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Most people think Einstein was a genius. Even though he did poorly in school, it is generally assumed that Einstein became a genius later on. It's also widely believed that he used superior intellect and complex mathematical reasoning to finally arrive at E=MC2.
The truth about Einstein is altogether different. Even though he was pretty smart, his accomplishments didn't come from a wildly superior intellect. He didn't arrive at his famous equation by complex mathematical reasoning. In fact, he didn't use mathematical or scientific reasoning at all!
If Einstein didn't arrive at E=MC2 by mathematical or scientific reasoning, how did he get there? The answer is very simple...
He made it up!
That's right. He took a wild stab. He guessed. He made it all up! Without any proof, evidence, or scientific reasoning, he just woke up one day and said "It's got to be so." Then, in 1905, he published his "discovery" in a three-paged article in an obscure scientific journal and...well, the rest is history.
Here's what really happened.
Einstein wasn't as big a genius as most people think. He did have a curious mind, however, and he wasn't afraid to think differently than other people around him believed.
Around the time Einstein became interested in physics (1895), electricity, magnetism, and the phenomenon of light were all under intensive study. A number of scientific theories and mathematical equations had already been worked out. There was even a type of relativity theory in existence, called the relativity principle, which had been formulated centuries earlier by the astronomer Galileo.
Most scientists at the time were completely satisfied with these prevailing theories. There were a few situations these theories couldn't satisfactorily explain, but these exceptions were considered insignificant and no one really paid much attention to them.
No one, except Einstein, that is.
Einstein was intrigued by these "holes" in the prevailing theories. In fact, he enjoyed posing "mind riddles" to himself, just to see if present theories could satisfactorily explain them.
One such riddle he posed to himself was this: If a person was flying in space at the speed of light (ala Superman) with his/her arm fully outstretched holding a facial mirror, what would they "see" in the mirror? Would they see their face? Would it be bigger or smaller than if they were stationary? Would it be distorted in any way? Would light waves have time to bounce off their face, hit the mirror, and bounce back to their retina which was also moving at the speed of light? And what if an observer was watching all this from the ground. What would he or she see?
This was the riddle that eventually led Einstein to E=MC2. As you can see, it's nothing exceptional. You or I could have easily wondered the same thing.
What made Einstein different, however, is that he refused to give up until he solved the riddle. He didn't stay with this riddle for just a week or two, as you or I might have done. He didn't give up after a month went by without an answer. He didn't even quit after a year or two of racking his brain.
He stuck with the riddle until he figured it out. He stuck with this riddle for...
Ten full years!
That's right...ten years, from 1895-1905! He pondered this riddle almost every day. He discussed it with his friends. He explored it with his colleagues. He even discussed it with the greatest scientific minds of his time. No one could come up with the answer.
But the great thing about Einstein was that he didn't give in like most people would have done. He didn't say "that's enough time spent on that one...let me go on to bigger and better things." No, he stayed with the question he originally posed. He resisted the temptation to accept an incomplete answer...any answer...just to bring the process to a close. He maintained his integrity and curiosity throughout. And when the answer finally came, he knew it was correct.
How did Einstein finally solve this riddle? Well, as I've already mentioned, he took a wild guess. After years and years of struggling with this problem, he finally had an insight that changed the course of modern civilization. What was this insight? Actually, it wasn't all that complex. And it didn't take a genius to think of it.
All Einstein did was to assume that the speed of light was constant! He assumed that nothing could go faster than the speed of light, and that all light traveled at the same basic speed, regardless of the observer.
Up to this time, it had not been established that the speed of light was constant. Everyone thought that time and distance were constants, but that the speed of light, like the speed of everything else in the universe, was variable. But Einstein was willing to consider that what everyone believed about light, time, and distance might actually be wrong!
So he took this assumption--that the speed of light was a constant--and he returned to the mathematical and electromagnetic equations that were worked out years before. He then plugged in the letter "C" (a constant) to represent the fixed speed of light (whatever it might be) and low and behold...
Out Popped E=MC2 !!
Einstein was astounded! If the speed of light was truly a constant--as he had intuitively guessed--then energy and matter must be one and the same (energy equals matter times the speed of light squared). Not only must energy and matter be the same, but the amount of energy in even the tiniest piece of matter, like the head of a pencil, is phenomenal--far exceeding any conventional bomb or explosive!
Not only that! If the speed of light were constant, Einstein also reasoned that time and distance must therefore be relative! But this was totally contrary to what everyone, including the world's leading scientists, believed.
This didn't stop Einstein, however. In 1905, he published his argument, including his conclusion that E=MC2, in a three-page paper entitled "Does The Inertia Of A Body Depend On It's Energy Content?" The paper had no footnotes and not one single reference to support it.
The scientific establishment went absolutely bonkers.
"Who does this Einstein think he is? How dare he contradict the fundamental principles of Newtonian physics. Where is his scientific evidence? What are his credentials for making such an assertion? This is preposterous....we can't allow people just to say things like this without proof! How dare he...this idea should be given no credence at all!"
What was Einstein's response? How did he deal with all the negative criticism coming his way? His response was simple and direct. Basically, he told the scientific community...
Check it out--you'll see that it's true!
As it turned out, Einstein was right. Twenty years later, when the technology became available to put Einstein's assumption to a rigorous scientific test, his theory was validated. Eventually, the whole world had to agree that Einstein's original "hunch" was correct. The truth (at least as far as we know it today) eventually won out, although it took a long, long time before it was fully embraced.
Why am I telling you this story? Why should you care how Einstein arrived at E=MC2?
I admire this story not because it relates to the science of physics, but because it relates very directly to you and me. It relates to who we are as human beings. It relates to our own capacities to think, reason, and understand how life really works. It even relates to how much stress we experience.
Knowing how Einstein arrived at E=MC2 helps us appreciate that we are all capable of achieving similar breakthroughs. Each of us is capable of waking up one day and realizing that:
Look back over your own life for a moment.
Aren't there times when you saw some truth other people couldn't see or refused to acknowledge? Weren't there moments when everyone around you all thought or felt the same way, but you had the courage to see things differently...and you were eventually proven right?
Bet you didn't know you had some Einstein in you!
The amazing thing about Einstein wasn't so much his intellect--it was his COURAGE. Not only did he dare to question "gospel truths" that everyone around believed in very strongly, but he also had the courage to stick to his guns when everyone around him started attacking him intensely.
He was confident in his assessments. He stood firm in the face of expanding criticism, because he was clear he was on to something "real" and important. And no matter how strongly people disagreed with him, he maintained his integrity and didn't cave in.
Of course, Einstein wasn't the only person to demonstrate such a remarkable mix of insight and courage. Galileo and Copernicus also met with initial disapproval. So did Columbus, Thomas Edison, and Martin Luther King.
But the important point to remember is that we too are capable of the same type of heroic discoveries. We too can wake up any day and say to ourselves "you know, everything I thought I knew about `X' could be wrong!" And then either on our own, or with the help of others, we could explore this possibility with the same type of courage and conviction that Einstein brought to his ten-year riddle.
In my own life, I've achieved many such Einstein-like breakthroughs.
I remember the moment when, as a psychotherapy patient, I first discovered that I actually had an unconscious! There it was...clear as day...a powerful presence inside me that was capable of doing some pretty amazing things (and some pretty obnoxious things as well). I had never seen this part of me before.
I had no idea anything other than my rational "mind" was operating inside me. Then one day my whole understanding of myself--and other people--changed dramatically! And you know what?...
I've never gone back to my old way of thinking!
It's been over 20 years now that I made this remarkable discovery, thanks to the help of very good therapist. Ever since then, I've been able to recognize my "unconscious mind" wherever I go. It's never gone away. That's because it is truly there. It's a "truth" about me, about reality, about people in general, and about how the world really works. The only problem was that I was never able to "see" this truth before. And most other people around me couldn't see it either. Yet it was there all along!
I know some of you may not be able to relate to this example. Fortunately, we don't have to limit ourselves to huge, momentous, life-changing breakthroughs. We can have Einstein-like breakthroughs in mundane areas of life as well.
Take the game of backgammon for example.
Whether you know how to play backgammon or not, almost everyone has at seen the game being played. At the very least, almost everyone has said to themselves at one time or another "I wonder what all those funny looking triangular black and red spaces on the flip side of my checker board are for?" (They're for playing backgammon.)
Anyhow, when I first started playing backgammon years ago, I thought it was a pretty stupid game. It really didn't require much skill. You roll the dice, move your pieces, and whoever gets lucky and rolls the highest numbers without getting "hit" wins. Nothing to get real excited about, right?
Well, I started playing backgammon for money with some of the tennis pros at my local racquet club. I was beaten consistently...five out of six times...eight out of ten times. Not only was this personally humiliating...it was costing me a fortune!
If backgammon was a game of pure chance, as I believed, I should have won about 50% of the time. Something very strange and "unnatural" therefore was clearly going on. Then, one day, one of the tennis pros who'd been gobbling up my money finally felt sorry for me. He took me aside and said, "why don't you go to the library and check out some books on backgammon and read them."
I was just as astounded as Einstein must have been when he hit upon E=MC2. "You mean people have actually written books about backgammon?" I said. Well I took his advice and checked it out. Yes, there were books in the library on backgammon. I checked a few out and read them. And in no time at all...
A whole new world of understanding about backgammon appeared for me!
It turns out that there is an "invisible" game of backgammon, with all sorts of rules and incredible strategies, that I knew nothing about.
Once I understood these rules, it didn't take long before I became a formidable competitor. In no time at all, I was able to hold my own against the tennis pros at my club. I even started to win back some of the money I had previously lost to them. And if I played against a less experienced player, I won just about every time...no matter what numbers showed up on the dice I was rolling.
The transformation was incredible! Even more importantly, it was REAL!
Just like Einstein, I had "discovered" a truth about life that was previously concealed to me and to most other people. And just like Einstein, once I discovered this new reality, I was able to do things and accomplish things with a greater degree of success and efficiency, not to mention much less STRESS!
Don't make the mistake of thinking this example doesn't relate to you! It does. There are countless other areas of life where your own views and understandings are similarly wrong or incomplete.
Take the area of marketing, for example. Some people have an understanding of the "invisible" game of marketing that allows them to sell millions of products, anytime they want. Others lack this understanding and quickly go out of business.
Look at human relationships. Most people fail to succeed in this important area of their lives. Why does this happen? Is it because they are defective? Is it because they lack the basic ability to succeed? Is it because they were physically or emotionally abused when they were children?
No. It's because they have faulty understandings of what it takes to succeed in this area of human endeavor, and because most other people around them have faulty understandings as well.
In order to succeed in the area of human relationships--and in many other areas of life as well--you need to be willing to question the wisdom of what everyone around you thinks and believes. In other words, you've got to be willing to reach down inside and pull out the Einstein within you.
You've got to be willing to find out what the real truth about human relationships is...and then you've got to have the courage and integrity to stay true to that truth...no matter what other people around you think, feel, or believe.
Might you antagonize certain people who feel threatened by your new or "unusual" perspective? Sure, you might lose a few friends. Einstein certainly did. But you'll soon gain a whole new group of friends and acquaintances who won't feel threatened and who will appreciate what you have to offer.
These are only two specific examples.
The same principle applies to an endless array of problems and issues. In order to produce a breakthrough in any of these areas, you've got to be willing to let go of your previous understandings. You've got to be willing, on your own or with the help of others, to see things quite differently than you currently see or understand them.
You've also got to expect this won't feel good or comfortable, at least not in the beginning. Feeling scared or upset is not necessarily a sign of trouble. It's often a positive sign that you truly are letting go and you are getting close to discovering some new truth. But there's also another part of you that will resist any new discoveries or insights every step of the way. After all, it means you probably won't ever be able to go back to your old way of thinking (and being).
That's pretty threatening to any of us.
And remember, like Einstein, you don't need to have proof or evidence, before you change your own personal thinking. Proof will often come later, once you've fully embraced and tested out your new ideas.
But also remember that, just like Einstein, you'd better be right about the ideas and principles you choose to guide you!
Going against the grain of public wisdom can be costly as well, especially if you choose a theory or viewpoint that's not solidly grounded in the way life actually works.
Well, there you have it--a not too technical account of how Einstein arrived at E=MC2. I hope you enjoyed this special report and that you take something useful away from it.
Wishing you good health, happiness, and much success,
Mort Orman, M.D.
Copyright ©1995 - 2010 M.C. Orman, M.D., FLP. All Rights Reserved.
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