Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Envy of Einstein

I’ve been hearing for years how Einstein “was a fraud” – long before the internet was around. The curious thing about these people is that none of them understand what he did. I’ve met perhaps three people in my life who truly understand what “E=MC2 really means.

I’ll give you a hint – the bombs dropped on Japan each converted about one-third of a penny into energy. I’ll give you another hint – the reason light is so fast is because it has no mass.

There were some people who came up with equations close to E=MC2, and if Einstein didn’t do it someone else sooner or later would have, just the way Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent for the telephone one hour before Elisha Grey did, or the way the theory of evolution occurred to Alfred Russell Wallace in a flash while Darwin worked on his for decades. Things like just happen.

It reminds of me of some of the blacks I’ve met who claim Elvis Presley “stole our music.” Why do people say such appallingly ignorant things?

Envy. When someone is put down for something they’ve done, it’s out of envy. And in every case, the envier can’t do anything remotely close to what was done by those they envy.

Einstein only did about four things in his life, and they occurred in four papers in 1905 – but those papers changed the world. After that, he didn’t do much, and he sure didn’t understand economics and political science, being that he was a socialist.

I certainly don’t have the mathematical ability to understand theoretical physics, but I understand the concepts, such as the reason our atoms just don’t pass through each other is because of something Wolfgang Pauli discovered in 1925 (I suppose he was a fraud, too?)

I’ll give you a hint about that one, too: it’s why we can walk through air but not walls.

And I doubt that every physicist, past and present, from Henri Poincare (who was a polymath – which Einstein wasn’t – and who was close to discovering E=MC2 himself - [m = E/c2]) to Kip Thorne, were so stupid and deluded they couldn’t see “Einstein was a fraud.” But of course someone on the internet with a blog or before that, some 15 page self-published book, knows more than several world-famous physicists with Ph.Ds.

Envy is a catastrophic thing and is the cause of untold misery in the world. Fortunately the benign form of envy is admiration, and since I’m apparently nearly constitutionally incapable of envy I instead look at things with admiration – even if I can’t do any of those things I admire.

The same thing applies to Stephen Hawking, who was working on his Ph.D. in Physics when he was 20 years old. That’s no fraud and today there is no one alive better than him in Physics.

I’ve mentioned before we get maybe one truly amazing genius about one a century – maybe even less. Einstein in the 20th Century and Hawking in the early 21st. Before that there was Isaac Newton, a once-in-thousand years genius, and Adam Smith, who was also a once-in-a-thousand years genius. Before that, Aristotle.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t put down those who can.


Kent McManigal said...

In my physics course I never successfully completed a single equation. Not one. But I passed because the teacher said I was apparently the only one in the class who grasped the concepts- he would have me try to explain what we were talking about to the class when it was obvious they didn't get it. Relativity, quantum physics, and all that sort of thing just sort of come together in my head and I "see" them happening. But I suck at the math involved. The first thing I ever did on a computer was calculate E for a given, tiny bit of mass (not positive I did it right, but at least the computer did the math). That's because internet porn didn't yet exist.

Bob Wallace said...

I understand the concepts but cannot do the math. In fact I test at the 9th grade level for math.

Kent McManigal said...

Maybe there's some deeper truth to that- either people can understand the concepts, or do the math, but not usually both. It takes one of those "once-a-century geniuses" to do both well.

Glen Filthie said...

You're aware that light bends around a gravity well, right Bob?

Bob Wallace said...

Yes, I do.

Glen Filthie said...

Errr... Sorry for being dense... But how is it that gravity can act on a massless quantity? Last I heard we couldn't decide if light was a wave or a particle either...?

Bob Wallace said...

I've wondered that myself and I don't think anyone really understands it.

Kent McManigal said...

Because gravity is a warping of the fabric of spacetime. It isn't so much acting on the massless quantity as it is acting on the matrix in which the massless quantity is traveling. Even a massless particle has to follow the "surface" curve as it travels. A straight line along a curved surface will curve.

Black Poison Soul said...

Things get quite funky down at the quantum level, with electrons being in preferential locational "clouds" around the nucleus they are associated with. (It gets really weird when you realize that nobody's yet figured out the actual diameter of an electron. It's figured to be less than 10^-15 meters, yet nobody can measure for sure. In fact there's some hypotheses which state that it's actually a fairly large particle which contains an embedded point-charge.)

This is why light is both wave and particle. And you can get some interesting experiments where some quite large molecules (buckyballs and other stuff) can also act as both wave and particle. Fascinating stuff to learn about.

At any rate, yes, light is a massless something (an oscillating E-M wave? bosons, to be more technical) that travels in a straight line until it hits something: matter. (Hmmm. If a light photon is a point-source it cannot "hit" another two light-beams cannot bounce off each other...yet it acts as a particle sometimes might be the ultimate point-source as an oscillating E-M field, yet light has energy and E = MC2 states that energy is the equivalent of mass so you do have mass/matter which is why it can act as a particle sometimes begin to get how strange this stuff can act? And the weird paths it can take your mind down? In fact I just checked, you *can* bounce light off other light - very rare and very hard to do and it happens in an indirect manner as well. Learn something new every day.)

So, the light/photon travels in a straight line until it hits something. In simple terms, four things can happen: it's absorbed (think hitting black paint), it's scattered (hitting white paint), it's reflected (hitting a mirror), or it's refracted (bent, like when it hits something transparent - prime examples that we know about are lenses and prisms and water).

Now, out in space about all you get is random atoms and floating dusty crap - and sod-all of that. This is why most light/photons will go a helluva distance (thousands or millions of light-years, up to 13 billion light-years) before they get the chance to hit anything at all. Which could be our measuring instruments, aka telescopes and the like.

Light travels in an absolutely straight line too, which is why we use laser pointers to make sure that foundations are level and pipes take an x-degree angle downwards and don't have bad bends in them, etc. We even use it to get an accurate distance to various things, like the moon. This is because we know it travels absolutely straight until it hits something - it doesn't suddenly go hairing off at a 90-degree angle, take a couple of weird loops, and end up at where we aimed it. It goes straight there.

As Glen says though, a large gravity well can bend light. This is actually stated wrong: a large gravity well doesn't bend light, it is bending the straight line path that light is following (aka space itself). So far as light itself is concerned it is still a straight line, straight as it always was. It's just that it's been warped and bent by the gravity of a very large chunk of mass.

(And yeah, that was a whole lotta geekery.)

Black Poison Soul said...

Kent beat me to it hah!

WL Emery said...

Thanks Kent McManigal.

Albert Einstein most assuredly did understand economics and politics, but for him to carry on a conversation about supply and demand would have been terminally frustrating to him.

Consider that the average man has an IQ of 100, or 85 - 115 if you will. Most people reading this blog on anything close to a regular basis are going to have an IQ in the 115 or better range. Einstein's IQ went off the chart, but was assigned a value of 160 - for lack of a better idea, I suspect. Now consider Albert discussing economic theory, philosophy, or political science with the ubiquitous average man. Al has a solid 60 points on this barfly.

Now think. Do you, Uncle Bob, or Glen Filthie, or any of the other contributors here, really want to get into a political discussion with someone who is a solid 40 to 60 points below you, and who is firmly established on the bad side of the bell curve? What will you accomplish, even if you use one syllable words?

So, I suspect, it was with Albert. It's pointless to the extant that he wouldn't engage.

Glen Filthie said...

I do it all the time with Uncle Bob, WL! HAR HAR HAR!!! (Or maybe it's the other way round! HAR HAR HAR!) :)

As for the rest of you lot - not to be a dink but I'm unhappy with this bent space-time continuum explanation. How can a star emit light without it curving back on itself under the effects of gravity? Eg. If you can 'bend' a ray of light further away from the star where the effects of gravity are can you emit it at the very bottom of the gravity well? Shouldn't the gravity draw the light into orbit rather than just bending it? Especially at the bottom of the gravity well where the curvature is strongest?

What am I missing here? That ol' Filthie 85 IQ strikes again... :(

Kent McManigal said...

When that happens, you have a "black hole".

Kent McManigal said...

I should explain a bit. Different masses bend spacetime different amounts. A normal-mass star doesn't bend spacetime enough to make the straight line bend back into the star, so once it escapes the star, it goes on its way.

ray said...

Hawking is a PR phenomenon. Where's the beef? What, exactly, has he changed of our interface with reality, technology, practical imagination? Zilch. Counts on the cripple factor.

Whereas, technology and understanding only now are being developed that can model and confirm many of Einstein's theories, for example

If science is about a century behind your math, it's a pretty good sign you're for real. I don't understand E=MCsquared, however I've seen enough inexplicable shit just on this planet, it doesn't matter. After awhile you start feeling about as smart as a potato bug. Talk about your relativity.

Anonymous said...

"Einstein only did about four things in his life, and they occurred in four papers in 1905 – but those papers changed the world. After that, he didn’t do much, and he sure didn’t understand economics and political science, being that he was a socialist."

From Dean Keith Simonton's book, "Scientific Genius" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988), page 60:

"The distinguishing characteristics of genius, scientific or otherwise, is immense productivity. The common misconception that phenomenal intellects contribute only a handful of selective master-works, or even a single magnum opus, is plain wrong."

DeNihilist said...

Mr. Filthie, bend your mind to this -

as to why light leaves the star,

"In younger stars, nuclear fusion creates energy and a constant outward pressure that exists in balance with the inward pull of gravity caused by the star's own mass. But in the dead remnants of a massive supernova, no force opposes gravity—so the star begins to collapse in upon itself."

Avraham said...

General Relativity was in around 1916 I think. And although he was criticized for later work still he had an effect on considering implications of Quantum Mechanics which no famous philosophers then or now did. Dr Kelly Ross puts it thus:

In philosophy, failure to address the implications of Copenhagen Quantum Mechanics amounts to ... professional incompetence. At first, there was enthusiasm that Quantum Mechanics violated causality and thus refuted both Aristotelian and Kantian views of causality. This went along with a grave misreading and misunderstanding of Hume's evaluation of causality. Since causality as the laws of nature (as Hume understood it) is not in the least undermined, but only reinforced, by Quantum Mechanics, this particular fashion has rather died out.
Meanwhile, ..., most of Bohr's colleagues in physics, like Einstein, Schrödinger, and de Broglie, who, like Roger Penrose, viewed Realism as presupposed by all proper science, were horrified at this metaphysical implication of the Copenhagen Interpretation -- at a time when philosophers, like the Positivists, were busy eschewing metaphysics as beneath serious attention. The first reaction of the philosophers, then, was to pass over the whole business as of no concern. So, as I have noted elsewhere, while Einstein and Kurt Gödel were walking down to the Institute for Advanced Study arguing about Kant, Bertrand Russell found the whole business ridiculous. Philosophy has not done much better, or improved its attitude much, since then.

Also his dream finding a way of connecting the four forces did result in combining three forces in the 1960's and later in String Theory in combining all four forces.

Andrew Stallard said...

The equation E=mc^2 comes from the formula for kinetic energy in a relativistic framework and recovering the case when velocity is equal to zero. Not unlike time dilation, mass-energy equivalence is a very counterintuitive prediction that has been borne out by observation.

Of course Einstein wasn't a fraud, but there is a grain of truth that is often discussed at the "Einstein-is-fraud" websites. It is the fact that his theories were irrelevant to the discovery of nuclear phenomena and the subsequent building of the atomic bomb. The famous letter from Einstein to President Roosevelt concerning the German nuclear program was in fact written by Leo Szilárd and only signed by Einstein whose reputation would make it much likelier that the President would read it.

However, as Bob indicates in the original posts nuclear reactions have been used to confirm mass-energy equivalence, but Einstein's famous formula applies universally, and not just to nuclear phenomena. However, it is only in the context of nuclear reactions this can actually be measured.

As far as "really understanding" goes, the best derivation and explanation I've seen is from Leonard Susskind's Youtube video lectures on the subject. As far as what is "really" going on it is important to realize that our senses evolved to help us survive in what Richard Dawkins called "middle world," that is, the realm between the microscopic world of quarks and atoms and the larger view of the universe at the galactic and universal level. The qualia with which we perceive the world is probably inadequate for the very large and the very small alike. This problem was articulated by Kant when he distinguished between the "noumenal" world of things as they are as opposed to the "phenomenal" world of appearances. The phenomenal world is was what we can access via the evidence of the senses; it is what we can describe and explain with our words and equations. The "noumenal" aspects of mass-energy equivalence, spacetime, or wave-particle duality are anybody's guess.

/pedantic physics teacher mode off

Avraham said...

To Andrew Stallard: My own feeling about these things is kind of like Kant as you mentioned. That is I think as Kant did there are two levels. One is which space and time are real and that is clear in the kind of experiments we have that test General Relativity like GPS things that you find in taxis. The other level is Quantum Mechanics in which space and time do not exist until they are measured. This in fact seems like something Kant was aware of as noted by Dr Kelley Ross in California.

Bob Wallace said...

Kant always made my head hurt. But then, so does quantum physics.

Bob Wallace said...

"really want to get into a political discussion with someone who is a solid 40 to 60 points below you, and who is firmly established on the bad side of the bell curve? What will you accomplish, even if you use one syllable words."

I've met one than one person whose IQ I estimated at about 78. They're functionally illiterate and cannot do simple addition. Division? Not a clue.

Avraham said...

Kant is important even if he is hard. He is very relevant this this discussion. And Freeman Dyson also I have to mention because he was the first to say openly that QM and Relativity are talking about tow different levels of reality

Bob Wallace said...

Now Freeman Dyson is someone I should do a post about. I've always been impressed by polymaths, mostly because I'm not one!

paulmurray said...

People who have a problem with Einstein aren't envious - they are anti-semites. The "Einstein was a fraud" position is 100% about the fact that he was a jew. That's what's going on, that's what it's about.

"Last I heard we couldn't decide if light was a wave or a particle either...?"

Light is neither a wave nor a particle. It is light. Its physical state can best be described by a vectors of complex numbers, but the math is hard. As a simplification, in some respects it can be modeled as if it were like a wave on water, in other respects it can be modeled as if it were a rubber ball. But it isn't actually either of those things.

Joshua Sinistar said...

Ah the Anti-Semitic defense. Like Hitler it always come out eventually. Its not envy. Einstein was a known fraud. That's why he wasn't on The Manhattan Project. Einstein was a patent office clerk in Germany. There were apparently may people who accused him of stealing their ideas and claiming them as their own. Math is critical in Physics. Without Math, Physics is not even a science. Mathematics is what separates scientists and engineers. Scientists have fancy degrees and crackpot theories, but engineers actually design things that work. Quantum Physics is like a bad acid trip. It has funky shit about cats in a box and not knowing what happened to them. Anyone who believes Schrodinger's Cat is a legitimate scientific conundrum had better stay away from cats.
Its amazing how bad science really is now. We have a model of an atom that actually violates all the laws of magnetism. They explain the contradictions away by claiming their is a special force allowing the contradiction to be true. My God, people are gullible. These scientism freaks go on all day about how they won't ever believe in God cause they've never seen Him. But dark matter, special forces, the structure of an atom and the impossibly large number of atoms in a molecule is totally true. Science is now apparently based on Faith. Not Faith in God. Faith in poindexters wearing outdated clothing that looks like they were dressed by their Moms, have poor social skills and work for anyone who pays them money. There's a sucker born every twenty seconds.

Anonymous said...

"Those who can, do. Those who can’t put down those who can."

"People who have a problem with Einstein aren't envious - they are anti-semites."

Wrong on both statements. Sometimes criticism and critical questions are warranted.

I'm a critic and skeptic of Einstein. I'm neither envious nor anti-semitic. I'm also a competent Ph.D engineer that can definitely can and do.

Anonymous said...

Regarding criticism/skepticism of Einstein:

Bob Wallace said...

I knew that sooner or later someone would start hallucinating about "anti-Semitism," or physics isn't a science or that Einstein was a thief and a fraud.

The lunacy never ends.

Joshua Sinistar said...

Look Bob, even Jews have to admit Einstein wasn't part of the Manhattan Project. That was the top scientific project in America at the time. All the big eggheads were part of it, and Einstein is notable by his absence. Since Oppenheimer was one of the guys heading the project and he was Jewish, they cannot claim it was Anti-Semitism that kept Einstein out. I've heard rumors for years that Oppenheimer himself was the guy who kept him out, because he didn't consider him to be a proficient expert in the field.

Bob Wallace said...

Einstein reached his peak in 1905 and after that it was pretty much downhill. And he certainly didn't understand political science and economics. Just because someone is great in one way doesn't translate to anything else.

Twarog said...

"Kant always made my head hurt. But then, so does quantum physics."

The second semester of my freshman Philosophy course in college, we were scheduled to read Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Freud. At the start, our professor said, "I'm sorry, but by the end of the semester, you are going to really hate Germans. I can't do anything about this". He was right- about German philosophers' prose, anyway.

"Maybe there's some deeper truth to that- either people can understand the concepts, or do the math, but not usually both. It takes one of those "once-a-century geniuses" to do both well."

I didn't much care for the Coen Brothers' "A Simple Man", but there was a good scene in which an Asian-American student is trying to argue his way to a passing grade from the protagonist, a Jewish physics professor. The student gripes that he didn't know there would be so much math on the exam, and he thought the test would just be about the abstract concept of Schrodinger's Cat. The prof's response is pretty good: "There's nothing to it but the math! Even I don't understand the cat."

Twarog said...

"Albert Einstein most assuredly did understand economics and politics, but for him to carry on a conversation about supply and demand would have been terminally frustrating to him."

Politics, history, and (to somewhat lesser extent) economics are very different disciplines from physics, mathematics, or even chess. In some disciplines, a relatively small number of fundamental axioms, rules, and principles can be spun out to their logical conclusions relatively quickly by someone with a high IQ. Thus, there are famous child prodigies in mathematics, physics, music, chess, and linguistics. There are, to my knowledge, no child prodigy historians, however, becuase no matter how smart you may be, you still have to spend a lot of time memorizing names and dates, reading arguments and counter-arguments, and generally gaining experience of the world. Thus many great mathematicians have done their best work before forty, while most historians tend to be old: David Hackett Fischer, for example, wrote his great masterpiece at the age of fifty-four, while Jacques Barzun's magnum opus was published while he was still a fresh-faced lad of ninety-three.

Avraham said...

Thank comment about physics makes a lot of sense to me "There is nothing to it but the math." That is something I also noticed.