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What was Albert Einstein’s IQ?

Credit: Public Domain.

Possibly the most famous scientist of all time, Albert Einstein’s theories have challenged and altered our concepts of reality and unleashed a new age of theoretical physics.

There’s no shortage of mentions of Einstein and his recognizable E = mc2 mass-energy equivalence equation in pop culture, many associating his name with brightness and intelligence. Ask random people on the street who they think is the smartest man to have ever lived, and Einstein’s name is sure to pop up often.

If that’s the case what’s Einstein IQ? The problem is nobody can tell for sure since the physicist was never formally tested.

That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of various estimates. On the contrary, google searches for “Einstein’s IQ” will return many results, but at the end of the day, they’re all based on speculation.

How important is an IQ score?

French psychologist Alfred Binet is credited for devising the first qualitative tests designed to measure the diversity of human intelligence. Together with colleague Théodore Simon, in 1905, the pair of psychologists devised the Binet-Simon test, which focused on verbal abilities and was designed to gauge ‘mental retardation’ among school children.

In time, the researchers also added questions that gauged attention, memory, and problem-solving skills.

In 1916, Stanford University translated and standardized the test using a sample of American students. Known as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, this test would go on to be used for decades to quantify the mental abilities of millions of people around the world.

The Stanford-Binet intelligence test used a single number, known as the intelligence quotient (or IQ), to represent an individual’s score on the test. This score was computed by dividing a person’s mental age, as revealed by the test, by their chronological age and then multiplying the result by 100. For instance, a child whose chronological age is 12 but whose mental age is 15 would have an IQ of 125 (15/12 x 100).

The most commonly used IQ test today is a variation of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). The latest revision of the test, known as WAIS-IV, is made of 10 subtests and 5 supplemental tests, which score an individual in four major areas of intelligence: a Verbal Comprehension Scale, a Perceptual Reasoning Scale, a Working Memory Scale, and a Processing Speed Scale. These four index scores are combined into the Full-Scale IQ score, or what people generally recognize as the ‘IQ score’.

So what’s Einstein IQ? Just gimme an estimate

Although Einstein was alive when the Stanford-Binet test was rolled out in American schools and universities, he never took such a test.

But as evidence amassed that IQ scores forecast success in all areas of life (romantic relationships, career, socioeconomic status, health and life expectancy), psychologists have found it useful to devise methods and tools that allow them to gauge a person’s IQ without a formal test. This can only work on public figures who have left an extensive record of their behavior, speeches, or scholarly works.

In fact, there are IQ estimates for hundreds of historical figures, such as Charles Dickens, Galileo Galilei, or Ludwig van Beethoven, all based upon records of their youthful traits, other people’s assessments of their lives, routines, and manner of thought, and achievements.

Jonathan Wai, assistant professor of education policy and psychology at the University of Arkansas, points to Einstein’s famous thought experiment, in which he visually imagines chasing after a light beam (eventually leading to his formulation of special relativity), as confirmation of a high IQ score. According to Einstein’s own Autobiographical Notes, his thought experiment, which he devised at age 16, was like this:

“…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. There seems to be no such thing, however, neither on the basis of experience nor according to Maxwell’s equations. From the very beginning it appeared to me intuitively clear that, judged from the standpoint of such an observer, everything would have to happen according to the same laws as for an observer who, relative to the earth, was at rest. For how should the first observer know or be able to determine, that he is in a state of fast uniform motion? One sees in this paradox the germ of the special relativity theory is already contained,” Einstein recounted, later concluding that:

“One sees that in this paradox the germ of the special relativity theory is already contained. Today everyone knows, of course, that all attempts to clarify this paradox satisfactorily were condemned to failure as long as the axiom of the absolute character of time, or of simultaneity, was rooted unrecognized in the unconscious. To recognize clearly this axiom and its arbitrary character already implies the essentials of the solution of the problem.”

Particularly, Wai says, Einstein would have scored very high on spatial reasoning tests. Dissections of Einstein’s brain showed he had a significantly larger brain area responsible for three-dimensional visualization, supporting this assessment.

What’s more, people who go on to earn a Ph.D. in a field such as physics or mathematics “tend to have extremely high IQs…a combination of mathematical, verbal and spatial reasoning ability,” Wai says.

According to a 2017 ranking of top U.S. university majors by IQ, physics and astronomy came out on top with an average score of 133. So one might expect Einstein to score at least that high — after all, Einstein was by no stretch of the imagination average.

For reference, a score in the range of 120-140 IQ points is deemed “very superior intelligence”, 110-119 is “superior intelligence” and 90-109 is “normal or average intelligence.” An IQ over 145 means you have a ‘genius’ level intellect.

According to estimates by means of biographical data, Albert Einstein’s IQ has been estimated to sit anywhere between 160 and 180. That would firmly place the physicist in the genius territory. However, he wouldn’t exactly be among the top-scoring crowd.

According to some, William James Sidis (1898-1944) had the highest IQ ever, estimated between 250 and 300. A true child prodigy, Sidis could read English by the time he was two and could write in French by age four. At age two, baby Albert Einstein could barely utter a few words, which had his parents worried he might grow up as an idiot.

But while Sidis crashed and burned after his meteoric rise, having spent the remainder of his adult life with menial clerk jobs, Einstein would go on to revolutionize physics with his Theory of General Relativity.

Sure, Einstein’s intelligence cannot be questioned, but if this single example tells us anything, it shows that exceptionally high IQ scores, even a record-high one, does not guarantee world-class excellence and recognition.

A new equation may have finally solved Einstein’s ‘biggest blunder’

Credit: Public Domain.

In 1917, not long after publishing the theory of general relativity, Albert Einstein played some mathematical gymnastics with his field equations — a set of equations that relate the curvature of spacetime to the amount of matter and energy moving through a region of spacetime. At the time, everybody thought that the universe is stationary. For the framework of his theory of general relativity to make any sense under these conditions, Einstein inserted a term called the cosmological constant (denoted by the Greek capital letter lambda).

But almost a decade later, Edwin Hubble proved beyond a doubt that the universe was not static — it was, in fact, expanding. Upon hearing the news, Einstein abandoned the cosmological constant, calling it the “biggest blunder” of his life.

However, this wasn’t the end of it. In 1998, scientists discovered that the universe wasn’t only expanding, it was doing so at an accelerated rate. Some unknown force was overcoming gravity, making galaxies move away from each other increasingly faster. This force is known today as dark energy, and it’s true nature still remains a mystery.

Ironically, physicists had to reintroduce the cosmological constant into Einstein’s field equations in order to account for this new force, which constitutes about 70% of the energy content in the universe. This constant employ a different value than Einstein would have thought, but the idea is still exactly what Einstein came up with.

In the current standard model of cosmology, the cosmological constant estimates its value as 10-52 per square meter — that’s incredibly tiny but over the scale of the universe, this constant becomes significant enough to accelerate the expansion of space.

The cosmological constant also includes “vacuum energy” or “zero point energy” — the energy density of empty space. When physicists try to calculate its contribution to the cosmological constant, they end up with an absurd value in the order of 10 120 (yes, 10 followed by 120 zeroes). The discrepancy between the two proposed values of the cosmological constant is unacceptable, to say the least.

This may mean that Einstein’s original field equations for gravity are wrong — but that is extremely unlikely. The theory of general relativity is one of the most tested frameworks in physics, having stood scrutiny time and time again. The fairly recent detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO experiment suggests that Einstein’s theory is the best we’ve got so far that explains gravity.

Instead of doubting Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Lucas Lombriser, an assistant professor of theoretical physics at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, simply added a new equation on top of the field equations. Essentially, what Lombriser did was to assume that the gravitational constant (the one first used by Isaac Newton in his laws of gravity) can change. Yes, constants have really lost their semantics in modern theoretical physics.

At any rate, the Lombriser version of general relativity assumes that the gravitational constant remains the same within the observable universe but can change beyond it. In other words, his theory assumes that there are multiple universes — that we live in a multiverse — some of which may function with different values for the fundamental constants.

After accounting for the estimated mass of all the galaxies, stars, and dark matter in the universe, Lombriser found that this framework returned a value for the cosmological constant that closely agrees with experimental observations. Specifically, he found the universe is made of 74% dark energy whereas observations estimate 68.5% — a huge improvement, to say, the least over the previous discrepancy.

Unfortunately for Lombriser, who published his work in the journal Physics Letters B, there’s no way to actually test his theory — at least not yet.

What’s shocking. though, if you think about it for a second is that even Einstein’s ‘bad’ ideas were brilliant!

Einstein’s General Relativity passes the test at the centre of our Galaxy

Measurements of a star passing close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way confirms the predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity in a high gravity environment.

An artist visualization of the star S0–2 as it passes by the supermassive black hole at the Galactic centre. As the star gets closer to the supermassive black hole, light it emits experiences a gravitational redshift that is predicted by Einstein's General Relativity. By observing this redshift, we can test Einstein's theory of gravity (Nicole R. Fuller, National Science Foundation)

An artist visualization of the star S0–2 as it passes by the supermassive black hole at the Galactic centre. As the star gets closer to the supermassive black hole, light it emits experiences a gravitational redshift that is predicted by Einstein’s General Relativity. By observing this redshift, we can test Einstein’s theory of gravity (Nicole R. Fuller, National Science Foundation)

A detailed study of a star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy, reveals that Einstein’s theory of general relativity is accurate in its description of the behaviour of light struggling to escape the gravity around this massive space-time event.

The analysis — conducted by Tuan Do, Andrea Ghez and colleagues — involved detecting the gravitational redshift in the light emitted by a star closely orbiting the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*. The redshift was measured as the star reached the closest point in its orbit — which has a duration of 16 years — to the black hole.

Lasers from the two Keck Telescopes propagated in the direction of the Galactic centre. Each laser creates an artificial star that can be used to correct for the blurring due to the Earth’s atmosphere. (Ethan Tweedie) 

Lasers from the two Keck Telescopes propagated in the direction of the Galactic centre. Each laser creates an artificial star that can be used to correct for the blurring due to the Earth’s atmosphere. (Ethan Tweedie)

The team found that the star experienced gravitational redshift — which occurs when light is stretched to longer wavelengths and towards the red ‘end’ of the electromagnetic spectrum by the effect of gravity — as it gets closer to the black hole,  conforming to Einstein’s theory of general relativity and its predictions regarding gravity.

At the same time, the results defy predictions made by the Newtonian theory, which has no explanation for gravitational redshift.

Ghez says: “(The findings are) a transformational change in our understanding about not only the existence of supermassive black holes but the physics and astrophysics of black holes.”

The major difference between general relativity and the Newtonian calculation of gravity is, that whereas Newton envisioned gravity as a force acting between physical objects, Einstein’s theory saw gravity as a geometric phenomenon.

The presence of mass ‘curves’ space it occupies. Physical objects, including light, must then follow this curvature. As John Wheeler infamously put it: “matter tells space how to curve, space tells matter how to move.”

Testing relativity in regions of high gravity

Image of the orbits of stars around the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Highlighted is the orbit of the star S0–2. This is the first star that has enough measurements to test Einstein’s General Relativity around a supermassive black hole. [Credit: Keck/UCLA Galactic Center Group]

Image of the orbits of stars around the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Highlighted is the orbit of the star S0–2. This is the first star that has enough measurements to test Einstein’s General Relativity around a supermassive black hole. [Credit: Keck/UCLA Galactic Center Group]

The new research resembles an analysis conducted last year by the GRAVITY collaboration, except in this new expanded analysis, the team report novel spectra data.

Although general relativity has been thoroughly tested in relatively weak gravitational fields — such as those on Earth and in the Solar System—before last year, it had not been tested around a black hole as big as the one at the centre of the Milky Way.

Observations of the stars rapidly orbiting Sagittarius A *provide a method for general relativity to be evaluated in an extreme gravitational environment.

Do explains why these kind of tests are important:

“We need to test GR in extreme environments because that’s where we think the theory might break down.”

“If we can see which predictions from general relativity have deviations, that gives us clues as to how to build a better model of gravity.”

A figure showing the challenges the Ghez team had in processing decades of image data and spectroscopy input to follow the star S0–2. (Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation)

A figure showing the challenges the Ghez team had in processing decades of image data and spectroscopy input to follow the star S0–2. (Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation)

To obtain their results, the team analyzed new observations of the star S0–2 as it made its closest approach to the enormous black hole in 2018. They then combined this data with measurements Ghez and her team have made over the last 24 years.

The team has many avenues of investigations available to them from here, Tuan tells me.

He continues: “Two of them I’m excited about are testing space-time around the black hole by looking at the orbit of the star S0–2.”

“GR predicts that the orbit should precess, or rotate, meaning that it won’t come back where it started.”

The team should also be able to start using more stars other than S0–2 for these tests as the time baseline of observations increase and technology improves

Do concludes: “ These measurements open a new era of GR tests at the Galactic centre so it’s very exciting.”

This research appears in the 26 July 2019 issue of Science.

This is what quantum entanglement looks like

Scientists have managed to take a photo of one of the most bizarre phenomena in nature: quantum entanglement.

Image credits: University of Glasgow.

There’s a reason why Einstein called quantum entanglement ‘spooky action at a distance’. Quantum entanglement, by everything that we know from our macroscopic lives, should not exist. However, the laws of quantum mechanics often defy what seems normal to us, and this bizarre phenomenon actually underpins the whole field of quantum mechanics.

Quantum entanglement occurs when a pair or a group of particles interact with each other and remain connected, instantaneously sharing quantum states — no matter how great the distance that separates them (hence the spooky action at a distance). This connection is so strong that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other(s).

Predicting, achieving, and describing this phenomenon was a gargantuan task that took decades. Photographing it is also a remarkable achievement.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow modified a camera to capture 40,000 frames per second. They operated an experimental setup at -30 degrees Celsius (-22 F) in pitch-black darkness. The experimental setup shoots off streams of photons entangled in a so-called Bell state — this is the simplest example of quantum entanglement.

The entangled photons were split up, with one of them passing through a liquid crystal material called β-barium borate, triggering four phase transitions. These four phase transitions were observed in the other, entangled photons.

A composite of multiple images of the photons as they go through the quantum transitions. Image credits: University of Glasgow.

Einstein staunchly believed that quantum mechanics does not tell the whole story and must have another, underlying physical framework. He even developed a series of experiments meant to disprove this quantum mechanics — which, ironically, ended up confirming the foundations of quantum mechanics.

However, people often forget that Einstein can also be regarded as one of the fathers of quantum mechanics. For instance, he described light as quanta in his theory of the Photoelectric Effect, for which he won the 1921 Nobel Prize. Niels Bohr and Max Planck are often regarded as the two founders of quantum mechanics, although numerous outstanding physicists worked on it over the years. For instance, physicist John Stewart Bell helped define quantum entanglement, establishing a test known as ‘Bell inequality’. Essentially, if you can break Bell inequality, you can confirm true quantum entanglement — which is what researchers have done here.

“Here, we report an experiment demonstrating the violation of a Bell inequality within observed images,” the study reads.

Lead author Dr. Paul-Antoine Moreau of the University of Glasgow’s School of Physics and Astronomy comments:

“The image we’ve managed to capture is an elegant demonstration of a fundamental property of nature, seen for the very first time in the form of an image.”

“It’s an exciting result which could be used to advance the emerging field of quantum computing and lead to new types of imaging.”

The study was published in Science Advances.

Three Old Scientific Concepts Getting a Modern Look

If you have a good look at some of the underlying concepts of modern science, you might notice that some of our current notions are rooted in old scientific thinking, some of which originated in ancient times. Some of today’s scientists have even reconsidered or revamped old scientific concepts. We’ve explored some of them below.

4 Elements of the Ancient Greeks vs 4 Phases of Matter

The ancient Greek philosopher and scholar Empedocles (495-430 BC) came up with the cosmogenic belief that all matter was made up of four principal elements: earth, water, air, and fire. He further speculated that these various elements or substances were able to be separated or reconstituted. According to Empedocles, these actions were a result of two forces. These forces were love, which worked to combine, and hate, which brought about a breaking down of the elements.

What scientists refer to as elements today have few similarities with the elements examined by the Greeks thousands of years ago. However, Empedocles’ proposed quadruplet of substances bares resemblance to what we call the four phases of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. The phases are the different forms or properties material substances can take.

Water in two states: liquid (including the clouds), and solid (ice). Image via Wikipedia.

Compare Empedocles’ substances to the modern phases of matter. “Earth” would be solid. The dirt on the ground is in a solid phase of matter. Next comes water which is a liquid; water is the most common liquid on Earth. Air, something which surrounds us constantly in our atmosphere, is a gaseous form of matter.

And lastly, we come to fire. Fire has fascinated human beings for time beyond history. Fire is similar to plasma in that both generate electromagnetic radiation such as light. Most flames you see in your everyday life are not hot enough to be considered plasma. They are typically considered gaseous. A prime example of an area where plasma is formed is the sun. The ancient four elements have an intriguing correspondent in modern science.

Ancient Concept of Dome Sky vs. Simulation Hypothesis

Millennia ago, people held the notion that his world was flat. Picture a horizontal cooking sheet with a transparent glass bowl set on top of it. Primitive people thought of the Earth in much the same way. They considered the land itself as flat and the sky as a dome. However, early Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras (c. 570-495 BC) — who is also known for formulating the Pythagorean theorem — understood that Earth was actually spherical.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Now scientists are considering the scientific concept of the dome once again but in a much more complex manner.

Regardless of what conspiracy lovers would have you believe, the human race has ventured into outer space, leaving the face of the Earth to travel to the stars. In the face of all our achievements, some scientists actually question if reality is real, a mindboggling and apparently laughable idea.

But some scientists have wondered if we could be existing in a computer simulation. The gap between science and science fiction starts to become very fine when considering this.

This idea calls to mind classic sci-fi plots such as those frequently played out in The Twilight Zone in which everything the characters take as real turns out to be something entirely unexpected. You might also remember the sequence in Men in Black in which the audience sees that the entire universe is inside an alien marble. Bill Nye even uses the dome as an example in discussing hypothetical virtual reality. This gives one the feeling that he is living in a snowglobe.

Medieval Alchemy vs. Modern Chemistry

The alchemists of the Middle Ages attempted to prove that matter could be transformed from one object into an entirely new object. One of their fondest goals they wished to achieve was the creation of gold from a less valuable substance. They were dreaming big, but such dreams have not yet come to fruition. Could it actually be possible to alter one type of matter into another?

Well, modern chemists may be well on their way to achieving this feat some day. They are pursuing the idea of converting light into matter, as is expressed in Albert Einstein’s famous equation. Since 2014, scientists have been claiming that such an operation would be quite feasible, especially with extant technology.

Einstein’s famous equation.

Light is made up of photons, and a contraption capable of performing the conversion has been dubbed “photon-photon collider.” Though we might not be able to transform matter into other matter in the near future, it looks like the light-to-matter transformation has a bright outlook.

What Einstein thought about God, the Universe, science and religion

Albert Einstein is one of the world’s greatest scientists, but his legacy goes even beyond science. To this day, his views are highly influential, and his beliefs inspire people from all around the world. But Einstein is also often misinterpreted and even misquoted. So what did the brilliant man think of the Universe?

“God does not play dice with the Universe”

Image in public domain.

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes in history, Einstein’s statement is often taken out of context. People usually see it as an expression of faith that a God exists — and even more, that he is somehow taking care of the world. Yet that’s hardly the case here.

The quote stems from a letter EInstein addressed to Max Born, one of the fathers of Quantum Mechanics. The full phrase is:

“Quantum theory yields much, but it hardly brings us close to the Old One’s secrets. I, in any case, am convinced He does not play dice with the universe.”

Einstein’s disagreement with quantum mechanics is well known. Indeed, his own Theory of General Relativity has an entirely different way of describing the universe, and reconciling this theory with quantum mechanics would be a Holy Grail of physics. At the very core of the disagreement is the fact that quantum mechanics implies an inherent randomness to nature.

One basic tenet of quantum mechanics is ‘Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle‘, which states that one cannot simultaneously measure the position and the momentum of a particle. The more you know about one, the least you know about the other. For the observer, this implies an element of randomness, and Einstein just didn’t agree with that. He yearned for a simpler, elegant, and explicit way of describing nature. His “God does not play dice” isn’t an expression of faith or destiny, it’s the expression of a need for the math to be stricter. Einstein was basically saying that it just doesn’t seem right to not be able to measure a particle’s properties with certainty. He believed that there must be an underlying physical law which can allow us to do so.

To this day, while we know that quantum mechanics works (we see it in very practical applications such as transistors, MRIs or nuclear energy), we don’t know how to fit it with the rest of physics. Einstein may yet be right and there may be an underlying law we just haven’t discovered yet. In his letter to Born, Einstein added:

“You believe in a God who plays dice, and I in complete law and order in a world which objectively exists, and which I in a wildly speculative way, am trying to capture. I firmly believe, but I hope that someone will discover a more realistic way, or rather a more tangible basis than it has been my lot to find.”

What Einstein believed

Etching of Einstein by F. Schmutzer.

If you’re still not convinced, Einstein himself cleared things out — several times. In his Autobiographical Notes, he writes that his religious beliefs came to an abrupt end during childhood.

“I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true.”

In a 1947 letter, he dismissed the idea of a God that concerns himself with mankind.

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously.”

In a letter to Beatrice Frohlich five years later, he reiterated this idea, being dismissive of the religious understanding of a God.

“The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.”

Still, Einstein wasn’t really an atheist. According to Prince Hubertus, Einstein hated being misinterpreted as such:

“In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”

He considered himself more of an agnostic (nothing is or can be known about the nature of God), and in a way he did believe in a God. He believed in ‘Spinoza’s God.’

Einstein, like Spinoza, believed that God is a manifestation of everything that is harmonious in the Universe. Image via Pexels.

Baruch Spinoza is one of the world’s most influential philosophers, his views of metaphysics being hotly debated to this day. Spinoza proposed that God is not a personal manifestation, not one being, but rather a manifestation of everything that’s harmonious. In a way, God is Nature.

But this wasn’t a religious view. Instead of being a conscious being, God is a manifestation of the beauty of the Universe. This is the so-called Spinoza’s God.

“I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Science is Religion?

To Einstein, science was more spiritual than religion, because science allows us to better understand the Universe. While our minds are not yet capable to fully understand its wonders, an attempt to do so brings us closer and closer to God. As we understand more about the Universe, we become closer to it.

“We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.”

In 1930, Einstein published one of the most discussed essays of the time. In The New York Times Magazine, he discussed his cosmic religion. He declared himself averse to the idea of heaven and hell, but he also discussed the connection between religion and science. He asserted that “even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other” there are “strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies.” Perhaps most intriguingly, he states that in the way he sees things, there can be no conflict between science and religion. The two are distinct, but sometimes intertwined.

“A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value. [..] Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. [..] In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be.”

Einstein was a complex man with complex views which are not always easy to understand. However, the belief that he followed Christianity, Judaism, or any religion, is baseless. He said it so himself numerous times. He found the Universe beautifully harmonious, and he believed that to be an expression of God.

Where do you stand on this? Do you need an anthropomorphic God? Are you on board with Einstein? Leave your opinion in the comments.

Physicists report new, solid observation of gravitational waves

It’s pretty much official now: there are gravitational waves. A collaboration between the LIGO Lab and the Virgo interferometer collaboration just reported the first joint detection of gravitational waves, adding much more weight to previous detection events.

Image credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/C. Henze.

Virgo had just been switched on

It’s not the first time gravitational waves had been detected. Physicists had recorded three previous events, offering serious proof to support the hypothesis first proposed by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago. Both the LIGO and Virgo detectors picked up the same event — a binary black hole system colliding. Together, the two observers provided 3D detail of the gravitational warping caused by the collision. To make things even more exciting, this comes just after Virgo had been switched on. It basically observed gravitational waves on its trial run.

“This is just the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and LIGO working together,” says David Shoemaker of MIT, LSC spokesperson. “With the next observing run planned for Fall 2018 we can expect such detections weekly or even more often.”

“It is wonderful to see a first gravitational-wave signal in our brand new Advanced Virgo detector only two weeks after it officially started taking data,” says Jo van den Brand of Nikhef and VU University Amsterdam, spokesperson of the Virgo collaboration. “That’s a great reward after all the work done in the Advanced Virgo project to upgrade the instrument over the past six years.”

Gravitational waves are basically ripples in the curvature of spacetime, generated in certain gravitational interactions. They propagate as waves outward from their source, at the speed of light. However, in order for us to observe them, we need dramatic interactions between the most massive objects we know of: black holes. Even these dramatic events send only a tiny observable wobble, which require finely tuned detectors, the likes of which only LIGO and Virgo provide. That two facilities, functioning independently, confirmed the same thing is highly encouraging.

“Little more than a year and a half ago, NSF [National Science Foundation] announced that its Laser Gravitational-Wave Observatory had made the first-ever detection of gravitational waves resulting from the collision of two black holes in a galaxy a billion light-years away,” says France Córdova, NSF director. “Today, we are delighted to announce the first discovery made in partnership between the Virgo Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the first time a gravitational-wave detection was observed by these observatories, located thousands of miles apart. This is an exciting milestone in the growing international scientific effort to unlock the extraordinary mysteries of our Universe.”

Thanks to slightly different fine-tuning, the two observers allow researchers to observe different characteristics of the waves. Specifically, Virgo’s arms are angled differently than the two Ligo detectors, which allows it to extract new information about the polarisation of gravitational waves. This is extremely important because previous observations from LIGO came from two detectors with a parallel orientation. Vigo’s arms come at a different angle (an intentional design feature), allowing researchers to get a more 3D view of what’s happening.

“It’s like if I give you just one slice of apple, you can’t guess what the fruit looks like,” said Prof Andreas Freise, a Ligo project scientist at the University of Birmingham. “When you see things from different angles, suddenly you can see the 3D shape as well,” he said. “Einstein’s theory of what [the waves] look like is pretty clear.”

Although Henri Poincaré first suggested that in analogy to an accelerating electrical charge producing electromagnetic waves, gravitational waves are tightly associated to Albert Einstein, who first predicted their existence in 1916, in his famous general theory of relativity. His mathematical equations showed that massive accelerating objects (namely neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) would disrupt the fabric of space-time, sending waves in the process, much like a stone thrown into a pond sends ripple in the water. However, later on in his work, Einstein started to doubt their existence. In 1936, Einstein and Nathan Rosen submitted a paper to Physical Review in which they argued that the gravitational waves could not exist in the full theory of general relativity. The paper was anonymously reviewed by mathematician Howard P. Robertson, who pointed out some miscalculations within the paper. Furious, Einstein withdrew the paper, but ultimately, one of his assistants, who had been in contact with Robertson, convinced Einstein that the criticism was correct. They rewrote the paper, but with exactly the opposite conclusions, supporting the existence of gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves rumor sends ripples through the science community

Tantalizing rumors about gravitational waves have been spreading through the scientific community after Arizona State University cosmologist, Lawrence Krauss sparked a firestorm on Twitter.

Artistic depiction of gravitational waves. Image via Wiki Commons.

Gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime which propagate as waves. They were predicted by Albert Einstein as part of his General Relativity Theory (GR). Basically, in GR, mass curves spacetime, and gravity is an effect of that curvature and therefore it must propagate through waves.

Various gravitational-wave detectors are currently under construction or are in operation but so far, no one has managed to detect them, despite an erroneous claim from the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 2014. Most notably, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has been searching for these gravitational waves since 2002 with no major success. But now, that may change.

It all started (how else?) on Twitter. Reputable cosmologist Lawrence Krauss tweeted that LIGO may have found the elusive waves at last:

Normally, we wouldn’t care that much about something shared on Twitter but Lawrence Krauss is an award-winning physicist and a respected science communicator and advocate. He’s not a cook or a fraud – if anything, he’s one of the most reliable science communicators out there. But there are some issues with this.

First of all, a spokeswoman for the LIGO collaboration, Gabriela Gonzalez, said there is no announcement to be made.

“The LIGO instruments are still taking data today, and it takes us time to analyze, interpret and review results, so we don’t have any results to share yet,” said Gonzalez, professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University.

“We take pride in reviewing our results carefully before submitting them for publication — and for important results, we plan to ask for our papers to be peer-reviewed before we announce the results — that takes time too!”

Secondly, even if there is a major discovery – and make no mistake, gravitational waves would be a major discovery – it’s probably not Krauss’ place to announce it, no matter who his source is (because he’s not directly working at LIGO). I mean, LIGO is a carefully thought out experiment and it’s been carried out with maximum care, so it just doesn’t seem fair to spark spirits like that from the outside. Many others have taken to Twitter to express their frustration as well, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if there is any foundation to this announcement or not. I wouldn’t count my gravitational chicken until something official is announced though.

The discovery of gravitational waves would further establish the theory of General Relativity, and help us bridge the gap between GR and quantum physics, who just can’t seem to get along.


Albert Einstein’s secret to learning anything


In 1915, a thirty-six year old Albert Einstein had just finished completing the two-page masterpiece that would revolutionize modern physics and catapult the struggling physicist into international fame and glory – the theory of general relativity. A hundred years since the seminal paper was published, we celebrate Einstein by presenting one of his most enlightening correspondence.

On November 4, having just finished writing his landmark paper, Einstein wrote this most heartfelt and considerate letter to his then 11-year old son Hans Albert, who was living with his estranged mother and little brother, Eduard “Tete” Einstein, in Vienna.

The letter (featured below), like most of Einstein’s correspondence, shines of fatherly wisdom and speaks of something that most people should always consider: how to learn.

My dear Albert,

Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Be with Tete kissed by your


Regards to Mama.

Einstein wrote hundreds of letters to his friends and collaborators, some of which can now be found in private collections at places like the Raab Collection. Some sell for thousands of dollars at auctions.



Einstein’s most famous equation – explained [VIDEO]

This year we celebrate a century since Albert Einstein’s posited his most famous equation: E=mc2. But what does it mean? How does it affect me? These are all highly pertinent questions, and luckily Symmetry Magazine put together an amazing video that puts all this to rest, all while fitting anti-potatoes and the Higgs boson in the same picture. Wait till you see it.

Einstein's brain, photographed in 1955, is about 15% wider than that of most people and, rather than being egg-shaped, it's almost perfectly round.

Einstein’s brilliance might have been due to strong brain hemisphere connection

Einstein's brain was preserved after his death in 1955, but this fact was not revealed until 1986.

Einstein’s brain was preserved after his death in 1955, but this fact was not revealed until 1986.

Mere hours after his death in 1955, Albert Einstein‘s brain was removed, weighed and analyzed in a lab at Princeton Hospital by pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey. Bits of his brains were then sent to other pathologists around the country for analysis in hope that a connection between its physical attributes and the remarkable genius of Albert Einstein might be discovered. A large portion of these brain section were actually kept by Harvey himself for his personal use, until these were re-discovered in the 1980’s sparking a heated controversy. Nevertheless, several anomalies or differences from the typical brain were identified. A newly devised technique that measures the large bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain may suggest another Einstein’s brain anomaly. Apparently, Einstein’s left and right hemispheres were particularly well connected, which may have aided his intellectual abilities.

Despite his best efforts, Harvey’s preservation technique wasn’t the finest. Most assumptions and hypotheses regarding Einstein’s brain are based on the myriad of photographs the pathologist took from multiple angles. For instance, some photographs showed Einstein’s brain was missing a part of a bordering region called the lateral sulcus (Sylvian fissure). “This unusual brain anatomy…[missing part of the Sylvian fissure]… may explain why Einstein thought the way he did,” said Professor Sandra Witelson who led the research published in The Lancet. Professor Laurie Hall of Cambridge University commenting on the study, said, “To say there is a definite link is one bridge too far, at the moment. So far the case isn’t proven. But magnetic resonance and other new technologies are allowing us to start to probe those very questions.”

Einstein's brain, photographed in 1955, is about 15% wider than that of most people and, rather than being egg-shaped, it's almost perfectly round.

Einstein’s brain, photographed in 1955, is about 15% wider than that of most people and, rather than being egg-shaped, it’s almost perfectly round.

Weiwei Men of East China Normal University used a novel technique to image the corpus callosum – large bundle of fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication in the brain. Men thus came up with a high-resolution that measures and color-codes the varying thicknesses of subdivisions of the corpus callosum along its length. The thicker these fibers are, the more the nerves that cross these suggesting a stronger connection between the two hemispheres.

[NOW READ] Albert Einstein’s secret to learning anything

Einstein’s callosum was compared to two sample groups:  15 elderly me and 52 men Einstein’s age (26) in 1905 or his Annus Mirabilis (Miracle Year) when he published four ground-breaking papers that changed the world’s views about space, time, mass and energy. The findings show that  Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres compared to both younger and older control groups.

“This study, more than any other to date, really gets at the ‘inside’ of Einstein’s brain,” said lorida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk, who was also part of the study. “It provides new information that helps make sense of what is known about the surface of Einstein’s brain.”

The study was published in the journal Brain.