Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Einstein's Other Equation

We all know E = mc^2. That’s the famous equation. That’s the equation that’s been in the limelight for nearly a century. It adorns t-shirts. From the highest towers of academia to the lowest alleyways in broken-down ghettos, it’s on everyone’s lips. We all know it. We’ve all made its acquaintance, whether in school or at cocktail parties. It’s made more television appearances than any other equation in history.

But how many of us know it’s bitter, reclusive, misunderstood cousin?

Or just GT to the dwindling few not embarrased to call it an acquaintance.

Yes; it’s just as important; it’s just as groundbreaking; and it’s been around just as long. Yet the hate that festers in its mind made it go insane a long, long time ago. For a while, alcohol numbed the pain. Alcohol was a salve for the wounds of an uncaring world that cared little for spacetime curvature.

But then alcohol wasn’t enough. A string of shabby, cheap relationships through all the physics equations followed. It blew through the kinematic equations in a series of slutty one night stands. Every year at the Solvay Physics Convention it would show with a new and different set of symbols on its arm, each more skanky than its predecessor. Then, there was that highly publicized fistfight with Schrodinger’s Equation, and then Snell’s Law was found dead in GT’s bed, victim of a highly suspicious overdose.

And all the while the fame and popularity of E = mc^2 grew and grew and grew.

Einstein’s Second-Greatest Equation – God how it hated to be referred to that way! – only wanted to disappear. To crawl into some hole somewhere, someplace anonymous, to disappear. To give the world a great big middle finger for giving it one of its own. So it did disappear. When’s the last time you read about GT in the papers? Chatted about its latest doings at a bar? Saw it chased paparazzi-like on PBS Nova or Discovery Science?

Ah. Now you’re starting to see what I mean.

So, let’s be charitable, eh? Why not do a good deed today, a selfless one. Memorize that little three-term equation, and at the next incident some hipster-trying-to-be-in-the-know mentions E=you-know-what, drop GT’s name, and tell him it simply states that the curvature of spacetime is determined by the total of all matter, energy, and pressure present.

No comments: