Once a student asked me, “What did Albert Einstein really do?” Well, here’s a short version of what should actually be a long answer.

Einstein’s most famous equation is E= mc2. This equation tells us that we can change mass into energy. The formula provides the basis of nuclear energy. The letter E indicates the amount of energy, M refers to the mass of an object, and the c term is the speed of light squared. By itself the c2 factor is huge. Its impact can be demonstrated by annihilating just a few atoms of mass. The resulting release of energy is sufficient to wipe out a large city or run a power station.

There is a lot more to relativity than E= mc2. This equation was only an interesting by-product of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Relativity revolutionised physics. It led us to understand that time and space are not absolute fixed quantities. They appear different to people moving at different speeds. However, because the speed difference is usually small, the disparity isn’t noticeable. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, there’s no real difference between acceleration and gravity.

Einstein’s ideas lead to some astounding implications – binding space and time together. When asked the meaning of relativity, Einstein replied, “It was formally believed that if all the material things disappeared out of the universe, time and space would be left.” According to relativity theory, however, time and space disappear together with the things.

Over the years very few experiments have been done to test the predictions of Einstein’s theories of relativity. Perhaps his ideas were so appealing to scientists, that they wanted to believe them, even though they were just theories.

A key aspect of Einstein’s ideas about space and time was the assumption that gravity travelled at the speed of light. He proposed this thesis way back in 1915 in his general theory of relativity. This idea was never properly tested experimentally however. Some scientists continued to claim that gravitational waves could travel faster than the speed of light.

But on one critical night, September 8th 2002, scientists got a chance to measure light from a distant quasar as Jupiter passed by. As the wave of light came close to Jupiter it was deflected by the giant planet’s massive gravitational force, before emerging again and continuing on to earth. The deflection caused an apparent shift in the position of the light source. It was similar to when a stick is put into water and seems shorter than it really is.

By measuring the observed deflection, and factoring in Jupiter’s known mass and orbital velocity, scientists were able to figure out the speed of the gravitational force that bent the light. Their conclusion was that gravity does indeed move at the same speed as light. Thus, Einstein’s instinct about gravity in his theory of relativity was again vindicated.

Einstein’s ideas are more than theories. Experiments are still proving him right.

Einstein’s equations of general relativity reveal that the universe is expanding and decelerating. This implied that the universe began this expansion at a specific finite time in the past. Since Einstein recognized the theological implications of this, “that a beginning requires a Beginner”, he looked for a loophole. He introduced a constant that forced his equations to predict an infinite and static universe.

But then along came Edwin Hubble, the astronomer, who showed Einstein that the galaxies were indeed moving away from us, and the farther you looked, the faster the distant galaxies were receding. Seeing this experimental evidence, that the universe is indeed expanding, Einstein realized that his original equations were correct without the called “cosmological constant.” It was perhaps this more than anything else, that led Einstein to state that there is “a superior reasoning Power behind it all.”

Now with the work of the well known physicist Stephen Hawking, who developed Einstein’s ideas about space and time, we know that in the first instant of creation not only were matter, energy, and space created, but time as well. All this fits well with the Christian understanding, revealed uniquely in the Bible, that God is transcendent. One who exists outside of time.