E=mc^2, Explained

The world’s most famous equation- explained here simply.

In one of Albert Einstein’s revolutionary scientific papers published in 1905, E=mc2 was introduced. Since then, E=mc2 probably has been the most famous equation in the world. E=mc2 has become overwhelmingly popular in the society. Even people with no background in physics have at least heard of the equation and are aware of its prodigious influence on the world we live in. However, most people do not exactly know what the equation means.

This article will explain to you about the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2, in a simple and brief way.
The equation is a direct result of the work of Einstein on special relativity. Simply put, this equation tells us that mass and energy are two forms of the same thing; before the work of Einstein this concept had not been considered by the global intellectual community for explaining some of the basic laws of the Universe. In the right condition, mass can turn into energy and energy can turn into mass. Here, ‘right condition’ refers to near-to-light-speed. Maybe, that is why we humans feel difficult to perceive it- because we are too slow in comparison to light. Light moves at a speed of roughly 670 million miles per hour.

To find out how much energy an object has, multiply the mass of the object by the square of the speed of light. But why multiply? That’s because, when mass is converted into energy, the resulting energy is by definition moving at the speed of light. Pure energy is electromagnetic radiation and electromagnetic radiation always moves at the speed of light (light is also a kind of electromagnetic wave).

The equation requires you to use the square of speed of light because of the nature of energy. When a body begins to move twice as fast as it’s moving now, it DOES NOT use twice as much as energy. It uses four times more. This is related to the formula of kinetic energy: kinetic energy= (1/2) x mass x velocity2; did you notice that the velocity is squared? Oh, and by the way, speed and velocity is roughly the same thing.
Because the square of the speed of light is a very large figure: around 448,900,000,000,000,000 in units of mph; even a small chunk of matter can produce a large amount of energy.

Perhaps the reason why the equation is so widely celebrated is because of its capability to explain basic natural processes: from microscopic radioactivity to the big bang itself. It has explained the phenomenon of emission of huge amounts of energy from radioactive elements (such as Uranium). It has also explained how the sun produces energy, just to name a few.

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7 Responses to “E=mc^2, Explained”
  1. seema1962 Says...

    On February 18, 2010 at 1:11 am

    nicely explained Einstein equation.

  2. jcopen Says...

    On May 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    FINALLY, someone explains why the speed of light is relevant and why it is squared!

  3. Sherloc Says...

    On June 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I deeply appreciate this article

  4. wonderer Says...

    On August 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Does anyone know about the speed -> energy -> time? where if you go (i think 10100mhp) you have a time change of 1/4 of a second, and i think that at the speed of light you stop time completely?
    i would appreciate any help, thankyou

  5. alex Says...

    On November 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    @wonderer Yes, i do have some background in what you are talking about in order to do what you are suggesting i.e. “stop time” you must accelarate to an impossible velocity and the speed of light is where the time distortion begins to actually have a considerable effect on your life. if you do go 101,100mph you will most likely displace 1/16 of a second not 1/4. The only people that can experience this time delay are astronauts.

  6. Mina Says...

    On December 10, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    not even astonauts can experience this very small dialation, since they haven’t reached a very large speed compared to speed of time. our bodies can’t experience this time dialation anyhow because we our bodies can not turn into energy. this concept is named as time dialation. Besides, when moving by more than speed of light that’s what they call: moving backwards into past. its an imaginary who knows.

  7. Ryah Says...

    On February 26, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Even if the speed astronauts reach isn’t a significant fraction of light speed, they still move considerably faster than us, making their experienced time slightly slower than ours. Build that up over time (say a few months or years) and the total will come to fractions of a second that their time is displaced by.

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