This page copyright 1998 The Shrubbery
Editor's note: This paper requires a little explanation. Frank Volny, a dear friend of mine, took AP English his senior year of high school depsite his hate of English and his firm wishes to enter the Marines. The following is his first research paper, which is pretty freaking hilarious.
A BRIEF COMPARISON AND CONTRAST BETWEEN SIR ISAAC NEWTON AND ALBERT EINSTEIN
Frank Volny IV
10 December 1996
Ever since the invention of the wheel, human beings have been using science and technology to improve the way we live. Every invention and discovery will help future scientists to build off what is already known and make an even greater leap in science. Many discoveries were caused by observing nature. Fire and electricity were both discovered through lightening. The camera is basically a model of the eye. But many of the discoveries over time have not been so simple. How was nuclear fission discovered if it doesn't happen in nature. By accident? If so, the inventor and all evidence of the discovery would have been blown to pieces. But that's not the way it happened. Einstein said that fission would happen under certain circumstances, and an experiment was carried through.
But even more simple of an example was that before Sir Isaac Newton, everyone thought that matter was always trying to stop moving. This is understandable because if something is set in motion, over time, friction would make it stop moving. Newton was able to see past friction and say that if it wasn't for friction everything would keep moving. Until then, no one had even given that a thought.
Over time there have been countless great scientists, but only a few of them went beyond great. Two of them, already mentioned, are Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. When someone is asked who the greatest scientist of all time is, chances are they will answer with one of those two scientists. Newton and Einstein's lives were alike in many ways, but the nature of their theories and their impact on society were very different.
At first neither Newton or Einstein were encouraged in their education. In Newton's early days at school the other children picked on him. At the age of twelve, Newton was taken out of school to help his grandmother on the farm. Later, though one of his relatives sent Newton to Trinity College in Cambridge. Newton was considered only average until his school was closed from the plague. During this time he began to go beyond what he learned as a student to make his own discoveries. Early in his life Einstein's parents thought that he was retarded, but he still went to school where he didn't do very well. The Einstein family business was the making of electrical apparatus, so Albert Einstein took a test that would have guaranteed him a job in electrical engineering. He failed it. Later he graduated from Zurich Polytechnic as a secondary teacher. Afterward he got a job as a clerk in a patent office for about seven years. On his free time he studied theoretical physics, and began to write his own papers on the same topic. In a short while, Einstein submitted one of his papers and received his Ph.D.. Later he was awarded the Nobel prize in physics for one of the papers written while he was a clerk. During a solar eclipse his theories were proven and became known world wide.
". . . Newton made fundamental contributions to every major area of scientific and mathematical concern to his generation" (J. A. Schuster 1995). Newton's three laws of motion are perhaps his most well known discoveries. The first law said that an object in motion remains in motion and an object at rest remains in rest unless either is acted upon by an outside force. His second law states that the rate at which an object accelerates is proportional to the force exerted on it and inversely proportional to the mass of the object accelerating. The third law is for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the way rocket engines work. Fuel is thrown out the back of the rocket engine at explosive rates and the rocket is propelled in the opposite direction.
Newton paved the way for calculus, which is used a lot in physics. He also created the first reflecting telescope. The reason he did this was because refracting telescopes weren't completely clear around the edges of the lenses. Newton even explained the reason for this. Today we make lenses that don't cause this, but the best telescopes are still reflecting telescopes.
Basically everyone has heard of Einstein's famous equation E=mc². Not everyone knows what it means, but they know it's important somehow. And they're right. This equation basically says that matter can be turned into energy. This is extremely important in physics that matter and energy are as interchangeable as they are. This is how the sun works. Until Einstein gave us this equation, we didn't even know how the stars stayed lit.
Einstein made our universe so much more complicated than we thought it was. He explained why gravity exists. It doesn't exist. It is an effect of space being warped by matter. It's also caused by time being warped by matter. The greater the mass, the stronger the warp of space-time, which causes the stronger effect of gravity. This explained and prooved Newton's laws of gravity. Einstein called this new theory General Relativity.
When things come close to the speed of light, some strange things start to happen. This is called Special Relativity. This is where Newton's laws start to fall apart. His laws just don't hold for velocities approaching the speed of light. The single most important part of Special Relativity is that the speed of light is the fastest possible velocity in the universe. As a result of this, as you go toward the speed of light time begins to slow down. So light always appears to be going the same speed. For example, you have a space ship that is traveling at a velocity close to the speed of light, and there was lamp in the back of the ship and a light sensor in the front. If you were to record the time it takes light from the back of the ship to reach the front, it would take longer than if you were stopped, but time slows down for you. So it would seem to you that it would take the same time as if you were stopped. The speed of light remains relative. Nigel Calder in his book told of an experiment that involved Special Relativity that took place in 1977. Particles were accelerated to a speed of 99.94% of the speed of light. Time for the particles slowed down by a factor of thirty (Nigel Calder 1979, 91).
Even though Einstein was the first to prove Newton wrong, part of Einstein's theories are based on Newton's principles. It may not have been possible for Einstein to think of anything new if Newton hadn't made any discoveries about an objects motion. Einstein lived in a more modern world and was used to greater speeds and more accurate equipment. Newton lived before the automobile, so he probably thought that high speeds were exactly the same as low speeds. And it was shown in his laws.
Today, scientists shape their theories of the universe around what they observe here on earth. Newton couldn't possibly theorize about the speed of light before the invention of the car. Newton was proven wrong by Einstein, and scientists are working to prove Einstein wrong. None of them have been successful yet. I find it hard to believe that there will be any limit on the advancement of speed, even if it is a number as large as 300,000,000 meters per second, the speed of light. Technically, though if the speed of light is surpassed, Einstein will not be proven wrong if careful attention is paid to the wording of the limit he has placed on us. He said that nothing can go faster than light in our universe.
Einstein's revolutionary theories haven't been around for very long, so much of the technology that he made possible isn't being taken for granted yet. The amount of nuclear energy in Joules (kg*m²/s²) per kilogram of uranium is given by the equation E=mc². All the people that lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II didn't have time to take the nuclear bomb for granted. Einstein made it possible. In fact Einstein came to America to warn President Roosevelt that such a bomb was possible and that Germany should not be allowed to develop it first. The Manhattan project was started to make plutonium for nuclear bombs. All the lights in your house are probably lit from a nuclear power plant. This is all a direct result of Albert Einstein.
Newton's third law is the reason the space shuttle is able to lift off the ground. Most people that haven't taken physics don't know that. As Newton's laws become more and more elementary, people don't realize that Newton may be behind certain inventions. For example, air hockey may have come from Newton. The air that floats the puck reduces the friction between the puck and the table to almost nothing, so the puck is allowed to keep moving without slowing down much. This is a clear example of Newton's first law. Newton's laws about universal gravitation allow us to put satellites into orbit, which help with broadcasting television and long distance phone calls.
Newton did get his share of recognition. He was a member of the Royal Society from 1703 until he died in 1727. But, today Einstein is even more popular. His theories are still new and somewhat controversial. Even though both scientists' theories are extremely difficult to understand, people still know that Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are two of the greatest scientists of all time.
Asimov, Isaac. 1992. Breakthroughs in cience. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Bookshelf '95, 1995 ed. S.v. "Einstein, Albert." CD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft Corporation, 1995.
Bookshelf '95, 1995 ed. S.v. "Newton, Sir Isaac." CD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft Corporation, 1995.
Calder, Nigel. 1979. Einsteins univers. New Jersey: Random House Value Publishing Inc.
Faughn, Jerry S., Serway, Raymond A. 1992. College physics, 3rd edition. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
The 1995 Grolier multimedia encyclopedia, 1995 ed. S.v. "Einstein, Albert." CD-ROM. Thousand Oaks :Grolier Electronic Publishing, 1995.
The 1995 Grolier multimedia encyclopedia, 1995 ed. S.v. "Newton, Sir Isaac." CD-ROM. Thousand Oaks :Grolier Electronic Publishing, 1995.