5 videos of people trying to explain the theory of relativity
Presented by Einstein 100 years ago, the concept has confounded people for decades. That is, until now.
One hundred years ago this month, Albert Einstein completed his theory of relativity, which explains how gravitational force works. This discovery transformed the physicist into an international celebrity, and his theory is widely recognized as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science.
"The interest in Einstein does not fade into history," Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told From The Grapevine. "If anything, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It's greater now."
Case in point is the 100th anniversary. The momentous occasion has sparked a renewed interest in the legendary genius. In the past week, we've reported on the 26-year-old law school graduate who runs Einstein's official Facebook account as well as the bizarre story of a pathologist who stole Einstein's brain.
With all the hoopla surrounding the theory of relativity, we had to ask: What exactly is it? If you were at a cocktail party and someone asked you to explain the theory in under five minutes, what would you say?
Don't worry; we've got you covered. We scoured YouTube for some of the most simple and engaging explanations of the theory. So sit back, hit play, and take copious notes.
12-year-olds put on their science hats
Relatively speaking, these 12-year-olds make a noble effort trying to explain the theory. Whether they actually help you sound smart at a cocktail party remains to be seen, but what we do know is that Einstein's influence transcends age groups. A new generation of fans is following Einstein on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This doesn't surprise Gutfreund, the Israeli professor charged with being the keeper of the genius' legacy. "Einstein's face is the most recognizable face worldwide," he says.
Einstein’s biographer explains gravity with gravitas
Award-winning author Walter Isaacson uses cartoon elevators and trampolines to try to explain the theory. "I became interested in Einstein when I was editor of Time, and we were choosing the Person of the Century," said Isaacson, who's also written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs. "It seemed that the 20th century will be remembered for its breakthroughs in science and technology: splitting the atom, going into space, inventing the microchip, etc. Einstein was primarily responsible for the two great scientific pillars of our time: relativity and quantum theory."
A high school student uses popcorn, spaceships and a minivan
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge contest invites students ages 13-18 to submit videos that explain science, physics and math concepts. This year's winner was Ryan Chester, an Ohio high school student, whose fun-filled explanation of the theory of relativity garnered him nearly a quarter-million dollars in prizes. "A lot of people have heard about it, but not a lot of people understand it," said Chester, who wrote, filmed, edited and created all the visual effects for this video. "So it was a challenge for me to make it accessible to everyone."
Indian design students create an animated short
Let's say Albert Einstein is riding on a train. Or a spaceship. These are the scenarios in this six-minute animated primer to the theory of relativity. This video is a result of the hard work of the students at the Industrial Design Centre, one of the premier design schools in India. Of course, these students are not alone in trying to explain Einstein. Search on YouTube for "Einstein's theory of relativity explained" and you'll get a whopping 45,600 results.
A TV host thinks feathers and a bowling ball is the way to go
In the video above, BBC host Brian Cox visits the world's biggest vacuum chamber in Ohio, to attempt an experiment to showcase Einstein's theory of relativity. "In order to see the true nature of gravity, we have to remove the air," said Cox, who is a professor of particle physics in England. He spent eight hours taking out all the air from the chamber. "Einstein reasoned that if you couldn't see the background, there'd be no way of knowing that the ball and the feathers were being accelerated towards the Earth," he says. So what happened next? Watch the video above to find out. Or just ask Einstein.
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