My understanding of E=mc^2

I’ve seen a lot of students and professionals wearing T-shirts with the equation E= mc2, possibly unaware of its meaning. Most find it unimportant and are careless to know about it. To them it is probably just another “funky” T-shirt.

I first heard about the equation E = mc2 when I was in school. As I started reading more, I came across the term “Big bang”. Initially I thought it was some form of an explosion that must have happened “somewhere”! Along the years, I realised that Big Bang wasn’t an explosion as such and didn’t happen “somewhere”. The very term “somewhere” began with the Big bang. It was “The” event that had created the universe.

What existed before the Big bang seems beyond my imagination at the moment (Scientists, I understand are still working on it). But, the universe as we see it today is not what it was soon after the Big bang. It was this extremely hot “space” filled with energy. No planets, no stars, absolutely nothing but pure energy. This is where Einstein’s equation came in. All this energy converted itself over time [billions of years] into mass – in the form of atoms and molecules, then the stars and the planets and even us. And that is what the equation signifies, the conversion of energy [E] into mass [m].

Everything around us today, the sand below our feet, the air we breathe, the oceans and the seas, the grass and the trees, the television we see, the stars , the moon, and the person in the “E = mc2” T-shirt are all by-products of this massive chemical reaction, the big bang. The thought is simply exhilarating.

The Biology I learnt in school taught me how the heart beats continuously and pumps blood throughout my body, how the lungs purify the air I breathe and how the brain helps me think. Today, when I look back at it, it’s thrilling to envisage that every atom that makes up the different parts of my body was once out there in space. It was formed in space. It was brewed up, as the universe expanded and cooled. All that energy which converted itself to dust that once existed in the universe has now turned into a contraption that pumps blood throughout this walking, talking being that I am today. Mind boggling isn’t it!

– Nishant Chirania

Associate Specialist

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3 thoughts on “My understanding of E=mc^2

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  1. Thanks Mr. Prashanth. What you say is true. The public perception of science isn’t too good. But we at BrainSTARS are trying to bridge the gap between science and techlonogy and society’s slow pace. But as long as the gap exists (and even after it ceases to exist), we need to think in terms of science and maintain the enthusiasm. Thanks once again for your encouraging words.

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  2. Nice writeup Mr. Nishant. What you write is very true. We are all finally atoms and molecules. Our neurons fire electrical signals. A simple process like for instance talking and listening involves the work of innumerable atoms and molecules in an ordered way. Just to think of it is like to live in a teenage fantasy world.

    I just want to make a quick point which, by no means undermines your enthusiasm. Your enthusiasm is genuine and beautiful. The point is that there is a wide gap between the actual science and the public perception of science or public understanding of science. 21st century has posed this challenge to humanity in no simple ways. The question is how can a society bridge this gap. For example what does e=mc2 mean to a rikshaw puller ? What does DNA and study of inheritance mean to a house wife ?

    Science and technology is a ruthless monster which, has no mercy for the society’s slow pace. We in India need to make it a campaign to bridge this gap. Unfortunately, the people who have the greatest motivation are the religious right wing crusaders. They have been systematically diluting the school process by for example, recently introducing bhagvad gita reading in schools. What we need are crusaders, equally effective in disseminating science understanding to public. This is, as I said is a very daunting task unparallelled in the history of mankind.

    Your enthusiasm in understanding scientific principles for its own sake is commendable. We need people like you. India needs people like you.

    Best wishes

    Prashanth

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