Science

Albert Einstein’s birthday: What does his famous equation mean, and who are the modern day geniuses to rival him?

Today marks the birthday of one of the world’s most famous scientist Albert Einstein, who was born on 14 March 1879.

The German-born physicist is best known for his general theory of relativity and the equation E=MC2.

But what does the equation really mean?

Put simply, the equation states that energy ‘stored’ in any object is equal to that object’s mass, multiplied by the speed of light squared.

Albert Einstein's birthday: What does his famous equation mean, and who are the modern day geniuses to rival him?

Professor Albert Einstein

The theory, which was revolutionary at the time, proposes that mass and energy are equivalent to each other and that atoms have massive amounts of energy stored up in them.

Each of the letters in the equation stands for a particular physical quantity.

The E is for the energy, measured in joules, the M is for the mass, measured in kilograms, and the C is for the speed of light – which is squared, i.e. multiplied by itself.

Before Einstein’s theory, scientists defined energy as the ‘stuff’ that allows objects to move or interact in some way.

For example, kinetic energy is associated with movement and thermal energy with heating.

Albert Einstein's birthday: What does his famous equation mean, and who are the modern day geniuses to rival him?
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After Einstein’s theory, mass was accepted as a new type of energy rather than just a measure of how much of the ‘stuff’ there was.

It also changed how scientists viewed the universe, with mass now being thought of in completely different terms.

E=mc2 meant that the mass of something became a new way to measure the total amount of energy present in an object – essentially, it allowed us to find ways of getting more energy.

While Einstein, who died 138 years ago, is one of the world’s most famous scientists, there are also a range of 21st century brain-boxes who could have rivalled the physcist.

Here we look at half a dozen 21st century brain-boxes, and you can vote on who you think is the smartest.

1. Stephen Hawking

British theoretical physicist professor Stephen Hawking speaks to members of the media at a press conference in London on December 2, 2014

Perhaps the most obvious – and probably the best known – person on the list.

Professor Hawking’s most famous work was A Brief History of Time, explaining the likes of the Big Bang and black holes for non-scientists.

The physicist, who battled motor neuron disease since the age of 21, used a wheelchair and spoke via a voice synthesizer, until he sadly passed away today.

His IQ, like Einstein’s, was 160. The story of his life was made into a film in 2015 called The Theory of Everything.

2. Gary Kasparov

Gary Kasparov (pic: Getty)

The Russian Grandmaster is arguably the world’s most famous chess player.

The 52-year-old became the youngest ever undisputed World Chess Champion in 1985 when he was just 22-years-old.

However, Kasparov rather notoriously lost a match with a chess-playing super computer Deep Blue in 1997.

He quit the game in 2005 to focus on politics and is a vocal opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His IQ is reportedly 190.

3. Terrence Tao

Terence Tao

Australian Terrence Tao has an incredible IQ of 230.

The 39-year-old is a mathematical genius who has numerous awards in the field.

He began studying university-level maths when he was just nine-years-old.

When he was 13, he became the youngest gold medal recipient in International Mathematical Olympiad history.

Now he specialises in a number of areas of mathematics, including harmonic analysis and number theory.

4. Kim Ung-Yong

Kim ung yong

Kim Ung-Yong is a Korean civil engineer whose IQ was scored at 210 when he four-years-old.

By the time he was three he could read four languages including Korean, Japanese, English and German.

He started working for NASA when he was eight.

5. Christopher Hirata

Christopher Hirata

American Christopher Hirata is an astrophysicist. When he was 13-years-old he became the youngest US citizen to be awarded an International Physics Olympiad gold medal.

He also worked for NASA – when he was 16-years-old – on a project to determine whether humans can settle on Mars one day.

He has an IQ of 225 and specialises in a number of fields including dark matter – the sort of thing that turns up in Star Trek episodes.

6. Andrew Wiles

Andrew Wiles

The second Englishman on our list, Andrew Wiles is a mathematician a Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford University.

The 62-year-old is known in his field for proving Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1994, 358 years since it was published by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat.

It is considered one of the most difficult problems in maths – so tricky even Will Hunting may not have solved it. Wiles reportedly has an IQ of 170.

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Who is the modern day Einstein?

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