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Einstein's Original 1905 E=mc2 Paper

Posted by Chris Henry, PhD on 02.11.19

 Christopher E. Henry, PhD, Senior Consulting Engineer, Fauske & Associates, LLC

Einstein Nuclear HeadshotLong ago, colleague Dr. Michael Epstein told me that Einstein’s E=mc2 theory was merely a 3-page technical note published in the back of a technical journal in 1905. I stumbled upon what I believe to be this paper, translated to English and compiled by Princeton University with other works of that era (his works and possibly others). I thought it might be of interest to those that may put their toe in this pond occasionally. Indeed, it is brief. Einstein makes it look easy, as it is for a master of his craft. The simple functional form of the equation reveals the true nature of the behavior. Mass is the “rest” energy of matter at rest. The functional form is merely part of the more familiar kinetic energy, as demonstrated in the paper. Some people view the behavior in terms of mass as a property of energy. Owing to my engineering roots, I prefer the rest energy depiction, with matter as a “condensed” or “bound” form of energy that appeared in the aftermath of the Big Bang. Ironically, most people (myself included until recently, I never bothered to look) are not familiar with these more fundamental, yet relatively simple, concepts. They know it in the applied sense for the opposite process of the fission mass defect conversion back into energy.

By the way, on the topic of fission, Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn pioneered fission, but Leo Szilard pioneered the concept of the chain reaction, without which the harnessing of fission would be impractical. Szilard’s contribution is a historical milestone that I had overlooked also.

Einstein Nuclear TextFauske & Associates, LLC is the world leader in nuclear waste processing and other nuclear testing and engineering services in addition to chemical process safety. Stay up-to-date on the latest news and insight within the nuclear industry by subscribing to our nuclear technical bulletin. 



Dr. Henry is a Senior Engineering Consultant at Fauske & Associates, LLC currently working on consequence analysis for pipe failure.

Topics: chemical process safety, nuclear


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