E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis
(hier online bestellen)

The story:
In his introduction, author David Bodanis relates the story of the genesis of this book. He was reading an interview with Cameron Diaz where the interviewer asked if there was anything else the actress wanted to know, and she said, "What does E=mc2 really mean?" Dubbed in the subtitle "The World's Most Famous Equation," E=mc2 falls into the larger category of things people feel they should comprehend. As Bodanis points out, it seems like Albert Einstein's little formula should be understandable -- after all, it only consists of five symbols! The first part of the book takes each of those five symbols in turn and explains its history. E stands for energy; = for equals; m for mass; c for the speed of light; and the superscript 2 for squared. There was a time before any of these symbols existed; even the = sign had a sputtering start. It is only in the past couple of hundred years that humanity has come to understand that energy is something to be measured and that it has the ability to change. These properties were discovered and refined by people like Michael Faraday, who in the 19th century made the connection between electricity and magnetism. Likewise, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier -- whom Bodanis characterizes as "an accountant with a soul that could soar" -- was instrumental in observing the conservation of mass. These discoveries laid the foundation for Einstein's astonishing insight that energy and mass can actually convert into each other. The speed of light (186,000 miles per second) multiplied by itself is a pretty hefty number, so it doesn't take very much mass to convert into a vast amount of energy. Bodanis continues with a concise chronology of how that knowledge was turned into history's most infamous weapon, the atomic bomb, recounting such exploits as the World War II raid to disable Germany's heavy-water plant. That same equation has been with us always, though. Long before the Manhattan Project, E=mc2 made the stars shine -- including our own star, the sun. E=mc2 accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.
By the end, readers know what the equation is and what it does, without having to swim through a lot of other theories and equations.

Extract from book:
The reasoning Einstein followed to come up with his extraordinary observation - that mass and enetgy are one - had begun with the seemingly irrelevent observation that no one could ever catch up with light. But that led, as our spaceshuttle suggested, to the insight that energy pouring into a moving object could end up making an outside observer see its mass swell. The argument could also apply in reverse: under the right circumstances an object should be able to pour out energy, generating it from its own mass.
Starting in the 1980s, a few years before Einstein wrote out his equation, a number of investigators ahd actually seen hints of how this might occur. Several metal-streaked ores that had been brought back from the Congo and Czechoslovakia and other places were found, in laboratories in Paris and Montreal and elsewhere, to be spraying out some sort of mysterious energy beams. If the pebbles were used up as they did this, it wouldn't have been too surprising - one could think that the process was some sort of ordinary burning. But by the best measurements of the time, the energy beams seemed to be pouring out without the pebbles changing in any way.
Madame Curie was one of the first investigators, and indeed in 1989 coined the word radioactivity for this active spurting out of radiation. Yet even she, at first, had no understanding that these metals achieved their power by sucking immeasurably tiny portions of their mass out of existence, and switching that mass into the greatly magnified form of sprayed energy. The amounts seemed beyond credibility: a palm-sized chunk of these ores could spray out many trillions of high-speed alpha particles every second, and repeat this for hours and weeks and months, without loss of weight that anyone could measure. ...

About the author:
Born and raised in Chicago, David Bodanis was educated in mathematics, physics and economics at the University of Chicago. He moved to France in 1977, working for the International Herald Tribune newspaper, based in Paris, and reporting from most European countries. In 1982 he moved to a village in the foothills of the Alps, and there started writing 'The Secret House', which became a bestseller in the United States.
In the mid 1980s he spent half of each year in rural France, and the other half in the center of London; since the late 1980s he has lived in Britain full-time.

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis
Sprache: Englisch
Taschenbuch - 352 Seiten - Berkley Publishing Group
Erscheinungsdatum: 1. Oktober 2001
Auflage: Reissue
ISBN: 0425181642
Preis: € 13,50

More works from the same author:
hier online bestellen

The Secret House:
The Extraordinary Science
of an Ordinary Day
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Secret Family:
Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity

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