Albert Einstein is generally considered to be the greatest scientist/physicist in the history of the modern world. He discovered many truths about the universe that no one else had ever considered. I am not a scientist so I couldn’t possibly describe, let alone understand, the significance of his ideas, theories and discoveries. I’m not even considering the achievements of those that were influenced by him. But I’ve always wondered if anything that he accomplished directly affects us today. I’m talking about real, concrete things that we use, or which some how affect us, that wouldn’t exist without Einstein’s work.
Can’t speak to what would or wouldn’t exist, but a 100 year derailment away from describing string theory can’t have been much help.
I think it would have been difficult to blow up Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Bikini atoll as efficiently without his musings.
It depends on what you mean by the question. If Einstein had never lived, or if he had never done any physics, then likely we’d just be a few years behind in several fields. For example, Einstein published special relativity in 1905. If he hadn’t, I’d expect someone else would have come up with it relatively (;)) soon.
On the other hand, there’s stuff from Einstein all over the roots of modern physics. Probably you can trace back aspects of modern electronics and materials science to some of his contributions.
For a practical example, I believe that GPS satellites need to take the effects of relativity into account in order to work accurately. If I recall correctly, without accounting for relativity the GPS system would quickly be off by a surprising amount, something like a few kilometers after one day.
This is an example of what I’m looking for.
Well, borschevksy touched on it a bit. Fact is, if Einstein hadn’t done it, someone else would’ve and we’d have a comparable understanding of the phenomena he elucidated. Minkowski and Planck had already laid the groundwork for his major achievements anyway. Sure, it’s doubtful that one person would have done everything he did. So we’d have someone else behind relativity (or perhaps one person would have done special and another general), and another person behind the photoelectric effect. As for his political contributions, I maintain that sooner or later the USA would have started the Manhattan Project anyway. The USA had spies, and would have learned of Hitler’s efforts, if maybe a few months later.
I get it. So it seems that Einstein wasn’t all that important as an individual. He may have accelerated progress by a few years. But if he didn’t accomplish the things that he did, someone else would have done so shortly thereafter, right? Interesting. We can probably look at Gandhi and King in that way too. Anyway, don’t mean to hijack my own thread. Maybe for the purpose of this thread, it would be better to disregard the others who would have accomplished Einstein’s work later.
Well, special relativity, his first major contribution, had many of its foundations already laid out. Einstein put the pieces together in an intuitive way, but a few other scientists were on the verge of such discoveries and may have done it if Einstein hadn’t beaten them.
General relativity, on the other hand, is a different story. General relativity is an update to special relativity that came 10 years later, and was completely unlike anything of its time. General relativity is what made Einstein a household name. Many physicists say that the theory was way ahead of its time and that if Einstein hadn’t thought it up it wouldn’t have come around for a long while later.