Shown above is E=mc², a book authored by science writer David Bodanis about the 1905 formulation of Albert Einstein.

A biography of the world’s most famous equation

Asked if there was something that she wanted to know, American actress Cameron Diaz said in a press interview that she would like to know what E=mc² really means.

After its announcement in 1905, the formulation of Albert Einstein became one of the world’s most famous equations. However, not many appear to understand its genuine meaning.

Written by science author David Bodanis, “E=mc²” is a book designed to help Cameron Diaz and folks understand the equation by offering its biography.

Toward that end, he explains how Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell founded the law of energy conservation and how Antoine Lavoisier worked on the law of mass conservation.

After that, he tries to show why the speed of light is included in the famous equation so as to demonstrate the nature of the three symbols in the Einstein formulation.

Then, he attempts to explain the linkage of energy to mass.

In a nutshell, mass is the ultimate type of condensed or concentrated energy, while energy is what billows out as an alternate form of mass under the right circumstances.

After coming up with details on the equation’s birth, the writer follows its childhood, adolescence, and adulthood just as any biography is supposed to do.

Bodanis explores the stories of how the Einstein equation was proved across the universe and used for nuclear weapons and our ordinary household devices like televisions or smoke alarms.

In particular, he notes that Germany almost beat the United States in the competition to develop atomic bombs during World War II in the early 1940s.

He delves into the German projects to develop atomic weapons headed by the country’s physicist Werner Heisenberg and the efforts of the Allied Forces to prevent them.

“The history is often presented as if America’s victory were inevitable, due to the country’s industrial superiority,” Bodanis writes.

“But it turns out that Germany came dangerously closer to success than is often realized.”

Kevin Chung studied literature in Seoul. He is interested in various areas. He can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.