The Power of Tiny Things

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 10.11.05
  • NOVA

If you could convert the mass of a paper clip entirely to energy, how big a punch would it pack? Einstein's most famous equation, E = mc2, indicates the calculation is straightforward: the energy released would be equivalent to the mass times the speed of light squared. Yet the answer is far from intuitive because, for one thing, the speed of light is immense—670 million mph—making the speed of light squared almost inconceivable. In this quiz, discover the answer and explore other examples of what scientists call mass-energy equivalence.

Launch Interactive Printable Version

Einstein's E = mc2 means that even a penny packs a gigantic punch. See how much in this quiz.


Special Thanks

Michael Kelsey, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
George Stephans, MIT


(atomic explosion)
Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy
(paper clip, New York skyline, light bulb)
© iStockphoto
(uranium ore, lump of coal)
Courtesy USGS/House Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources
Courtesy Dr. Ralf Wagner/Wikimedia Commons
(Earth and sun from space)
Courtesy NASA
(solar flares, space shuttle launch)
Courtesy NASA/JPL
Courtesy U.S. Mint
(Einstein's house)
Courtesy Dr. Y. S. Kim
(Earth from space)
Courtesy NASA

Related Links

  • Einstein's Big Idea

    The story behind the world's most famous equation, E = mc2

  • Einstein Revealed

    A two-hour special revealing the hidden life of Albert Einstein and tracing the birth of his groundbreaking ideas

  • Einstein Quotes

    Seven thought-provoking statements from history's most famous scientist

  • Einstein the Nobody

    Just before his "miracle year" of 1905, the patent clerk's career prospects looked bleak.


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