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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Einstein's Big Idea

Portrait of Albert Einstein.
Courtesy of WGBH Digital Library
Portrait of Albert Einstein.

Airs Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Aidan McArdle (left) portrays Albert Einstein, with Shirley Henderson (right) as Mileva Maric in this episode that dramatizes the stories of the men and women whose innovative thinking across four centuries led finally to Einstein's bold breakthrough: E=mc2.
Courtesy of Judy Goldhill
Aidan McArdle (left) portrays Albert Einstein, with Shirley Henderson (right) as Mileva Maric in this episode that dramatizes the stories of the men and women whose innovative thinking across four centuries led finally to Einstein's bold breakthrough: E=mc2.

The Legacy of E = mc2

It's difficult to separate the enormous legacy of E = mc2 from Einstein's legacy as a whole. After all, the equation grew directly out of Einstein's work on special relativity, which is a subset of what most consider his greatest achievement, the theory of general relativity. But Peter Tyson gave it a try anyway.

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Explore the science behind the headlines in PBS’ premier science series. With compelling stories and spectacular visuals, NOVA programs demystify science and technology for viewers of all ages and spotlight people involved in scientific pursuits.

"Einstein's Big Idea" - See a dramatization of the remarkable story behind Albert Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2. Einstein grappled with the implications of his revolutionary special theory of relativity and came to the startling conclusion that mass and energy are one.

Ancestors of E = mc2

Historian David Bodanis subtitled his best seller "E = mc2," "A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation." Like most biographies, it includes stories of its subject's ancestors—in this case, innovative thinkers whose groundbreaking experiments shaped Einstein's understanding of mass, energy, and light. Their pioneering efforts helped make Einstein's great epiphany possible. With Bodanis's permission, we've adapted excerpts of "E = mc2" to assemble snapshots of these ancestors.

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