Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Einstein Formula: E_0=mc^2 "Isn't the Lord Laughing?"

This is a very entertaining (and informative) article written by L.B. Okun. It'll make a very good bedtime reading, and something you should give to an undergraduate to read. In fact, even a few crackpot should read this so that they don't get confused with the often-bastardized Einstein's famous equation.

Most physicists familiar with special relativity know that in it, the energy E and momentum p of a freely moving body are related by the equation E2 − p2c2 = m2c4 where m is the mass of the body. Alas, not all of them realize that this formula is incompatible with E = mc2. But an even smaller number of people know that it is perfectly compatible with E0 = mc2, because E0 is the value assumed by E when p = 0. This article is written for those who do not want to be lost in three pines1 of the above three formulas and who wish to attain a better understanding of relativity theory and its history.

There's a very nice history leading to the development of the equation, and beyond. A recommended reading.


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