KISS the Einstein Inside You
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ~ Albert Einstein
My toddler pulled me to the TV room to watch a video. “Baby Einstein” series caught both our eyes and I was thrilled by the quick decision. While she was watching, my thoughts drifted to Einstein. How did a physicist venerated by his tribe also become a renowned brand in the popular vernacular? Just like we use google for internet search, I have heard “the little Einstein in you” been used especially with kids. What made his legacy different from so many scientists before and after him? Is there anything practical we can take away from his story? Here is my recollection of his story through my experience.
Einstein’s story through my experience
As a young kid, Michael J Fox’s movie, Back to The Future fascinated me. Traveling between ages through time capsules was enthralling. I learnt through animated conversations with family and friends that there once lived a scientist who worked on the concept of time successfully (I learnt about relative time, much later) — that was my first introduction to Einstein.
Visually, two famous pictures of Einstein complemented my view — a black and white portrait photo of a wiser looking older gentleman with locks of white hair that answered to nobody but him. The other photograph — a professor with chalk in hand, writing on a black board filled with equations, turning around and being clicked unexpectedly. As I was framing up the image of what he represents and how he looks, I heard that he had conceptually linked energy, mass, time, gravity together. Even when his work was independently proven through experiments, only about 12 people possibly in the world completely understood what he had proved — the aura about him continued.
In high/middle school, I encountered his work again when we were tasked to convert mass into energy — his equation was the simplest of them all- the famous E= mc2. I was pleasantly surprised — the output of the detailed work from this time dilating and light bending scientist was simpler than many linear algebra problems. Not only that, I could also reconcile through this simple equation, the eastern philosophy that I grew up under the tutelage of my grandparents- all matter is energy.
Einstein Story Snippets: The “Small” change (the year, 1905)
Switching gears, what made Einstein’s work innovative? There was simplicity in breaking a conventional assumption widely held then.
Imagine you are driving a red car at constant speed, the speedometer reading measures the speed which is distance covered divided by time. Expressed as ratios, more precisely, velocity is displacement by time taken.
Imagine a blue car zoom past your red car in opposite direction, the blue car seems faster than it’s speedometer reading, in other words, the relative velocity of the zooming past blue car as seen inside your red car is relatively higher than the actual speed of blue car:
This relative velocity, which works under earthly conditions, breaks down when objects move at speed of light. The brilliance of Einstein was in moving the word “relative” from velocity to time such that the ratio is constant, at speed of light. That “small” change revolutionized science in 1905.
Einstein Story Snippets: The Bigger Legacy (year 1915)
Einstein took it to another level by removing one of the key constraints on his earlier work, the red car is at constant speed. The biggest accelerator in the universe is the concept of gravity. He theoretically proved the extent to which light would be bent by gravity in 1915 and he became renowned when he was proven right, through an experiment during an eclipse in 1919. The popular press started to take notice and he branched out beyond the scientific community.
Just like Keanu Reeves was able to see through the Matrix at the end of the movie, Einstein was able to see through the clutter of universe and present a solution — that made him famous.
What made him enduring with the populace are the simpler building blocks that he designed in 1905.
The experience of the brand “Einstein” and lesson learned
As parents, by endorsing brand Einstein ahead of other brilliant and creative minds, we may be implying to our kids — beautiful mind is great but we love it when you can communicate the deeply profound results of your complex work with such simplicity that it makes the audience feel smart about themselves — then the world would celebrate the genius in you - just like Einstein.