In one of Albert Einstein’s revolutionary scientific papers published in 1905, E=mc2 was introduced. Since then, E=mc2 probably has been the most famous equation in the world. E=mc2 has become overwhelmingly popular in the society. Even people with no background in physics have at least heard of the equation and are aware of its prodigious influence on the world we live in. However, most people do not exactly know what the equation means.
This article will explain to you about the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2, in a simple and brief way.
The equation is a direct result of the work of Einstein on special relativity. Simply put, this equation tells us that mass and energy are two forms of the same thing; before the work of Einstein this concept had not been considered by the global intellectual community for explaining some of the basic laws of the Universe. In the right condition, mass can turn into energy and energy can turn into mass. Here, ‘right condition’ refers to near-to-light-speed. Maybe, that is why we humans feel difficult to perceive it- because we are too slow in comparison to light. Light moves at a speed of roughly 670 million miles per hour.
To find out how much energy an object has, multiply the mass of the object by the square of the speed of light. But why multiply? That’s because, when mass is converted into energy, the resulting energy is by definition moving at the speed of light. Pure energy is electromagnetic radiation and electromagnetic radiation always moves at the speed of light (light is also a kind of electromagnetic wave).
The equation requires you to use the square of speed of light because of the nature of energy. When a body begins to move twice as fast as it’s moving now, it DOES NOT use twice as much as energy. It uses four times more. This is related to the formula of kinetic energy: kinetic energy= (1/2) x mass x velocity2; did you notice that the velocity is squared? Oh, and by the way, speed and velocity is roughly the same thing.
Because the square of the speed of light is a very large figure: around 448,900,000,000,000,000 in units of mph; even a small chunk of matter can produce a large amount of energy.
Perhaps the reason why the equation is so widely celebrated is because of its capability to explain basic natural processes: from microscopic radioactivity to the big bang itself. It has explained the phenomenon of emission of huge amounts of energy from radioactive elements (such as Uranium). It has also explained how the sun produces energy, just to name a few.
E=mc2 has also enabled the creation of new technologies like PET scans in the health sector, nuclear energy, etc. Moreover, the famed equation has revolutionized the way we think about the Universe.
I hope that this brief article has helped you build up a basic comprehension of the world’s most famous equation.