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