“Einstein believed: that A reality exists independent of our ability to observe it. That objects are located at distinct points in spacetime and have their own independent, real existence. In other words, he believed in separability and locality. And although at a superficial level, quantum events may appear random, at some ultimate level, strict causality underlies all processes in nature.” ~ Walter Isaacson
Einsteins’ theories are mind-blowing, there’s no way around it. But, through his thought experiments, inherently visual hypotheses or mental model casts, the lay person is able to gain insight into the mechanics of his wonderful mind. Ok, so thought experiments don’t require empirical data, but as he said himself, they played a pivotal role in furthering his (and our) understanding of the universe.
Here are 7 of his thought experiments, to gratify your inner genius:
THOUGHT EXPERIMENT 1: Pursuing a beam of Light
Although there are some faults in Einstein’s account of his sixteen-year-old self, the reflection is nether-the-less mind blowing. Even if Einstein felt the laws of optics should obey the principles of relativity, and was potentially wrong in believing that, this recollection of his young mind is fascinating.
“…A PARADOX UPON WHICH I HAD ALREADY HIT AT THE AGE OF SIXTEEN: IF I PURSUE A BEAM OF LIGHT WITH THE VELOCITY C (VELOCITY OF LIGHT IN A VACUUM), I SHOULD OBSERVE SUCH A BEAM OF LIGHT AS AN ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD AT REST THOUGH SPATIALLY OSCILLATING.” ~ Einstein
His thought experiment would inform many of his later theories and visual hypotheses, of an observer perceiving something different to the person (Einstein himself) who is in a state of velocity.
The thought experiment questions whether the two people are operating on the same laws, and whether they’re seeing something different from each other. This thought experiment was later questioned as historically inaccurate, as he mentions James Maxwell’s equation, a theory of the electromagnetic field Einstein would not have learnt until later in his studies.
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