The Theory of Relativity and Its Influence on Scientific Thought

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Every one now admits that the Ptolemaic system, which regarded the earth as the centre of all things; belongs to the dark ages. But to our dismay we have discovered that the same geocentric outlook still permeates modern physics through and through, unsuspected until recently. It has been left to Einstein to carry forward the revolution begun by Copernicus — to free our con ception of nature from the terrestrial bias imported into it by the limitations of our earthbound experience. To achieve a more neutral point of view we have to imagine a visit to some other heavenly body. That is a theme which has attracted the popular novelist, and we often smile at his mistakes when sooner or later he forgets where he is supposed to be and endows his voyagers with some purely terrestrial appanage impossible on the star they are visiting. But scientific men, who have not the novelist's licence, have made the same blunder. When, following Copernicus, they station themselves on J the sun, they do not realize that they must leave behind a certain purely terrestrial appanage, namely, the frame of space and time in which men on this earth are accus tomed to locate the events that happen. It is true that the observer on the sun will still locate his experiences in a frame of space and time, if he uses the same faculties of perception and the same methods of scientific measure ment as on the earth but the solar frame of space and time is not precisely the same as the terrestrial frame, as we shall presently see.

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