Celebrating 100 years of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity

Published: 
19 November 2015

In November 1915, Albert Einstein revolutionised how the world thinks about space, time, mass, energy and gravity. It was 100 years ago that his Theory of General Relativity explained all gravitational phenomena we know.

‘It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’ Albert Einstein commented on his most famous work, the theory of relativity.

The Theory of General Relativity

Einstein once said, ‘everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ However, understanding the Theory of General Relativity is not a simple matter.

The Theory of General Relativity is the notion that the laws of physics are the same everywhere. General relativity adds gravity to the Theory of Special Relativity (E=mc²)* and explains that gravity, as well as motion, can affect the behaviour of objects in space and time. It can be used to predict everything from the existence of black holes or that light will bend due to gravity.

Still confused? Check out these infographics of 12 things to know about relativity and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explained.

*E is energy, m is mass and c is light.

Light deflection by the sun

The year 2015 also marks the International Year of Light and Light-based technologies and through major scientific discoveries, such as the theory of general relativity, light has helped us to see and better understand the universe.

Several tests of general relativity were based around light, and the first success of the theory came from the proof of it through the observation of the light deflection by the sun. Today light deflection by astrophysical objects is a tool successfully used to explore the Universe.

One of the more interesting predictions of general relativity was not to do with light, but rather the absence of light. Black holes are so dense that not even light can escape their strong gravitational field.

The relationship between light and general relativity is used every time we use a GPS device, which determines our position using general relativistic effects.

Learn about some other ways we see relativity in our daily lives.

Albert Einstein and intellectual property (IP)

Einstein worked in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland as a Technical Expert where he examined inventions applications for patentability, stimulating his natural critical tendency. While working at the patent office, Einstein did some of the most creative work of his life including applying the quantum theory, explaining the photoelectric effect, proving the existence of atoms and introducing the theory of relativity.

His work in the patent office never really left him, and he created over 50 patents in collaboration with others.

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