Relatively Speaking

In the morning when I’m still groggy and in bed I close my eyes for what seems like a second, but when I open them the clock tells me 15 minutes have elapsed. In contrast, when I’m huffing and puffing on the treadmill, each second takes its time to pass. This is Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity as I know it. All of us experience it. Time passes slowly at office meetings and quickly in cinemas. It passes faster when you’re with friends than when you’re with relatives.

But that’s just as far as I can vouch for Einstein. We’re not super massive objects moving at the speed of light so we don’t directly experience the effects of his Mass Energy Equivalence theory. In a nutshell, Einstein proposed that as an object approached the speed of light its mass increased and time slowed down. So the object goes faster, but it also gets heavier and therefore it is harder to speed up. It’s impossible to ever actually get the particle up to the speed of light. If that were to happen, the object’s mass and energy would both be infinite. This also means that since the speed of light is constant, the energy of a body is proportional to its mass.

In life, I’ve noticed that the converse of his theory holds true. When my energy levels dip, I skip my exercise routine and consequently my mass increases, and vice versa. Getting physical, literally and figuratively speaking, has never been easy for me. In school, Physics was not my favourite subject and I used fun mnemonics to get through the dry subject. For the equation E= mc2, I liked to imagine two squares of chocolate giving me energy and adding to my mass.

Einstein also postulated that there is no absolute frame of reference. When we measure an object’s velocity, momentum or how it experiences time it is in relation to something else. Contrary to his theory, I like to believe time is absolute and everyone with a good watch will agree on what time it is. I believe time goes infinitely backwards and forward into the future. I believe in absolute locations in space. In short, I believe life is simple. Not surprisingly, I’m not alone in failing to apply his theory in everyday life. Once on a class trip, to impress my science teacher I asked him if Delhi would stop by our bus. The teacher gave me a weird look. He clearly didn’t apply the ‘frame of reference’ outside the classroom.

And although Einstein’s theory helps explain why mercury is a liquid and gold is yellow and shiny, I’ve always been more fascinated by the idea of calculating my potential, my resting energy, using his E=mc2 formula. With light travelling at its speed and my weight always on the uptrend, it tells me I have astronomical energy that is constantly on the rise. So when someone comments I’ve got real potential, I smile; they’ve no idea how right they are. As the quip sometimes attributed to Einstein puts it, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” It seems I’m limitless!

(Published in the Open Page of the Hindu on 20/10/2015

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21 thoughts on “Relatively Speaking

  1. John Britto says:

    Hi ,

    Excellent article “relatively speaking” in THE HINDU.

    Your way of writing is commendable. Please give me some tips to practice to become a professional in writing.


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks John for you kind words..honoured by your request…we are all learning….i think the best way to improve language is by reading

  2. Nikita says:

    Dear manju,

    I read your article in the Hindu. Just wanted to comment on the quote . As per history Einstein formulated the equation E=mc(square)when light was the only discovered entity to travel at that speed. All the laws of physics followed it too . But the discovery of particles like tachyons having speed greater than light challenges the mass -energy relation . So relativity theory in the frame of light is never a limitation . And as Einstein said is never an absolute frame. Mother nature is a genius and is limitless to be explored. We are limited to our knowledge. As Einstein for saw his theory of relativity which has spooky phenomenon will one day become everyday physics with another frame reference.



    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Nikita for your effort and time….i stiil remain relatively ignorant!! Heh heb. Physics is soooo difficult

  3. Pradeep upadhyay says:

    Haha.! Read your article in The Hindu.
    Great one Manju. Being a science scholar, I wonder how beautifully you related Relativity!
    I couldn’t resist smiling..
    My love,regards and wishes!

    And one thing I missed is that please do forward /watsap (9654059080) your more lovely articles like this.
    Have a great day!

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks Pradeep you can visit my blog for more of my stuff. Do leave comments. They mean a lot

  4. rohini sehgal says:

    Another amazing article
    The last line- It seems I’m limitless! sure defines you in totality.your potential is limitless……very very proud of you. Your imagination and your memory and your language power is going to give others a run for their money for sure

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks rainy…. As some would say, I cross the limits too often !! Heh heh

  5. Neera Gupta says:

    I like physics and now you have made it so complex…. trust you to complicate a simple thing :D

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Yes that’s me! I am complicated

  6. Anil kumar says:

    It was Very good article you posted , Dr gupta …..The best part i liked is mentioning about pnemonics ( ignore speling ) ,square of chocolate ………the same fun thing we used to do when we were in supplementary……You made me recall them …..I also agree with line “Genious is one who has limits ….

    I await for ur reply….

    Thank u…

    Jsw steel
    Top ranked steel industry in India

  7. Manju Gupta says:

    Thanks Anil for your feedback In medical college we survived on mnemonics

  8. Deepak kumar Pandey says:

    Now I understand Albert’s relativity more. Thanks for this nice piece of writing.

    Deepak Kr. Pandey

  9. Preetham says:

    Hello Mam,

    I have read your article Relatively speaking in the Hindu open page.
    That was really hilarious which took me back to so called physics.
    That was a really a good articulated comparison between our weight and the equation.
    Well Have a great future.

    Thanks and regards
    Preetham alluri

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thank you sir for your kind words

  10. V.K Teja says:

    Dear Manju Gupta ji
    I felt your article on” Relatively speaking”is the one among other articles, which is very interesting and specific about the topic. I wonder your passion towards physical science ,which was not an easy subject to understand for me.Your Article helped me to think a little bit about velocity and weight.
    Can you kindly explain this which I didn’t get understand”I asked him if Delhi would stop by our bus”. Its was pleasure reading your article.
    Wish you a great success ahead.

    Thanking you in advance,
    V.K Teja.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks sir for your compliment. I found Physics difficult in school too. The little I have understood is while teaching my children. My statement was a light hearted interpretation of his “frame of reference” theory. Einstien claims that not only is the bus in motion with respect to its surroundings but the surroundings are moving in the opposite direction relative to the bus. So whether the bus will stop by Delhi or Delhi will stop by the bus is a matter of perspective. Hope I’ve been able to make sense.

  11. Shelja jain says:

    I love u as limitless as you are


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks shelja….love you tooo….limitlessly!!

  12. divya says:

    Ha ha ha. Very funny article . Excellent sense of humour there with lot of wittiness. Loved reading it.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks….I wrote that a while ago…had almost forgotten about it. Read it today..smiled. I would recommend ‘Mad over those doughnuts’.it is the first Hindu picked up….and it still makes me split up

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