable - through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast
amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable - though much less certain - that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia. while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.
In view of the situation you may think it desirable to have more permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an in official capacity. His task might comprise the
a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States;
b) to speed up the experimental work which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of
industrial laboratories which have the necessary
I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.
By the process of the conversion of mass and energy humanity has opened up the Pandora box that places future of survival in its own hands and all our lives in a balance of fate. Yet, the knowledge of harnessing energy from matter and the celestial motions of heavenly bodies may hold the secret to our long term survival as a species. Nuclear weapons may one day be employed to counter the treat posed by rouge asteroids and doomsday comets. Follow the story of Einstein's famous equation as revealed by this documentary. This is the story of his famous equation and how E=mc2 changed history and Einstein forever.
Einstein's Beautiful Equation also known by the title Einstein's Equation of Life and Death
BBC - Horizon - 2005 - Einstein's Equation Of... by DocumentaryHD2014