Haley Webb

Actress + Filmmaker

Official website of artist Haley Webb.

Einstein vs. The Universe

My Dad is a big science guy. He's disgustingly intelligent + loves All Things Scientific (yes, Trekkie status applies here). I have been quite spoiled in this regard, because even if I don't understand (which is more often than not), he still takes the time to introduce me to scientific theories + the workings behind them. I will never forget him explaining the doppler effect to me + my sister, while we were listening to Funeral for a Friend in the car, while we made our fingers Riverdance. It has been this introduction + constant education that has kept my curiosity alive, and I've wanted to continue my education independently. (He's still around sending me articles daily, didn't mean for that to sound fatalistic.)

I am currently reading The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. A little background before we proceed: I have never taken a physics class in my life, but that hasn't stopped me from being insatiably curious about it all. I admit, my brain does not work like a scientist's. Which is part of the reason I love it. Glutton for punishment. I attempt now to share with you all what I've been reading.

My Dad recently sent me an article which corresponded perfectly to the section of the book I was reading. Einstein's theory of Special Relativity was being discussed in this section, and before I summarize Special Relativity, a brief description of General Relativity: all uniform motion is relative to the object that is moving. For those of you who are unaware (and please for the love of God, if you understand better than I, feel free to correct my ass), the basic summary is this: "Special relativity incorporates the principle that the speed of light is the same for all inertial observers regardless of the state of motion of the source." Basically, Einstein concluded that no matter if you (or any other object with mass) are moving or standing still (which is relative to your POV, hence General Relativity), the speed of light is always the speed of light (670 million mph), as nothing can outrun photons.

Now, with that understood, let's move on to: gravity. Newton famously discovered gravity, but didn't give any explanation as to what it actually is. He only explained how it works. This set Einstein on a decades long search as to what gravity is actually comprised of.

Newton's Law of Universal Gravity states that every mass has a natural pull or attraction to every other mass around it that is proportional to their individual sizes and the distance between them. For example, the sun + the earth. We orbit the sun because the sun is sending out signals of attraction and "pulling us toward it." Similarly, that is why the moon orbits the earth. The mass of the earth + the pull it gives off. Special Relativity (deemed "special" due to it only being applied to bodies in relative motion), incorporates light into the equation. It deems light an essential element to the way we unify space + time into spacetime. The reason light was important was to demonstrate that no object can move faster than the speed of light.

But Einstein went further. He determined that if there were no massive bodies in space (i.e. the sun), it would be a flat plane. He concluded that the space (and time, which is a whole other beast) around the body, therefore, is warped. That the presence of such a body on a flat, malleable plane, changes the space (and time) around it. The warping of the space around the object is what creates ... gravity!

The article I received from my dad verifies this theory. Another one of Einstein's discoveries was that gravity + accelerated motion are effectively interchangeable. If for instance, you want to duplicate the effects of gravity, you can do so by accelerating an object at faster and faster speeds (such as a Tornado ride at an Amusement Park or a rocket). This is also confirmed in the findings of the Stanford University scientists, who have been working on these theories for over 50 years.

The point of me writing this is 1. to understand it and 2. to share with y'all science + non-science-minded individuals how incredible it is. I am now beginning the section of the book that addresses Quantum Mechanics. Quantum Mechanics, although tested + proven true on more than one occasion, is in direct conflict with our conceptions of General Relativity. Scientists are now on the search to find one unifying theory that incorporates all of these theories (which is what the book is all about). According to Brian Greene, with all of their new findings + theories, they are getting increasingly closer to finding what they would call the Ultimate Theory. It's ... just a matter of getting there. :)

Like I said, I am not a scientist, and there are things I will probably never understand regarding physics, hidden dimensions, and string theory. But, I'll never stop trying + I'm so thankful Brian Greene wrote this book in a way that I can grasp these concepts (although, how unbelievably hilarious would it be to find out that everything I just wrote was completely false). I'm also thankful that my Dad always taught me to never give up on something just because I didn't understand it at first.

This book has shown me how fluid science is. I suppose I succumbed a bit to the notion that science = fact, The End. But, that's just not true. (Which, of course, begs the question, why can't we be one with science AND religion? But, that is another post for another day. ;)) With physics in particular, it shows us how beautiful, and interwoven life is. Everything depends on the other, and if one element of a thing "falters," it ripples + effects the bodies around it. You can take this onto a human scale, and say that that is true for your every day life. Me being in a bad mood can affect those around me, but that's because they're suckers + haven't learned that you can control your reactions to things. ;)

I named this post Einstein vs. The Universe for a reason. Science is constantly evolving. I suppose that's due to the fact that theories are in fact theories, and we are always on the search. Some of these great minds have proven to be too limited, misinformed, or maybe even wrong. (Hell, Einstein denounced Quantum Mechanics til he was near his end + said it was the greatest mistake he ever made!) But, that's what makes it beautiful. And that's what makes their pursuits noble, in my not-so-humble opinion. Some people misinterpret what science is all about, myself having been one of them. It's a shame, since there is so much to learn and with the rate of advancement of our technology, things will only become clearer + clearer to us.

I do wish one thing. That more people who don't think they can understand science, and who may in fact be a little frightened of it, would attempt to. It can come into perceived conflict with some beliefs or people may not think they're "smart" enough, but, let me burst ya bubble: none of us are. But at least try! I'm so glad I picked up this book + so glad my Dad forced me to listen to things I didn't have any interest in. Because isn't that the way it goes ... now I like broccoli. :)