One does not need to be a science nerd to appreciate the enormity of the contributions made by Albert Einstein. The simple daily usage of GPS would suffice.
Today the scientific community marks the 100-year anniversary of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It was a century ago that the German-born Jewish physicist presented his groundbreaking formula to the Royal Academy of Science in Berlin, and all of humanity has been reaping the benefits ever since.
“Albert Einstein is probably the greatest scientist that has ever lived,” Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, a physicist and former president of Hebrew University, told The Jerusalem Post
. “He is responsible for great revolutions in physics.”
It was Einstein who, according to Gutfreund, “completely changed our understanding of the physical world” in 1905, his so-called “miraculous year.”
“That was when he published articles...which became the pillars of modern physics,” he said.
Einstein’s name has become synonymous with genius, and his work has laid the foundation for the explosion in modern technology that has underpinned our interconnected world.
“The most common application for the general theory of relativity is when we need to determine precisely - to a very high degree of accuracy - distances and time measurements,” said Prof. Zohar Komargodsky of the Rehovot-based Weizmann Institute of Science.
“This is very useful for GPS technology, which requires very high accuracy in distances and time,” he said. “So the general effects of the theory of relativity is that clocks move a little bit slower on earth than they do in space.”
Komargodsky said that Einstein’s work also revolutionized astronomy, which “has progressed immensely over the past few decades” as a result.
Einstein’s legacy is a particular source of pride in Israel, where buildings bear his name and where his achievements are touted as more evidence of Jewish exceptionalism in academic endeavors.
“By his own choice, as an adult, he started to develop a strong Jewish identity,” Gutfreund said. “It was a very strong Jewish identity that is not based on religion but is based on some cultural affinity to the moral heritage of the Jewish people as he understood it. That identity intensified with time and outside of physics.”
Einstein’s stature prompted the leadership of the young State of Israel to offer him the presidency, which he declined. But the fingerprints of his achievements can be seen on the national start-up scene, where hi-tech has placed Israel at the forefront of cutting edge development.
“All of the present cosmology, our research and understanding of the universe, has its roots in that theory,” Gutfreund said.