Faster than you can say, “3.0 times ten to the eighth meters per second”



photo from here

When I was young, I read a biography of Einstein’s life. (If he wasn’t so brilliant, we might know him as Honest Al). In this book, a story was told about young Albert at the ship docks. A worker had Al stand 50 yards away from him and swung a hammer at an anvil. Einstein learned from this experience an awesome wonder for the speed of sound and light. The rest is history.

What really interests me about the speed of light is how it allows us to peek into the past. When we look out into space, we are not seeing what is, but what was. Here is an experiment I would like to see done – Blake and Chris are standing 3.1 miles away, the point where the earth’s surface curves out of sight, and Blake lights a fire. Let’s say Chris is standing on a cell tower. As soon as Blake lights the fire, he says into his cell phone, “Chris, it’s lit.” Does Chris hear the cell phone first or see the fire first? If he does see the light first, how far away would he have to get in order to hear Blake first?


3 thoughts on “Faster than you can say, “3.0 times ten to the eighth meters per second”

  1. I really liked the anecdote about his inspiration to study the speeds of light and sound, and I never knew he worked at the ship docks! It’s stories like these that serve as an inspiration to others who feel powerless. A boy who started out working on the docks went on to come up with his amazing theories and discoveries, and is now remembered as one of the smartest people to have ever lived! It’s really amazing what you can do if you pursue what you love doing.

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