Redshifts, Einstein and the Beginning

In 1905, Einstein published his theory of special relativity: E = mc2. Energy (E) equals mass (M) times the speed of light squared.

However, Einstein was a bit troubled with his theory, as it did not allow for acceleration. He then spent the next ten years, trying to come up with a way to do so. In 1915, he published his general theory of relativity.

Einstein’s theories had tremendous implications. They suggested a dynamic universe. Massive objects impacted space and time. For example, a person living on a space station far from the Earth will age more slowly than a person living on Earth. (Think about that for a while.)

But Einstein, like many other physicists of his time, did not want to accept the BIG implication of his theories: the universe had a beginning and it was expanding. The universe was not just a static void filled with stars. He even attempted to include the concept of a cosmological constant to deal with the problem of a static universe collapsing in on itself.

In 1931, while in the United States, Einstein accepted an invitation by Edwin Hubble to observe and consider his discoveries of an expanding universe. Most important to his discoveries was the tiny changes in the light from distant galaxies, known as redshifts. These redshifts allowed scientists to measure the speed of rotation of the distant galaxies. (Much like a police radar.) After looking through Hubble’s massive, revolutionary telescope, Einstein admitted: “The red shift of distant nebulae has smashed my old construction like a hammer blow.”

The red shift of distant nebulae has smashed my old construction like a hammer blow.

Albert Einstein

Einstein had been wrong about the universe. And his “work-around” known as the cosmological constant was one of his biggest mistakes as a scientists.

The universe was indeed expanding from a beginning point in time and space.

A cosmic moment undeniable.

Photo: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (Caltech), and the HUDF 2012 Team.