Special Relativity Don't Upset Us
I was taking a
little trip down memory lane today, and was a little surprised to find that the
lane went about six feet and made a sharp right turn into a brick wall.
I was thinking
about school, or trying to, at least. I was five years old when I
started going to school and 17 when I left school, so you'd think I'd have some
sort of, you know, memory of it.
Not that I don't
remember my friends, and the classes, and the teachers, and the schools
themselves. I remember all that stuff. I just don't remember
much of anything I was taught. Obviously, I can read and write and
speak. I can name the continents and the planets and a couple major kings
and wars. I learned how to make scrambled eggs in Home Ec. But shit. That's about
How can this
be? I took French for five years. FIVE YEARS. I can't speak
French. I can't read it, write it, or understand it. Math! I
was never good at math, but I studied it constantly, from probably first grade to
twelfth. I can remember the first grade stuff, adding and subtracting, but
that's all. I took Social Studies for years. What the hell is
a Social Study? For the love of crap, I took Advanced Placement Physics and
passed it (barely), but I can't conjure up one iota of information about it.
This is terribly
wrong. Somehow, I got cheated. I got cheated out of an
education. So, I'm gonna SIT HERE and WORK until
I REMEMBER something, and DAMMIT, YOU'RE ALL GONNA WATCH.
Okay! I was
thinking I should start with some sort of science. I remember my science
teacher very well, Mr. Benzinger. How do you forget a name like that? I even
remember the weird way he talked. His upper lip never moved, but his lower
lip did. In fact, I can still do an impression of the way he talked,
which means nothing to you, of course, but if you knew Mr. Benzinger and could
see me doing my impression of him, you'd be all "Heh, yeah, that's Mr.
Benzinger, all right."
things grow a little hazy. I remember bunsen burners, which were used to
melt Bic pens, and I vaguely remember cutting open a dead frog and attaching a
battery to its muscles to watch them twitch, though that may have been during
recess. Either way, I just can't remember a damn scientific fact I
learned in science class.
Chemistry... Physics... Well, hey! I guess I know this:
Einstein's, uh... dealie. Of course, everyone can just say "E=mc²"
and pretend they know what it means, but I must have been taught what it meant
at some point. I must have. And that information has to be in
my huge brain somewhere.
I know that E
stands for energy, m stands for mass, and c stands for the speed of light.
Energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light. So... that's...
what that's all about. Glad we got it settled.
But again, what
does it really mean? Welp, I'd better take a crack at solving it or
it's gonna be a long night.
is an equation. What do I know about equations? Here we have to go
into math, I guess. The equals sign is important... and... wait, it's
coming... I can do whatever I want to one side of the equation, provided
I do it to the other side of the equation as well! Yeah! I
can times it by five, I can bake it for an hour at 250 degrees, I can divide it
by Sidney Poitier. So long as I do it on both sides of the "=",
it's legal. I'm certain that's right, and I'm also certain they
wouldn't have taught me that if it didn't help me to solve equations.
So, now we have
energy divided by Sidney Poitier equals mass times the square of the speed of
light divided by Sidney Poitier. We're getting somewhere! Somewhere sciencey!
But what is
energy, really? It's like... it's this stuff... can't create or destroy
it... comes from the sun... and maybe other places... like food... and
batteries... well, I don't know what energy is. But! If we solve the
other side of the equation, we'll know what energy equals, which
is kinda like knowing what energy is, so that's something.
is... how much there is of something. It's sorta like weight, only not,
because your weight changes if you're on the moon, but your mass doesn't.
Also, mass increases with velocity, I think. And, it's proportionate to
weight, or vice-versa, or neither. Well, shit, let's just say mass is the
same thing as weight, just to keep it simple. How much can it really
(incoming pun) matter? Weight, mass, same diff.
I don't have a
scale, so let me use something that I know the weight of, like a Quarter-Pounder.
It weighs a quarter of a pound, right?
Okay, things are
looking good! (Although I'd rather use a Whopper, because they're tastier,
I'm sticking with the Quarter-Pounder in the interests of science.
Einstein would be proud.)
Now, the speed of
light. Man. I know light goes really, really fast. Someone
proved it once. Some smug jerk. And then I have to square it?
Man, then it'd be going really super fast! What was Einstein's deal,
anyway, light wasn't fast enough for him, he had to go and square it? What
a psycho! Well, let's just say light goes a kajillion miles per hour, and
if you square it, that probably adds, like, a billion or so more miles.
got our equation ready and put into terms an idiot could understand, so let's
Light goes a
kajillion billion miles per hour if you square it, and then you times it by the
burger there, add fries, divide it by a highly respected Oscar-winning Bahamian,
and that equals energy, which we also divide by the star of such films as
"The Defiant Ones" and "To Sir, With Love."
energy! Sciencey energy!
Okay, I feel
better. I've got my education back. Time for a burger.