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An Apology

 

Once, while I was talking to my astronomy class in Northern California, I

asked them, "How many of you have run into Einstein's famous equation in which

what we call matter, mass, is set equal to energy?" Mrs. Banks said that she had

not run into that equation; so I asked her where she had gone to school. When

she told me that she had gone to Stanford University, and that she had done

graduate work there, and yet had never run into that famous equation, I said to

her, "Stanford owes you." Well, that was nearly thirty years ago.

 

Unfortunately Einstein's equation has been wrongly represented, world

wide, to mean that mass can be converted to energy. But that is wrong. If mass

could be converted to energy, as kinetic energy can be converted to gravitational

energy on the up-swing of a pendulum, then that equation would be E + m = K,

the sum of mass and energy is a constant.

 

But Einstein never interpreted his equation that way. He referred to it as,

"the equation in which energy is set equal to mass." And toward the end of his life

he wrote that matter had fallen out of the physics as a fundamental concept. He

may never have noticed the usual misinterpretation, because no one would have

written it down as E + m = K.

 

Probably this usual misinterpretation is largely responsible for the fact that

even our educated public is unaware that the Universe is made of energy, not

matter, and that it's wound up to some five hundred atom bombs per pound

against gravity by the dispersion of the particles through space, and to the same

five hundred atom bombs per pound against electricity because the particles are

so minute. I'll explain.

 

The gravitational field is condensational. It tends to bring things together,

and we wind things up against gravity by pushing things apart, like pushing a car

uphill. And things are wound up to some five hundred atom bombs per pound just

by being separated, in the gravitational field, from all the rest of the matter in the

observable Universe. We're only a little bit separated from the Earth, but we're a

great deal more separated from all the rest of the matter in the observable

Universe, and that's what winds us up to five hundred atom bombs per pound.

The energy of five hundred atomic bombs weighs only one pound on Earth. It's

that simple, but not easy to see.

 

Unlike the gravitational field, the electrical field is self dispersional. It tends

to push like charges apart. And we wind things up against electricity by pushing

like charges together. If we push two electrons together, they weigh more

together than they weighed apart because the energy of pushing them together

is still in there, and it's only energy that's heavy. And, it turns out, that the energy

required to make the charge of one electron as small as one electron is, is its

mass, because you'd be pushing negative charge toward negative charge, and

winding it up. Once again, it's that simple, but not easy to comprehend.

 

This sort of information was salted away in my early education more than

seventy years ago, but still, till now, it's difficult for me always to remember that

the rest of American public was not so lucky. And we live on a small planet where

the gravitational field is so tender that these energy relations are anything but

obvious. If we lived on a neutron star it would be a very different matter, and a

great deal easier to see. I'll explain.

 

A cubic inch of a neutron star weighs as much as a cubic mile of iron. And

if we lived on a neutron star where the mountains were only half an inch tall, and

where it would still take several generations to climb one, even if every speck of

our biological energy was used in the climb, then these energy relations would be

more obvious. It's more difficult to see them here on Earth.

 

If you dropped an old fashioned ten gram marshmallow to a neutron star,

the splash would be enough to vaporize a town. It would be a one gram splash.

And if you dropped it to a black hole with all the rest of the observable Universe

inside, it would be a ten gram splash. A ten gram marshmallow is the energy of

ten atomic bombs. I know, it doesn't look like that, and they'll sell you a whole

bag of them at the grocery store for a dollar nineteen. They have no idea what

they're doing. Almost no one sees this as it really is.

 

Because all this information was dumped on me so long ago I tend to see

the world this way, and I don't always remember that most people don't even

smell it. And it's for my failure to remember this that I apologize.

 

The energy of the explosion that blew Crater Lake in Oregon, long ago,

was only forty two pounds. It blew some thirty five cubic miles of rock to powder

and put it in the stratosphere at eighty thousand feet. That was forty two pounds.

The energy which the Sun releases, each second, is four and one half million

tons. It's been doing it for five billion years of seconds, and will continue for

another five. But when one of those iron core stars goes supernova (collapses to

a neutron star) in three quarters of one second it releases a hundred times as

much energy as the Sun releases in ten billion years. And that's only ten percent

of the mass of that star.

 

It's for not bearing all this in mind, when I talk to my friends, that I now

belatedly apologize.

 

The world is made of energy, and energy is the Underlying Existence

showing through.

 

John L. Dobson, February 10, 2006, Hollywood, California