Einstein's Big Idea PBS

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NOVA PBS

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Shared June 28, 2015

E=mc2 is arguably the world's most famous equation, but how many of us know what it means? This film dramatises the stories of the men and women whose thinking inspired Albert Einstein's greatest scientific achievement. A fine cast includes Aidan McArdle, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Steven Robertson.

The relationship between mass and energy forms the basis of the great scientist's special theory of relativity, published in 1905. The programme explains the significance of Einstein's breakthrough and examines the discoveries made by his predecessors that made it possible. Dramatised reconstructions introduce a rich assortment of characters who left their mark on the scientific world. These include Michael Faraday, a pioneer in the field of electromagnetism whose discoveries led to the development of the electric motor. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, a French aristocrat, proved that total mass is never lost, no matter what physical transformations a substance undergoes. The influential James Clerk Maxwell demonstrated that light is an electromagnetic wave, while Emilie du Châtelet showed that the velocity of an object must be squared when calculating its total kinetic energy. Narrated by John Lithgow, the programme spans over 200 years of history to show that scientific discoveries are rarely made in isolation.