Science Of...

A Teenager Won $250,000 For His Video Explanation Of Einstein's Special Theory Of Relativity

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What were you doing when you were 18 years old? If we had to guess, we'd say you probably weren't winning hundreds of thousands of dollars for a simple explanation one of Albert Einstein's theories. Unless you're Ryan Chester. In that case, hi Ryan!


Kids These Days, Ya Know?

In 2015, Ryan Chester made a 7-minute video explaining Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. You know, as teenagers are wont to do. Chester's video won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, earning a $400,000 prize. Of this money, Chester took home a $250,000 scholarship; his suburban Cleveland school got $100,000 for a new science lab; and Chester's favorite teacher, Richard Nestoff, a physics teacher at North Royalton High, went away with $50,000. Not too shabby for a YouTube clip.

If you need to be convinced that Chester's video is worth all this cash, just check it out below. Spoiler: Yes, it really is that good. In the award-winning video, Chester uses real-life demonstrations to describe the otherwise complex science term soup that is Einstein's ground-breaking 1905 theory. He uses a bowl of popcorn, a moving van, cute on-screen graphics, and more to make this heady topic relatable, clear, and — dare we say it? — simple.

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Breakthrough Junior Challenge: Some Cool Ways of Looking at the Special Theory of Relativity

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The first postulate of Einstein's special theory of relativity states that the laws of physics remain the same in a reference frame that is at rest. 00:20

  2. Light does not travel through a medium, and so maintains a constant speed regardless of its reference frame. 03:43

  3. Time dilation can be explained by the equation (speed = distance/time). 04:41

There's Always Next Year...

Chester won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, organized by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, in its inaugural year. The challenge is an international competition that aims to inspire students between the ages of 13 and 18 to think creatively about science and encourage the next generation of scientists and science communicators. "Breakthroughs in science and math often start with a new way of seeing things," Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, one of the challenge's sponsors, said in a press release. "The goal of this prize is to inspire young people to explain big ideas in math and science in new and novel ways, possibly opening all of our minds to the mysteries of the universe and leading to the breakthroughs of the future!"

If all this teen-genius stuff is making you feel like you've passed your prime, fear not. Remind yourself of these huge scientific breakthroughs that occurred later in life for some great thinkers. See? It's never too early — or too late.

To get a better understanding of everybody's favorite genius, check out the biography "Einstein: His Life and Universe" by Walter Isaacson. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible.