Brief Communication

World Year of Physics: A direct test of E=mc2

Published online:

Abstract

One of the most striking predictions of Einstein's special theory of relativity is also perhaps the best known formula in all of science: E=mc2. If this equation were found to be even slightly incorrect, the impact would be enormous — given the degree to which special relativity is woven into the theoretical fabric of modern physics and into everyday applications such as global positioning systems. Here we test this mass–energy relationship directly by combining very accurate measurements of atomic-mass difference, Δm, and of γ-ray wavelengths to determine E, the nuclear binding energy, for isotopes of silicon and sulphur. Einstein's relationship is separately confirmed in two tests, which yield a combined result of 1−Δmc2/E=(−1.4±4.4)×10−7, indicating that it holds to a level of at least 0.00004%. To our knowledge, this is the most precise direct test of the famous equation yet described.

  • Subscribe to Nature for full access:

    $199

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

References

  1. 1.

    & Rev. Mod. Phys. 77, 1–107 (2005).

  2. 2.

    et al. Phys. Lett. A 255, 221–229 (1999).

  3. 3.

    et al. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. Phys. Res. A 457, 187–202 (2001).

  4. 4.

    et al. Preprint nucl-ex/0507011 at (2005).

  5. 5.

    , & Science 303, 334–338 (2004).

  6. 6.

    , & Nucl. Phys. A 729, 337–676 (2003).

  7. 7.

    , & Nature 430, 58–61 (2004).

  8. 8.

    NIST Chemistry WebBook, NIST Standard Reference Database Number 69 (eds Linstrom, P. J. & Mallard, W. G.) (National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland, 2003).

  9. 9.

    J. Phys. Chem. Ref. Data Monogr. 9, 1–1951 (1998).

  10. 10.

    , , & Phys. Rev. D 44, R2216–R2219 (1991).

Download references

Author information

Author notes

    • Simon Rainville

    Present address: Département de Physique, Université Laval, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada

Affiliations

  1. *Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT–Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, and Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA

    • Simon Rainville
    • , James K. Thompson
    •  & David E. Pritchard
  2. ‡Department of Physics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4350, USA

    • Edmund G. Myers
  3. §The Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QZ, UK

    • John M. Brown
  4. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899, USA

    • Maynard S. Dewey
    • , Ernest G. Kessler Jr
    •  & Richard D. Deslattes
  5. ¶Institut Laue-Langevin, 38042 Grenoble Cedex, France

    • Hans G. Börner
    • , Michael Jentschel
    •  & Paolo Mutti

Authors

  1. Search for Simon Rainville in:

  2. Search for James K. Thompson in:

  3. Search for Edmund G. Myers in:

  4. Search for John M. Brown in:

  5. Search for Maynard S. Dewey in:

  6. Search for Ernest G. Kessler in:

  7. Search for Richard D. Deslattes in:

  8. Search for Hans G. Börner in:

  9. Search for Michael Jentschel in:

  10. Search for Paolo Mutti in:

  11. Search for David E. Pritchard in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Simon Rainville.

Supplementary information

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.