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Broadcast: February 18, 2005
Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
Some Grammy-winning music ...
A question about American museums ...
And a report about a scientific anniversary.
One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein published several papers that caused a revolution in scientific thought. Now physicists and others are celebrating Einstein's "miracle year." Shep O’Neal has more.
SHEP O'NEAL: The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics has declared two thousand five the World Year of Physics. The United Nations is honoring the International Year of Physics. And in Einstein’s birthplace, Germany, officials have declared this the Einstein Anniversary Year.
In nineteen-oh-five, Albert Einstein began a scientific discussion that continues today. It involves the nature of the universe. Einstein presented ideas that went against hundreds of years of scientific thought.
In his Special Theory of Relativity, he argued that time and space are conditional properties. They depend on the position of the observer. Observers moving at different speeds, for example, experience space and time differently. Einstein said only the speed of light and the laws of nature are unconditional.
Albert Einstein was just twenty-six years old when he published this theory in nineteen-oh-five. Another of his papers from that year helped prove the existence of atoms. Still another argued that light acts as if made of particles, not waves as scientists thought. Einstein later won a Nobel Prize for that paper.
His ideas about light led to the development of quantum theory. This describes how energy and matter act at the level of atoms and parts of atoms. Quantum theory guides most physics research today.
Events to celebrate the anniversary include the usual, like scientific conferences and museum shows, but also the unusual. In Tokyo, dancers and actors will perform a play about Einstein in Noh, traditional Japanese theater.
This year is also the fiftieth anniversary of Einstein's death. He died on April eighteenth, nineteen fifty-five, in Princeton, New Jersey, his home for many years.
On the night of this April eighteenth, people in Princeton are supposed to turn off their lights. From the darkness, a light is to shine into the sky. This will signal the start of an event called “Physics Enlightens the World.” The goal is to create an unbroken signal around the world.
Flashes of light will travel westward across the United States. Then a signal will go by cable under the Pacific Ocean to East Asia and Oceania. The light will continue to China, then divide into two paths. The northern path will include Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The southern path will go through India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.
The two paths will join again in Austria and go through Switzerland to France. From there, a signal will be sent by cable under the Atlantic to Princeton. The plan is for the signal to arrive exactly twenty-four hours after the relay began.
Organizers say anyone in any country can take part. The aim is to have stations close enough so that each one can see the light of the one before it. People are being urged to think of ways to send a signal with light while obeying local laws and avoiding light pollution.
Internet users can learn more about this and other events during the World Year of Physics at w-y-p2005 dot o-r-g (wyp2005.org).
And to learn more about Albert Einstein, listen Wednesday to the VOA Special English program, EXPLORATIONS.
DOUG JOHNSON: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Bangladesh. M.H. Mamun Rashid asks about the number of museums in the United States and which one is the largest.
Well, as far as the largest, we could not get an answer, not even from the American Association of Museums. In fact, that organization points out that there is not even a simple answer to the question, "what is a museum?" What museums all have in common, it says, is that they aid the public "by collecting, preserving and interpreting the things of this world." This definition covers many different kinds of places -- including zoos.
The American Association of Museums says it knows of only two attempts to count all the museums in the country. One was in nineteen ninety-eight, the other in two thousand three. Both studies counted between fifteen thousand and sixteen thousand museums.
Another study in two thousand three looked for the most popular kinds of museums in the United States. It found that zoos get the most visitors by far. Next come science and technology museums, followed by arboretums and botanical gardens. At the bottom of the list are history museums.
Did you see the Grammy Awards last Sunday? In case you missed the winners in Los Angeles, here is Faith Lapidus with some of the results.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The most Grammys this year, eight, went to "Genius Loves Company," the final album by Ray Charles and friends. He died last June at the age of seventy-three. Honors for "Genius Loves Company" include album of the year and record of the year.
The record of the year is this song performed by Ray Charles and Norah Jones, called “Here We Go Again.”
Among other nominees, Green Day won the Grammy for best rock album for "American Idiot."
And members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave John Mayer song-of-the-year honors for "Daughters."
DOUG JOHNSON: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program this week.
Our show was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. And for the last time, Paul Thompson was the producer. He will be missed. Our engineer was Efeem Drucker.
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Please join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.