Magnets are the first things children get engrossed with when it comes to science. Even Albert Einstein claimed that magnets were the reason he got interested in physics when playing with them as a child. They are forever mesmerized by its mysterious properties. Here is an opportunity for your children to get fascinated by the science behind the amazing properties of magnetism.
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Einstein's Compass This gift may have launched the genius of Albert Einstein
By: John Shepler
What is it that triggers a spark of genius? Is there some encouragement given at the right time that starts the process or helps it along, or does genius simply find its expression despite all odds?
Young Albert was a quiet boy. "Perhaps too quiet", thought Hermann and Pauline Einstein. He spoke hardly at all until age 3. They might have thought him slow, but there was something else evident. When he did speak, he'd say the most unusual things. At age 2, Pauline promised him a surprise. Albert was elated, thinking she was bringing him some new fascinating toy. But when his mother presented him with his new baby sister Maja, all Albert could do is stare quizzically. Finally, he responded, "where are the wheels?"
When he was 5 years old and sick in bed, Hermann Einstein brought Albert a device that did stir his intellect. It was the first time he had seen a magnetic compass. He lay there shaking and twisting the odd contraption, certain he could fool it into pointing off in a new direction. But try as he might, the compass needle would always find its way back to point in the direction of magnetic north. "A wonder," he thought. The invisible force that guided the compass needle was evidence to Albert that there was more to our world than meets the eye. There was "something behind things, something deeply hidden."
So began Albert Einstein's journey down a road of exploration that he would follow the rest of his life. "I have no special gift," he would say, "I am only passionately curious."
His curiosity tugged at him constantly. He liked to wander the neighbourhood, and his mother encouraged, rather than stifled, his explorations. Even as a young child he was allowed his freedom. He wasn't social and wasn't pushed to be so. He wasn't athletic, and that was OK too.
One advantage Albert Einstein's developing mind enjoyed was the opportunity to interact with adults in an intellectual way. His uncle, an engineer, would come to the house, and Albert would join in the discussions. His thinking was also stimulated by a medical student who came over once a week for dinner and lively banter.
Albert Einstein was more than just curious though. He had a patience and determination that kept him at things longer than most. Other children would build houses of cards up to 4 stories tall before the cards would teeter and the whole structure would come tumbling down. Maja watched in wonder as her brother Albert methodically built his card buildings to 14 stories. Later he would say, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
At age 12, Albert Einstein came upon a set of ideas that impressed him as "holy." It was a booklet on Euclidean plane geometry. The concept that one could prove with certainty theorems of angles and lines that were in no way obvious made an "indescribable impression" on the young student. He adopted mathematics as the tool he would use to pursue his curiosity and prove what he would discover about the behaviour of the universe.
He was convinced that beauty lies in the simplistic. "When the solution is simple," he said, "God is answering." Perhaps this insight was the real empowerment of his genius. Albert Einstein looked for the beauty of simplicity in the apparent complexity of nature and saw truths that eluded others. While the expression of his mathematics might be accessible to only a few proficient in the science, Albert could condense the essence of his thoughts so anyone could understand.
For instance, his theories of relativity revolutionized science and unseated the laws of Newton that were believed to be a complete description of nature for hundreds of years. Yet when pressed for an example that people could relate to, he comes up with this: "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. THAT's relativity."
Albert Einstein's wealth of new ideas peaked while he was still a young man of 26, working as a clerk in the Swiss Patent Office and pursuing mathematics and science on his own. In 1905 he wrote 3 fundamental papers on the nature of light, a proof of atoms, the special theory of relativity and the famous equation of atomic power: E=mc2. For the next 20 years, the curiosity that was sparked by wanting to know what controlled the compass needle and his persistence to keep pushing for the simple answers led him to connect space and time and find a new state of matter. What was his ultimate quest?
"I want to know how God created this world...I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details."
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