Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 was the first to link an object’s mass to its energy, ushering in a new age of physics.
In the history of mathematics, this is the most well-known equation. Even if you’ve never recognized the beauty or utility of equations, you’ll recognize this one since it’s been printed on innumerable T-shirts and posters and featured in films. You presumably also know who came up with it: Albert Einstein, scientist and Nobel Laureate.
Einstein first proposed the equation in an article called “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content?” published in the Annalen für Physik in 1905. Another of Einstein’s concepts, special relativity, a radical new method of relating the movements of things in the universe, gave rise to the link between energy and mass.
At first glance, the equation appears to be deceptively easy. It states that the total mass (m) multiplied by the square of the speed of light equals the energy (E) in a system (an atom, a person, the solar system) (c, equal to 186,000 miles per second). Its simplicity, like all excellent equations, leads down a rabbit hole into something deep about nature: energy and mass aren’t simply mathematically connected; they’re different methods of measuring the same thing. Energy was formerly described by scientists as the substance that permits things and fields to interact or move in some way — kinetic energy is connected with movement, thermal energy with heating, and electromagnetic fields with energy conveyed as waves. All of these forms of energy have the ability
Einstein’s theory of relativity added mass as a new sort of energy to the equation. Previously, a kilogram’s worth of mass was just a measure of how much things was there and how resistant it was to being moved around. Even when an item was not being heated, moved, irradiated, or anything else, mass became a method to quantify the entire energy existing in it in Einstein’s new reality. Mass is simply a super-concentrated form of energy, and these entities can switch back and forth between the two. Nuclear power plants utilise this concept within nuclear reactors, where subatomic particles called neutrons are shot at the nuclei of uranium atoms, splitting them into smaller atoms.
However, releasing that energy is a difficult process. Nuclear fission is one of numerous methods for releasing a little amount of an atom’s mass, but the most of it stays in the form of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Bringing antimatter together with a block of material is one technique to transform it into pure energy. Except for an opposing electrical charge, matter and antimatter particles are identical. They will, however, destroy each other into pure energy if they are brought together. Unfortunately, because we don’t know of any natural sources of antimatter, the only method to make it is in particle accelerators, and producing a kilogram of it would take 10 million years.
According to special relativity, the more heavy anything grows the quicker it goes. Its popularity stems mostly from its relationship with one of humanity’s most destructive weapons: the atomic bomb. The equation first appeared in a study issued for the US government during the Manhattan Project, when the Allies were attempting to build an atomic weapon.