Einstein is hot: The outreach website Einstein Online welcomes its 500,000th visitor

February 20, 2007

One year after the end of the World Year of Physics (and Germany’s “Einstein Year”), interest in Einstein’s scientific heritage is still going strong—and nobody knows this better than the organizers of Einstein Online, a web project of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany which has recently welcomed its 500,000th visitor. You’ve heard of Wikipedia, the cooperative web alternative to old-style encyclopedias; now meet Einstein Online, the Internet alternative to popular science books in which international scientist working on relativistic physics—Einstein’s heirs—present their research to a wider audience, from the search for extra dimensions to the “hairstyles” of black holes.

Originally an outreach website launched by the Albert Einstein Institute on the occasion of the World Year of Physics 2005, the project has taken on a life of its own and is now a large scale international cooperation. Ever growing, the project now has reached the dimensions of a full-scale science book, with more than 350 pages of text and over 200 images and animations, many of them the contributions by scientists from more than a dozen of the world’s leading research institutions in the field of relativistic physics, from the California Institute of Technology and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to the Max Planck Institutes for Astrophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich. Nearly 30,000 times per month, visitors drop in to read about string theory, cosmology and the inescapable attraction of black holes—over half a million visits since the website’s launch in early 2005.

The website in brief:

“Elementary Einstein” is aimed at the first-time visitor—in six basic chapters, it gives a whirlwind tour of Einstein’s theories of relativity and their coolest applications, from ripples in space-time to cosmology, from curved space to black holes. Ready for more Einstein? Then it’s onwards to the “Spotlights on relativity”—51 (and counting) self-contained texts, each of which focuses on one particularly interesting aspect of relativistic physics. Ever wondered what it would be like to descend into a black hole? How the first chemical elements were cooked up right after the big bang? How scientist can find out what’s going on inside an exploding star (hint: they’re trying to catch the tiny ripples in space produced in such explosions)? You’re sure to find answers—well illustrated and to the point, no previous physics knowledge required—in this ever-expanding section of Einstein Online.

The Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), host of the Einstein Online website, is the largest international research center for relativistic physics. Research at the institute ranges from gravitational wave physics to quantum gravity. In addition to Einstein Online, the institute is involved in the pioneering electronic publishing effort “Living reviews in relativity”, a free online journal providing the relativity community with up-to-date review articles.

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