Saturday, April 30, 2005

Yes Margret, I am a science geek...

So it's the 100 year anniversary of what was, for Einstein, a very good year. In 1905, Einstein published three separate papers, any one of which was probably a significant enough achievement to earn him the Nobel Prize (and one of which did win him the Nobel Prize).

I mention this because I just read an interesting article about the fact that a new nearly perfect Einstein Ring has been discovered. What's an Einstein ring? Well, Einstein's general theory of relativity (which was not in one of those 1905 papers, actually - the math behind general relativity was so complicated that it took Einstein another 10 years to work everything out) tells us that gravity causes light to bend. The more gravity, the more the light bends. Einstein later realized that an enormous gravitational field, such as that from a galaxy or a cluster of galaxies, would actually bend light much in the same way as a lens bends light. So, if you have a galaxy close to you and a second one which is further away from you and behind that first galaxy, the closer galaxy can act like a lens, magnifying the image of the further away galaxy. The "ring" part of the name comes from the fact that the magnified image is actually reproduced more than once, in a ring-like pattern around the gravitational lens.

Knowing is half the battle...go Joe!


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