We all know the physics equation E = mc². It is the most famous of them all, and yet its meaning and implications are, for most people, unknown and of no concern. We all know that E = mc² = Einstein = smartest dude ever = craziest hair, did you know he played the violin? There’s no excuse. Einstein’s brilliant equation started a revolution in physics that is still unsettled, and the concepts are simple, so listen up!
Firstly, what does everything represent in the equation?
- E = energy
- m = mass
- c = the speed of light (the highest speed that anything in our universe could ever achieve no matter what)
Simple. So, the energy of something is equal to it’s mass multiplied by the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second) squared. But what does that mean? The answer is astounding and profound, yet simple, and should be the first thing taught in elementary school science.
Matter equals energy. Matter IS energy. Energy is just another form of matter. Matter can be turned into energy, in fact, and that’s what an atomic bomb is: matter being turned into it’s energy equivalent. It’s difficult to do for us humans, but it’s even harder to turn energy into matter, although it has been done. Particle accelerators convert energy into subatomic particles all the time. You’ll notice that, as reflected in the equation, an ENORMOUS amount of energy is required to create even a very small amount of mass.
In fact, if you could extract the energy within a pool ball, you would have enough energy to live on for thirty million years.
If you could somehow turn the energy given by a full tank of gas into matter, you would be left with an object the size of a Plank mass, or roughly a speck of dust.
What I find interesting is that the speed of light has such an important role in matter and energy. The ratio of matter to energy is exactly the speed of light, squared. Weird.
Also interesting is that, since energy is matter, it is affected by gravity. Light, being a form of energy, is also matter, and is therefore affected by gravity. This phenomenon is readily observable from Earth, where we can see light bending around certain stars and galaxies, etc., and is also what makes black holes so freakin’ black. A black hole has a gravity so intense that even light can’t escape it – it is fatally sucked in, and turned into matter, becoming part of the black hole. Well, sort of. We’ll talk about black holes another time.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this question: is information a form of matter/energy, or is it nothing more than a humanly subjective term?
Tomorrow we’ll talk about entropy.