Einstein And Newton

 

By Sunil Kumar

 

The history of science; I’m interested. So here’s something on these two. As in everything; I believe Indians were the first to the pole position; in terms of developing a rational scientific approach long before Europe had even any vague inkling of a practical outlook. Nevertheless; the modern world is the creation of the Anglo-Saxon world view; so here’s something on Einstein and Newton.

Computer animation of a Newtons' cradle

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Computer animation of a Newtons’ cradle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colorized engraving after Enoch Seeman's 1726 ...

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Colorized engraving after Enoch Seeman’s 1726 portrait of Newton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Between the two; I’d prefer the Piscean Einstein with one characteristic similar to me; the star sign. The Briton Newton came centuries earlier; a spiteful maverick eccentric who’s more famous for the “Principia Mathematica” and apparently discovering the law of gravitation when he was one day lazing under a tree. There is historical debate on whether this actually happened; or Newton manufactured this myth as a PR exercise; long after the industry became formalized as a trade.

 

I remember reading Einstein’s “Ideas and Opinions” many years ago in the 11th grade; as a lurching bus gently took me through the still uncrowded lanes of Juhu; and I bunked one day of boring college to watch “Legends of the Fall” in an emptily wonderful theatre(Eros or Sterling).

This was a relative triumph for my brain; since other people did this b**king charade more often; compared to the faithful attendance put in by yours truly. The world is indeed an ode to the sore and the crucified; the street-smart vacuity of existence. Back to the point; Einstein’s life vis-a-vis Newton. A play I watched and wrote upon recently, the insipid “Einstein Quotient” and the   scientist Prof CNR Rao‘s wonderful talk on the history of science at the IIT; I thought about the reverence we sometimes extend to what are essentially flawed men like any other.

 

Even the great Indian scientists like Aryabhata were a product of their times; the “brahminical” orthodox hierarchy which placed emphasis on the scriptures; but did encourage some free thought. When Einstein came along; his rise from obscurity to global acclaim was not without many years of careful “thought experiments”(some call it daydreaming).

 

Newton’s classical theories of mechanics and calculus had been unchallenged for centuries when Einstein came along with his disruptive ideas that altered the understanding of space-time; the universe and the “E=MC squared” equation. Expressing reality as a function of mathematical language is an idea that is in itself bewildering; as the world still remains a mystical and abstract entity that cannot be bound in mere equations.

 

Yet reading through their lives; they appear to be profound spiritual mystics; attempting to  understand the “laws of the universe”. Newton; on the other hand was more of a political entity; squabbling with other scientific figures such as Leibnitz(credited with calculus) and Hooke. The Jewish Einstein who lived in Zurich for a long period of his life; believed that ideas that stretched the envelope were precursors to scientific enlightenment. Newton on the other hand was very conventional; with a few quirks.

 

In his “Matrix” like approach to the universe; Einstein developed many radical ideas about concepts like “traveling at the speed of light”; the space-time continuum and warping that have led to something synonymous with India’s Vedantic philosophy. Today’s scientists believe that we live in sort of a time machine; everytime we stare out at the heavens. The concept of “time dilation” essentially makes the world an entity in which the starlight reaching us may be millions of years old; considering the size of the universe.

 

On a cosmic scale; supernovas; black holes; galaxy merger and acquisition(something that will happen to Milky Way and Andromeda) makes this planet a mere speck in the larger scale of things. Multiverses are something similar to the dissolution of thousands of universes in Vishnu; and quantum mechanics sounds like “maya”. A spaceship traveling to the stars is the stuff of science fiction “currently”; but could be a reality sometime in the future.

 

Ideas should be like this; a fuzzy flowing logic; compared to stratified overbearing searches for a common thread. In his latter years; Einstein’s advocacy of “worldwide peace”; “nuclear restraint”, “position on Israel” and other such issues were more “in the news” rather than his earlier “pursuit of science”. Nevertheless; knowing a little about these two is useful in the collective history of the world; that is very distant and  interdependent at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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