Despite what your graduation speaker might have told you, no one really expects miracles from anyone under 30. Arts, sports and computers are pretty much the only career paths where no one bats an eyelid if you become an expert at a young age.
Of course, this is just a bunch of bullshit. Young people can and constantly come up with plenty of awesome ideas, even when they operate in fields that are seemingly impossible to conquer until you've sprouted several gray hairs. Case in point:
5 Albert Einstein Had Most of His Big Ideas at 26
Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
If you don't know who Albert Einstein is, we're afraid we really can't help you. We mean, who doesn't know the famed 16-time bobsled champion and world-renowned professional wrestler?
To say nothing of his three consecutive spelling bee titles.
But that's not what we're here to talk about today. Right now, we're more about Einstein's more boring endeavors -- namely, the theories of general and special relativity that cemented his reputation as one of the most brilliant minds in history. Now, because every single photo you've ever seen of Einstein looks like the above -- wild white hair, grey mustache, lines around his eyes -- you have to assume all of that work was the culmination of a long life spent doing math stuff. But he came up with all of that shit when he was just 26. That is, right around the time when many of us are realizing our hip-hop career probably isn't going to take off.
The year was 1905, and Albert had just completed his thesis at the University of Zurich, and found employment as a patent examiner, because, fuck you, a paycheck is a paycheck. Being a deeply inquisitive young man, he used his off hours to dabble on theories on physics and matter. You know, every 20-something needs a hobby. But where we lovingly draft fanfic erotica featuring Betty Rubble and Mogo the Living Planet, his after-work endeavors actually plopped out a total of four theories that would become the bulk of his -- and modern science's -- legacy.
He also invented a car door lock that still opens if someone lifts the handle; but, unfortunately, it was lost to the ages.
He started his streak in January and February, casually proving Newton wrong and saying that space and time are not absolute, thus coining the theory of special relativity. In March, Einstein came up with quantum theory, a.k.a. the one about light being all about tiny particles that would eventually become known as photons. Finally, between April and May, he published a couple of papers that proved the thus far impossible-to-verify existence of the atom.
At that point, most of us would have whipped out our sunglasses and ridden into the sunset. Einstein, on the other hand, just pushed on, adding more layers to his theories about light and, finally, creating a little formula regarding the equivalence of energy and matter that you might have heard about:
As made famous by the Animaniacs.
For no-shit-related reasons, the year is now known in physics circles as Annus mirabilis, the Miracle Year. But really, the most impressive thing about it was that Einstein somehow managed to pull this all off at an age, when most of us still can't say with any certainty what we want to be when we grow up.
4 Rene Descartes Comes Up With The Scientific Method and Cogito Ergo Sum in One Night ... at Age 23
mahroch/iStock/Getty Images/Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Rene Descartes was a mathematician, writer, and philosopher. He is known by many as the Father of Modern Philosophy, the creator of the scientific method, and the first man with the facial muscles to keep his eyebrow raised throughout the painting of his picture:
Despite his status as a great thinker, Descartes' early life was actually about as far from your average philosopher's goings-on as possible: Not only was he tragically, irrevocably French, he had a degree in Law from the University of Poitiers in his pocket. To further add to his "not a philosopher" bracket, he joined the Army for a potential career in military engineering in Germany.
One night in November, 1619, at the age of 23, Rene locked himself in a wall stove to keep from the cold; because back in the 17th Century men were men, and if you wanted to stay warm you damn well sat in a stove. Apparently his reward for this particular stunt was Philosophical Insight +3, because while huddling there sweating, he not only had a vision about the unification of all science, but also a strange series of three dreams that we've already described in detail before.
Which may or may not have been the early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning.
When Rene emerged from his private hell-pit in the morning, he had basically formulated his whole schtick: the basics of analytical geometry, an inkling of what would later become the scientific method, and a new catchphrase -- "I think." Presumably after some serious hassling from his drill sergeant, he would soon refine this into a less easily mockable "I think, therefore I am" -- also known as the single most recognizable line in all of philosophy. Again, the man was 23, the age where the most profound quotes most of us can blurt are immediately followed by a lengthy "duuuuuude."