Monday, April 12, 2010

Well, We've Got Einstein Over There...

Last week at work, I was discussing something home repair-related with a close friend coworker. He got on a really intense tangent about the specific home repair; as in, he was talking in-depthly for quite some time. When he finished, I said, "well, thanks Einstein, I've got it now." We had a good laugh - because I think when he finished, he realized how long he'd been talking.

I must have heard or read something Einstein-related recently, because I can't imagine calling him that would be my normal, go-to phrase. But in reflection, I've been wondering why is Einstein the most famous smart person?

I know that what he did for the field of physics was revolutionary. I get that. And that at the time, he was way ahead of his peers in the field. But what about now? Is he still the smartest person that has ever lived? Obviously we are quite technologically advanced from when he was studying quantum physics. But aren't there more people who are discovering things now that are as ground-shattering as the stuff he was studying? And if so, why don't we know them by name?

Also - how would Einstein have become so famous to begin with - famous enough that almost a century later, his name can allegorically imply intelligence? Or, even more interesting, that almost a century later, his name can still casually come up in conversation? It's a pretty understood metaphor, as well; most people know that if you call someone "Einstein" you mean "smart" (whether it's used facetiously or not).

Did people know about him during his lifetime? Or is it something we all learned about because we learned it in physics class after it had been accepted in the science community? Doesn't that make you wonder about scientific advancements that are being made now? For example, what if the modern-day equivalent of Einstein discovers that a method that's been commonly accepted for years is, in fact, wrong. How would we learn about that? We're done with school, we probably aren't reading Physics Today magazine. Would it be a newspaper headline? E DOESN'T EQUAL MC2! And if that were the headline, do you think we would know the physicist's name who discovered it? Would he replace Einstein in all the allegories of smartness?

Just something for you Einsteins out there to think about on this manic Monday. And as a side note, I'm going to tag this post with "The Way Things Work." A lot of times I wonder about life's greatest questions - so you might join me on those journeys sometime.

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