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June 09, 2005



Idea number 1: Well, you're at SLAC, which is all about modern high energy physics. You're designing the science and technology for future particle accelerators. So that means you're one of the people who loves the fact that particle physics does the ultimate application of E=Mc^2. Collide particles and anti-particles together at high energy -zip- they're gone.....then out comes absolutely everything which has a mass that can be made from that energy using E=Mc^2. Creativity at its most direct, raw and exciting! Close as we'll ever get to playing God. -And you're the one who's going to make us even better at it than ever! (You can have fun with this one...)

Idea number 2: Fusion. Reduce mass by combining nuclei...they're reluctant at first but then grab each other strongly and bind, giving up energy to tighten their embrace. The resulting nucleus is less massive....resulting released binding energy runs your ipod. So everybody on the street uses E=mc^2 one day.

I suspect you've thought of things like these already and are looking for something more gee-wizz. Careful...make sure it does actually excite you, or it will show. Have fun. Cheers.



Cheer up... it's only one and a half pages per variable! And you could probably get an entire paragraph out of the c^2! ;)

Seriously, if you're really parched for ideas, you could talk about your research topic. From what little I could understand of your FAQ (http://qd.typepad.com/13/2005/04/q_a.html#comments), it seems like E = mc^2 is the reason that the leading electrons don't slow down and slam into the trailing ones when they lose energy.

The trailer looks a little too dramatized for my taste, but the writers get mad points for including Lise Meitner! Unfortunately, they lose all of said points because of those silly accents. Nonetheless, I'll be sure to tune in!


You know...upon reflection, that thing I said about "playing God".... you'd be totally correct in leaving that out! That's bound to upset several members of the public. -cvj

BR( p -> d )

I think E = mc^2 means that experimentalists rule, because otherwise people would run around saying, "E = m."


This amateur got these two inputs to give you a pretty good hint..

Dr. Richard Wolfson pointed to that fact that e=mc^2 means that there is enough energy in one raisin to power up all of New York City for a day. Imagine what one box of raisins could do...It also means that if we learn to harness fusion we will have enough deuterium in the ocean to power us for the next 300 billion years..Experiments involving either containing hot gas with magnetic fields or using intense laser beams to produce fusion temperatures and densities in tiny fuel pellets are exploring that possibility.

Those were from two of his video courses he made for the Teaching Company and is designed for non-scientists..

Joe Lyyken, at a Fermilab lecture I attended last year on "Extra Dimensions", pointed out that e=mc^2 was not Einstein's originial formula. The original one contained the momentum energy in each of the three dimensions= mass(time) c^2.."c" simply being the conversion factor between time and space..That last one always catches people's attention although so does the former reasons..

e=mc^2 cannot be thought of without its extensions into relativity and quantum physics and all their equations and benefits we receive.

Without relativity we would never have had the invention of television. The time dilation formula was used by engineers to figure out how fast an electron beam had to accelerate down the barrel of the old CRTs to focus the picture properly. The space had to be shrunk just the right amount in the electrons' frame of reference to prevent electron tumble..

Quantum physics was right there at work in the set as well..

To repeat the attitude that Leon Lederman expressed in The God Particle..

How many of you think that you have ever seen the Pope, the President, or the Boston Red Sox on TV? Actually, the answer is none of you have. Your television is actually a particle accelerator whose particle trails excite the phosphors on the screen and draw more particle trails across the screen into images that resemble the Pope, the President, or the Boston Red Sox..The particle accelerators at Fermilab, SLAC, Brookhaven, CERN and Argonne, along with others, use a technology that is many more times advanced than the television is..I am more sure of the science in our accelerators and the existence of quarks than I am sure of the existence of the Pope, the President, or the Boston Red Sox having ever appeared on TV.

Marc Hermann

Maybe you can write about how you two (i.e. you, Caolionn, and the equation) have first met. How you probably didn't speak the same language at the time, maybe even lost contact for some years. Well, you get the idea... (or maybe not).


I think that you should talk about the first time you read the original paper and how the real beauty of it lies in its simplicity. At least that's the only thing I can think of that is great about special rel. It's simple and elegant (though quickly becomes difficult and ugly when you try to apply it to relativistic fluids without using tensor calculus. Sorry I'm still bitter about an ugly incident in my undergrad, namely my entire special rel class.).

Einstein did theory with a particular model of the world in his head, he simply tried to describe that picture. To a theorist, I think that is Einstein's best feature, most theorists can only claim to have some c++ code running through their head.

Admitedly, this all went to hell for him with the whole Copenhagen thing, but he had a good 20 years or so before that happened.


FWIW, I just gave two lectures on the structure of nuclei to my son's high-school AP-Chem class, which I turned into a sort-of grand tour ending in star burning, supernovae etc. This stuff is just fascinating for people, experts and non-experts alike, incl. myself. I made use of E=mc^2 liberally in this context. If it can draw the attention of teenagers, it'll go far... just make sure you don't get too technical.



What is M, first of all? We know it is, we don't know WHY??? What is C? We know it's max speed of signal propagation, we don't know WHY???

What is E? We, know, that if we "have" some E, "we" can at least create/destroy/move something. We don't know WHY???

Yes, WHY is not the correct question. Correct is HOW???

So HOW are those E, M, C related? E=M*C^2 :)

WHY there is C*C, not just C, for example? Or other const. instead of C? What does that mean about the world we are living in? Are our bodies using this E=M*C^2 directly, or indirecly to keep us alive; and any simple examples?

TO: -cvj. Don't worry about your statement.;) It happens sometimes to say it and it works as you predicted.:))) But I would prefer a picture: we are a part of universe. We are trying to understand it. => Universe is trying to understand itself. And it doesn't know WHY it does so asking philosophical WHY? and physical HOW? questions.

E=M*C^2 is what it has understood about itself very recently, and it's COOL that it did it.


Well I don't know about you lot but I've seen a black hole. It was a perfect sphere from the outside and a semi sphere from the inside( i am not talking about two different objects but the same object), the only thing that passed the horizon was space itself, which only passed through the true horizon around a one dimensional circumfrence, which created the semi sphere inside. Space became one dimensional, but because it still had momentum it created a dimension of time, which created a 2D surface, it did this all the way around the 1d line of space around the horizon. The information contained on this surface passed through itself to the other side of the horizon where it became transparent as it met the horizon (this information was completely opaque, inside the horizon, this is how you get the semi sphere). All of this was reflected on the outside of the horizon, the information was being separated at the light horizon(which was quite a fair distance from the true horizon), which was the point information was being pulled towards the true horizon(this became opaque has it pass the true horizon, well thats what it look like anyway). The information that had passed through the true horizon and become transparent at the true horizon on the other side was now becoming more opaque at the light horizon, but still transparent, this moved away from the light horizon in the opposite direction but greatly red shifted, this line where the information was split on the outside of the true horizon is our universe.

we are the projection from a brane that is inside an horizon, that was once inside my brain, which was completely imagined by me.

Your are looking for The Emperor's New Clothes, Read the story, then look at the history of physics of this century, if your really brainy you just might see it.



The title of your section is "The Equation Today"

Invoke the photoelectric effect: E = h v to prove that Einstein knew of more than one equation. Combine both to get Compton length and claim you have unified [special] relativity and quantum mechanics. That seems wit enough.

If a blackboard is available, you can conjure Feynman slash to write down Dirac, or better some propagator, and point out where E=mcc is hidden there. Or, as another poster suggest, you can exemplify the undoing of the c=h=1 notation, recovering the right dimensions of some formulae, that could be a funny infographic animation in the program.

Anand Manikutty

Einsteinian physics is often thought of as a description of vague, abstract phenomena with little application to the world around us, but that is not nescessarily true. Let us see if we can explain the Einsteinian equation E=mc^2 using the example of a donkey pulling a cart. Consider, if you will, a donkey pulling a cart with a couple of passengers. This could be any donkey, and any two passengers. The donkey could be Eeyore, and the two passengers in the cart Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. It really doesn't matter. What is important, as we shall see, is that we can make predictions about the donkey and the cart knowing little about the specifics of the cart, besides certain parameters such as weight and speed.

Now, consider this : the heavier the cart, the greater energy needed to pull the cart. Let E be the energy in pulling the cart. So, clearly, E is proportional to m, the weight of the cart.

Consider this also : the faster the cart, the more energy needed to pull it. So, E is proportional to c, the speed of the cart (the astute reader will note that the speed of trains is denoted by 't', and that of ships by 's' for obvious reasons). Please don't take me to task for misrepresenting the Newtonian equations. Everybody knows that Newton was wrong. Anybody who says otherwise is known to those in the field as a mathematician.

Without loss of generality, it is easy to see that the two passengers in the cart don't have to be Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. They could be anybody at all. So clearly, but clearly, E is proportional to 2.

Now supposing we dangle a carrot in front of the donkey. Clearly, the donkey will pull the cart faster. But if we dangle two carrots, the donkey will pull twice as hard. So, clearly, E is proportional to (carrot).

From what we have seen so far :

E = m times c times 2 times carrot

The above equation can be written as :

E = mc^2

That's pretty much it, folks. It is pretty simple, really. Abstract ideas of energy, mass and speed have been reduced to one simple equation. Little needs to be known about the donkey, the cart or its passengers, although books have been written on the subjects of this experiment (As an aside, this is known to those in the field as a 'gedankenexperiment' or 'thought experiment'). Using a small set of measureable parameters, we can talk about a vast array of underlying phenomena. That to me captures the beauty of physics, a certain cold, sculptured beauty.

Anand Manikutty

I posted this on my blog as well. And yeah, it is 'nerd humor'. Totally.


Excellent fodder from which to steal. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to redeem myself. I am much obliged for all the ideas. It really is so much nicer having other people do the thinking for me – if only I discovered this before writing my thesis.


It really is so much nicer having other people do the thinking for me – if only I discovered this before writing my thesis.

Well, that is the whole point your thesis advisor is supposed to know, not you.

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