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Aristotle at Afternoon Tea participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. This means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support my writing in a small way, so thank you. Happy reading!

© 2014-2018 Yara Zgheib All Rights Reserved

 

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On a Beam of Light

March 16, 2017

 

‘Imagine.

 

Close your eyes and imagine a space without limits, or the infinitesimal events that can stir up a country’s revolution. Imagine how the perfect game of chess might start and end: a win for white, or black, or a draw? Imagine numbers so vast that they exceed every atom in the universe, counting with eleven or twelve fingers instead of ten, reading a single book in an infinite number of ways.’

 

- Daniel Tammet

 

Fig. 127. “A part of the constellation of the Twins, as seen through a telescope.”

The heavens, an illustrated handbook of popular astronomy. 1867

 

On the 14th of March 1879, a boy called Albert Einstein was born. He was, by his own words, no genius of any special talent, ‘only passionately curious.’ One day, on his bicycle, he stopped to gaze at the rays of sunlight. He wondered what it would be like to ride them like waves.

 

Imagine traveling on a beam of light.

 

  1. The boy became a mathematician who changed the way we see the world. He wrote E=mC2, one of the most beautiful lines of poetry. Today, in honor of his birthday, here it is, told in a story we will entitle

 

The Theory of Special Relativity

 

Some truths are absolute. Some realities are constant. Like 22/7, or Pi.

 

Pi (π) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Any circle, of any diameter, at any time or place. A patternless sequence of perfectly ordered numbers that never changes or ends, Pi is an absolute constant 3.14159265 that goes on to infinity.

 

We know of very little else that is constant or absolute: time, space, reality. Human life least of all; we all begin, transform, and end.

 

How small and insignificant we are in such a great universe. And yet in 1905, Einstein changed it forever when he said: Space and time are relative.

 

Space exists. Time exists. But not in absolute terms:

If we move quicker, time passes slower, so

 

Time can dilate, space can contract.

 

Of course, being so small and limited, we cannot notice this on a human scale, but

 

Imagine traveling through space in a super-fast rocket for ten years. Upon your return you will have aged less quickly than the people who remained on earth.’

 

We would have to travel really, really fast to move faster than time. 300,000 kilometers per second, actually.

 

Imagine traveling on a beam of light.

 

The speed of light is an absolute constant, like Pi. It even travels faster than sound. Now imagine what would happen if a rock, a mass, a human so small and limited traveled at the speed of light:

 

Energy.

 

Einstein’s theory, and this story, end with

 

P.S.    E=mC2

 

Anything can be beautiful and great. Even a rock, a mass (m), even us. We can transform, create energy (E) if we just multiply by the speed of light (C) squared.

 

‘A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’

 

- Albert Einstein

 

In fact, it is E=mC2 that causes stars to shine.

 

We may be small and limited to a certain time and space, and know so little of life, but our imagination ‘embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.’ And so long as we can remain curious and in awe, ‘widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty,’ we can be poets, philosophers, musicians, mathematicians. We can create something beautiful and great.

 

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