Over 100 years ago, Albert Einstein grappled with the implications of his revolutionary special theory of relativity and came to a startling conclusion: mass and energy are one, related by the formula E = mc2. In "Einstein's Big Idea," NOVA dramatizes the remarkable story behind this equation. E = mc2 was just one of several extraordinary breakthroughs that Einstein made in 1905, including the completion of his special theory of relativity, his identification of proof that atoms exist, and his explanation of the nature of light, which would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics. Among Einstein's ideas, E = mc2 is by far the most famous. Yet how many people know what it really means? In a thought-provoking and engrossing docudrama, NOVA illuminates this deceptively simple formula by unraveling the story of how it came to be.
It's called the speed limit of the universe. Einstein blew all of our minds when he worked out the Theory of Relativity, and showed that space and time were malleable substances. He also theorized that we as humans can never travel faster than the speed of light, which leaves the stars and other galaxies almost impossibly out of our reach. But the dreams of Star Wars and Star Trek are not dead. In fact, there could be ways to travel faster than the speed of light - and some of them are already being tested in labs around the world.
When you think about Einstein and physics, E=mc^2 is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But one of his greatest contributions to the field actually came in the form of an odd philosophical footnote in a 1935 paper he co-wrote -- which ended up being wrong.
Scientists genuinely don't know what most of our universe is made of. The atoms we're made from only make up four per cent. The rest is dark matter and dark energy (for 'dark', read 'don't know'). The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has been upgraded. When it's switched on in March 2015, its collisions will have twice the energy they did before. The hope is that scientists will discover the identity of dark matter in the debris. The stakes are high - because if dark matter fails to show itself, it might mean that physics itself needs a rethink.
What happened to all of the universe's antimatter? Can a particle be its own anti-particle? And how do you build an experiment to find out? In this program, particle physicists reveal their hunt for a neutrino event so rare, it happens to a single atom at most once every 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years: far longer than the current age of the universe. If they find it, it could explain no less than the existence of our matter-filled universe.