E=MC² A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

E=MC² A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

E=MC² A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

E=MC² A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation


Generations have grown up knowing that the equation E=mc2 changed the shape of our world, but never understanding what it actually means, why it was so significant, and how it informs our daily lives today—governing, as it does, everything from the atomic bomb to a television’s cathode ray tube to the carbon dating of prehistoric paintings. In this book, David Bodanis writes the “biography” of one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history—that the realms of energy and matter are inescapably linked—and, through his skill as a writer and teacher, he turns a seemingly impenetrable theory into a dramatic human achievement and an uncommonly good story.


A while ago I was reading an interview with the actress Cameron Diaz in a movie magazine. At the end the interviewer asked her if there was anything she wanted to know, and she said she'd like to know what E=mc really means. They both laughed, then Diaz mumbled that she'd meant it, and then the interview ended.

"You think she did mean it?" one of my friends asked, after I read it aloud. I shrugged, but everyone else in the room--architects, two programmers, and even one historian (my wife!)--was adamant. They knew exactly what she intended: They wouldn't mind understanding what the famous equation meant too.

It got me thinking. Everyone knows that E=mc is really important, but they usually don't know what it means, and that's frustrating, because the equation is so short that you'd think it would be understandable.

There are plenty of books that try to explain it, but who can honestly say they understand them? To most readers they contain just a mass of odd diagrams--those little trains or rocketships or flashlights that are utterly mystifying. Even firsthand instruction doesn't always help, as Chaim Weizmann found when he took a long . . .

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