57 Years Later, Einstein Still Relevant – “Relatively” Speaking

An Einsting Ring

A Gravitational lens - or "Einstein Ring" - photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope

Today is the 57th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s death.

We’ve all heard of him. We all know the equation for his Special Theory of Relativity (E=mc2), though very few people can actually explain what the heck it means in a practical manner. We also know about his contributions to modern quantum theory, field theory, and the development of the atomic bomb. It’s all stuff that you can find with a Google search.

Moreover, though, he has become the “face” of science in pop culture. When you think of a stereotypical “scientist,” odds are that many of his physical features (especially in his later years) are represented – working out incomprehensible equations on a chalkboard, wild white hair and often a thick accent. His name is synonymous with “genius” in modern language. He’s even been the subject of a number of novels, movies, and plays – including an absolutely horrendous Yahoo Serious (anybody remember him?) vehicle, an only-slightly-less horrible Meg Ryan romantic comedy, and—more positively—a Steve Martin play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile (probably one of my favorite plays ever). He’s even been portrayed as a hologram in Star Trek – playing poker with Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, and Data.

Sure, other scientific minds have continued his work, sometimes even conflicting with it, but the impact of Albert Einstein on science – and the world that benefits from it – has yet to be outshone.