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391 visualizzazioni392 pagineGuide Book

Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC)

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RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

EDITED

BY

J. MALCOLM

ASSOCIATE

EDITOR,

BIRD

"SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN"

METHUEN 36 ESSEX

"

CO.

LTD.

STREET

W.C

LONDON

First

Published

in

Great

Britain

in

1921

PREFACE

standing obstacleswhich the layman findsto underEinstein's relativity theories lie not so selves of much in the inherent difficulty these theories themin the difficulty preparing the mind for as of difficult than their reception. The theory is no more development of comparable depth; itis any scientific as not so difficult some of these. But itis a fact that for a decent understanding of it,a large background habit of thought knowledge and scientific of scientific is essential. The bulk of the writers who have attempte to explain Einstein to the general reader have not realized the great gulf which liesbetween

THE

the mental processes of the trained mathematician They have not in the street. and those of the man be personally perceived that the lay reader must from the vestibule of conducted for a long distance to Einstein, the temple of science before he comes by any possibility make this journeynaided. The result has been to pitchfork u the reader into the intricaciesof the out with-

and

that he

cannot

subject

adequate preparation. The present volume avoids this mistake with the in tion It avoids it, fact,with such deliberacare. utmost it in order to say a word in explato make as nation glance seem, an extraordinary of what will at first to be arrangement of material. It was expected, doubtless,that this book would open with a brief statement of of the genesis and the outcome

iii.

IV.

PREFACE

the Einstein Prize Essay Contest for the $5,000 It was Higgins. prize otiered by Mr. Eugene doubtless to be expected that, after this had been dismissed,the winning essay would be given the post of honor in advance of all other material bearing the reader actually on the Einstein theories. When observes that this has not been done, he will by expect a word of explanation; and it is all means mainly for the purpose of giving this that we make these introductory remarks. The essays submitted in the contest, and in particular few disappointed readers the comments of a Mr. Bolton's prize essay, make upon quite plain have been anticipated that in the small what might compass of 3,000 words it is not possible both to tivity prepare the reader's mind for a discussion of Relaand to give a discussion that shall be adequate. Mr. Bolton himself, in replying to a protest that he had not done allthis, has used the word "miracle" No miracle was we think it a well-advised one. has expected as a result of the contest, and none been achieved. But in awarding the prize, the Judgeshad to decide whether It was the best preliminar best discussion that was or the exposition They decided, and rightly we believe, that wanted.

"

"

the award should go to an actual statement of Einstein theories are and what they do, what the introduction,however well rather than to a mere conceived and well executed the latter might be. Nevertheless, we eyes to a should be closing our did not recognize that, very obvious fact if we without something in the way of preparation, the general reader is not going to pursue Mr. Bolton's

PREFACE

Vi

this subject, profit. with duceme forcefully to hold out inIt is in order the more himself to this preparato him to tion subject that we place at the head of the book the chapters designed to give it to him. Chapter II.is intended so to bring the mind of the lems reader into contact with certain philosophical probpresented to us by our experiences with the external world and our efforts to learn the facts of tivity about it,that he may approach the subject relait occupies with an appreciation of the place a phase as of human thought and a pillar of the Until the reader is aware structure. of the scientific existence of these problems and the directions taken by the efforts, successful and unsuccessful, to unravel he is not equipped to comprehend the them, doctrine of relativity all; he is in much the same at case as a child whose education had reached only the prim.er stage, if asked to read the masterpieces of literature. He lacks not alone the vocabulary, but equally the mental background on which the vocabulary isbased. It will be noted that in this and the chapters immediat following it, the Editor has supplied material freely. The obvious interpretationIs that satisfactory material covering the desired ground sure are was not found in any of the essays; for we

essay,

or

on

the scope and number of the credited excerpts will make it clear that all contributions were adequately This scrutinized in search of available passages. "inadequacy" of the competing essays has been severely commented upon by several correspondents, and the inference drawn that as a v/hole the offerings

Vi.

were

PREFACE

Such a viewpoint is wholly The essays which paid to unjust the contestants. serious attention to the business of paving the way to relativitynecessarily did so at the expense of completeness in the later paragraphs where specific in order. explanation of the Einstein theories was by all means Mr. Law, whose essay was the best of those that gave much space to introductory remarks, found himself left with only 600 words in which to that he had been introducing. The tellwhat it was appear to have faced of the contestants

not

up to the mark.

majority

the

same

matter which the question as to subject Judgesfaced, and to have reached the same decision. They accordingly devoted their attention toward the prize, rather than toward the production of an essay that would best supplement that of the winner. in these prelimiIt is for thisvery reason that, nary chapters,so large a proportion of the material has had to be supplied by the Editor; and this very circumstance is a tribute to the good judgment of for criticism the competitors, rather than ground of their v/ork. The general introduction of Chapter II, out of the way, Chapters III. and IV. take up the business of leading the reader into the actual subjectf o The is here developed in what relativity. subject be called the historicalorder in may ^the order Both which it took form in Einstein's own mind. in and outside the contest of which this book is the a outcome, o majorityf those who have written on have followed this order, which is indeed relativity

"

very

to

natural one and one well calculated to give the rather surprising assumptions of relativity

PREFACE

VU.

reasonableness which they might well appear to the lay mind to lack if laid down more arbitrarily. In these two chapters no effortis made is made to carry beyond the formulation of the Special the argument Principle of the relativityof uniform motion, but this principle is developed in considerably more left entirely detail than would be the case if it were for this is to the competing essayists. The reason

a

again that we are dealing with a phase of the subject plete which is of subordinate importance so far as a comGeneral Theory of Relativity statement of the is concerned, but which is of the greatest significance in connection with the effortof the layman to acquire the proper preliminary orientation toward the larger

subject.

Chapter V. goes back again to general ground. Among the ideas which the competing essayistswere forced to introauce into their text on a liberal scale mulatio The entire foris that of non-Euclidean geometry. of the General Theory of Relativity is in fact an exercise in this. The essayists good, bad quite unanimous in their alike were and indifferent

"

"

decision that this was one thing which the reader the responsibility acquiring of would have to assume in for himself. Certainly they were justifiedthis; for the Editor has been able to explain what nonEuclidean geometry is only by using up considerably had for an entire more space than the contestants No effort has been made to set forth any essay. of the detailsof any of the various non-Euclidean geometries; it has simply been the aim to draw the dividing line between Euclidean and non-Euclidean, the existence of the latter appear and to make

yill.

PREFACE

to talk reasonable, so that when the essayistscome about it the reader will not feel hopelessly at sea. In other words, this is another case of providing the mental background, but on such a scale that it has seemed necessary to give a separate chapter to it. in Chapter VI. completes the preliminary course the fundamentals of relativityby tying up together the findings of Chapter V. and those of Chapters less of a lastIII. and IV. It represents more or minute change of plan; for while it had been the Editor's intent from the beginning to place the material of Chapters II.-V. in itspresent position, his preliminary impression would have been that the work of the present Chapter VI. would be adequately done by the essayists themselves. His reading of the essays, however, convinced him that it had not so been done that with the possible exception of Mr. Francis, the essayistsdid not make either a serious

"

to successfuleffort show the organic connection btween the Speci 1 Theory of Relativity and the Minkowski space-time structure, or the utter futility

or

a

of trying to reconcile ourselves to the results of the former without employing the ideas of the latter. So Chapter VI. was supplied to make good this deficiency, and to complete the mental equipment

which the reader requires for his battle with the General Theory. In laying down a set of general principles to govern the award of the prize, one of the first portan things considered by the Judgeswas the relativeimof the Special and the General Theories. It was their opinion that no essay could possibly qualify for the prize which did not very distinctly

PREFACE

IX.

give to the General Theory the center of the stage ; and that in fact discussion of the Special Theory was portion pertinent only so long as it contributed, in proto the space assigned it,to the attack upon The same the main subject. principle has been employed in selecting essays for complete or substantia complete reproduction in this volume. Writers who dealt with the Special Theory in any than as a preliminary step toward the other sense ductory General Theory have been relegated to the introchapters, where such excerpts from their found usable. The work have been used as were distinction of publication under name and title is consistently and spereserved for those who wrote cifical larger upon the ceptio subject with the one exDr. Russell, whose of exposition of the SpecialTheory is so far the best of those submitted have time so distinctivethat we and at the same concluded itwill appear to better adv^antage by itself than as a part of Chapters III. and IV. Following after Mr. Bolton's essay we have tried to arrange the various contributions,not at all in any order of merit, but in the order that will make connected reading of the book most nearly possible and profitable. Each essay should be made easier of reading by the examination of those preceding It; at the same time each, by the choice of ground covered and by the emphasis on points not brought out sharply by Its predecessors, should throw new light upon these predecessors. The reader will find that no two of the essays come given thus In full duplicate or even close to been duplicating one another. They have of course

"

X.

PREFACE

selectedwith this in view; each represents the best the same character. of several essays of substantially here, but conNot all of them require comment cerning be said. some of them a word may well Mr. Francis, we believe,has succeeded in packing more substance into his 3,000 words than any other closer than anybody competitor. Mr. Elliot has come in terms else to really explaini-ngrelativity familiar to everybody, without asking the reader mand deto enlarge his vocabulary and with a minimum far as enlarging his mental outlook is conso cerned. Were itnot for certain conspicuous defects, his essay would probably have taken the prize. In to we justice the Judges, should state that we have taken the liberty of eliminating Mr. Elliot's concluding was the m.ost objectionabl paragraph, which feature of his essay. Dr. Dushman the one which we chose for his title fore, adopted for this book. It became necessary, therefor us to find a new titlefor his essay; aside from this instance,the main titles appearing at the heads of the various complete essays are those of have In practically the authors. The sub-titles every instance been supplied editorially. Dr. Pickering submitted two essays, one written from the viewpoint of the physicist, the other from To make each complete, he that of the astronomer. naturally found it necessary to duplicate between them certain introductory and general material. We have run the two essays together into a tive, singlenarrawith the elimination of thisduplicated material; has been no aside from this blue-penciling alteration made in Dr. Pickering's text. This text however

Since

that

this preface

was

printed, it has

to

been

thought

readers

might

hke

form

their

own

opinion

of

"

we

"

paragraph.

a as new

It is as

follows:

an

learn

a

discipline in

as

school

old

Philosophy

he

the is the pivot

man

assumes

that

and

all

were

arbiter of the

Universe,

on

whch

created people

:

for which

even

all things

among

and

the

masses

civilized

are

still deeply

and

arrogant

can

sunk

in this state

sumptuous of pre-

folly.

a

The

philosophy

of science alone

so

deepl}' rooted

vice of thought,

mind

; and

the

more Principle of Relativity teaches us once the in the presence of the triflinginsignificance of man

unspeakable

m^^steries of Nature."

tELATlVITV

AND

GRAVITATION

(p. X.)

PREFACE

XI.

that of several served as the basis of blue-penciling as indicated in the foot notes. other contestants, or For the reader who is qualified who can qualify to understand it,Dr. Murnaghan's essay is perhaps the most illuminating of all. Even the reader who does not understand it allwill realize that itsauthor freshness of viewpoint and brings to the a subject an of which are rather lacking originality treatment in some of the pubhshed essays, and which it will conspicuously lacking in readily be understood were Dr. Mura good many of the unpublished ones. closest to naghan of all the competitors has come making a contribution to science as well as to the semi-popular literature of science. In the composite chapters, the brackets followed by reference numbers have been used as the most vidual practicable means of Identifying the various indicontributions. We believe that this part of the text can be read without allowing the frequent occurrence of these symbols to distractthe eye. As

to

the references themselves, the asteriskmarks the contributions the Editor. The numbers are those of attached to the essays in order of and at the time of their receipt;It has been more convenient to use

to assign consecutive numbers to the "these than sages quoted essays. The several numbers identify pasfrom the essays of the following contestants :

10: 18: 24: SO: 33: S5:

47:

England. Cam'bridge, Schlick, University Prof. Moritz of Rostock, Germany. C. E. Rose, M.E., Little Rock, Ark. Gartelmann, Bremen, Germany. H. University, Baltimore. Prof. Joseph S. Ames, Johns Hopkins James O. G. Gibbons. East OranRC, N. J. Charles H. Burr, Philadelpihia. L. F. H. de Miffonis. B.A.. C.E., Ottawa. Canada. Kansas City. Charles A. Brunn,

Frederick W. L. L. Whyte,

Shurlock,

DeAy,

EngUand.

xii.

106: 114: 115: 116: 131: 125: 130: 135: 189: 141: 147:

149: 150: 152: 156: 165: 178: 179: 182:

PREFACE

194: 197: 198: 216:

B20:

221: 223: 227: 229: 231: 832: 235: 263: 264: 267: 272: 883:

A.I.E.E.. Birminsrham. Ala. Syracuse W. P. Graham. University, Syracuse, N. Y, Dean Mauley, London. Rev. George Thomas Delft, Netherlands. Prof. J. A. Schouten, Cal. F. Burrill, Berkeley, Elwyn Mawr, Burr. Bryn Pa. Dorothy C. W. Kanolt, Bureau of Standards, Washington. New Stevenson. York. Robert New York. Schorsch, Leopold Calif. C. Mott-'Smith, Los Angelee, Dr. M. O. A. Clarke. Columbus. Edward Philadelphia. Partridge, A. Edward Col. John Millis. U. S. A.. Chicago. Detroit. F. Marsteller, George D. B. Hall. Cincinnati. York, Pa. Francis Farquhar, O. Dayton. de Bothezat, Dr. George University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore. A. E. Caswell, Professor Conn. London, New C. E. Dimick. D. C. Washineton, Earl R. Evans, College, Hanover, N. H. E. Gilbert. Dartmouth Norman York. New A. d'Abro. Cincinnati. L. M. Alexander, O. East Cleveland, W. Reed. Kenneth College, Woolwicli, England. Prof. E. N. da C. Andrad,e, Ordnance Carolina, University H. Patterson, Andrew Professor of North Hill. N. C. Chapel Mass. College, Worcester, Clark Gordon Webster, Prof. Arthur University, N. J. B. Roberts, Princeton Walter van Austin, Tex. Batchelder. M. Paul Wood, Prof. R. W. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. B.Sc, Glasgow. E. P. Fairbairn, M.C.. N. J. Hoboken. R. F. Deimel, U. S. N., Philadelphia. Angus, Mark Lieut. W. Kansas City. Richardson, Adams Edward Prof. William Benjamin Smith, Tulane University, New Orleaxw. London. James Rice. University of London. Mass. Pratt, Lynn, Hemmenway William Mass. Bedford, New Lindsay, R. Bruce E. Law, Montclair, N. J. Frank

In addition to the specific credit given by these references for specificallyquoted passages, the Editor feelsthat he ought to acknowledge his general indebtedness to the competing essayists, collectively, for the many ideas which he has taken away from their text to clothe in his own words. This does that the Editor has undertaken generally not mean to improve upon the language of the competitors, but merely that the reading of all their essays has given him many ideas of such complex originthat he he would. could not assign creditif

Table of Contents

I." The

to

11.

"

III.

"

IV."

V.

"

VI.

"

VII."

Vm."

'

IX.

"

^

^

X.

"

XI."

Einstein $5,000 Prize: How the Contest Came be Held, and Some the Details of Its Conduct. of By the Editor 1 ^The World-^And Us: An Introductory Discussion of the Philosophy of Relativity, and of the Mechanism Contact with Time By of our and Space. various the Editor contributors and 19 ^The Relativity of Uniform Motion: Classical Ideas on the Subject; the Ether and the Apparent Possibility Absolute Motion; Experiment the Michelson-Morley of and the Final Negation of this possibility. By various 47 contributors and the Editor The Special Theory Relativity: What Einstein's of Study of Uniform Motion Tells Us About Time and Space and the Nature of the External Reality. By the Editor 76 various contributors and Parallel Postulate: Modem ^That Geometric Methods; Line Between the Dividing Euclidean Nonand Euclidean; and the Significance of the Latter. By the Editor Ill The Space-Time Continuum: Minkowski's World of Events, and the Way in Which It Fits Into Einstein's Structure. By the Editor and a few contributors 141 Relativity : The Wuinmg Essay in the Contest for the Eugene Higgins Lyndon $5,000 Prize. By Bolton, British Patent Office, London 169 The New Concepts of Time Space: The Essay in and Behalf of Which the Greatest Number of Dissenting Opinions Have Been Recorded. By MontgomeryFrancis, New York 181 ^The Pruiciple of Relativity: A Statement of What it is All About, in Ideas of One Syllable. By Hugh Elliot, Chiselhurst, Kent, England 195 Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline Einstein's of Theory versity of Gtfteral Relativity. By W. de Sitter, UniLeyden 206 of The Principle of General Relativity: How Einstein, to Degree Never Before Equalled, Isolates the External a Reality from the Observer's Contribution. By E. T. Bell, University of Seattle ,,,,,,,,,, 218

_"" ziu.

XIV.

CONTENTS

XH.

"

Xni.

"

XTV."

XV.

"

XVI.

"

XVn."

XVIU."

Vs. Geometry : How EinsteinHas Substituted the for the First in Connection with the Cause of Schenectady 230 Gravitation. By Saul Dushman, in which An Introduction to Relativity: A Treatment are the Mathematical Connections of Einstein's Work Brought Out More Strongly and More Successfullythan Usual in a Popular Explanation. By Harold T. Davis, 240 University of Wisconsin Concepts for Old: What the World Looks Like New After Einstein Has Had His Way with It. By John R. N., London Commander G. McHardy, 251 New World: A Universe in Which Geometry Takes ^The the Place of Physics, and Curvature that of Force. By B.Sc., London George Frederick Hemens, M.C, 265 The Quest of the Absolute: Modern Developments in Supplied by Theoretical Physics, and the Climax By Dr. Francis D. Mumaghan, kins HopEinstein. Johns University, Baltimore 276 The Physical Side of Relativity: The Immediate Contacts between Einstein's Theories and Current Physics Astronomy. By Professor Wniiam H. Pickering, and College Observatory, Mandeville, Jamaica...287 Harvard The Practical Significance of Rektivity: The Best Discussion AH the Competing the Special Theory Among of Essays. By Prof. Henry Norris Russell, Princeton University

^Force Second 306 Einstein'sTheory of Relativity: A Simple Explanation T. of His Postulates and Their Consequences. By Royds, Kodaikanal Observatory, India 318 The Discussion of Theory ^Einstein's of Gravitation: the General Theory and Its Most Important Applicaversity tion, from the Essay by Prof. W. F. G. Swann, UniMinnesota, Minneapolis 327 of The Equivalence Hypothesis: The Discussion of This, Witih Its Difficulties and the Manner in Which Einstein Has Resolved Them, from the Essay by Prof. E. N. da C. Andrade, Ordnance College, Woolwich, England 334 ^The General Theory : Fragments of Particular Merit By on This Phase of the Suibject. Various Contributors338

XIX.

"

XX.

"

^

XXI.

"

XXn.

"

I.

THE

How

THE

OF

EINSTEIN

Contest Came Details the

BY

$5,000 PRIZE

to

of

be

its

Held, Conduct

and

Some

the

editor

donor who was interested in the spread of correct scientific "*" ideas a prize offered through the Scientific American of $500 for the best essay explaining,in simple nontechnica language, that paradise of mathematicians bugaboo of plain ordinary folk the fourth dimensio and Many essays were submitted in this competition in addition to that of the winner some and

an

TN

January, 1909,

anonymous

"

twenty

worthy of ultimate publication. adjudged It was felt that the competition had added distinctly to the popular understanding of this significa it had done much to clear up that subject; misconception of just what the mathematician he talks of four or even means more when dimensions; and that ithad therefore been as successful it was in character. as unusual In November, 19 19, the world was startled by from London that examination the announcement of the photographs taken during the total solar eclipse of May 29th had been concluded, and that predictions based upon the Einstein theories of relativity had been verified. In the reaction from the long item of this sort was news an a surfeit of war thoroughly journalistic Long cable dispatches one.

popular

were

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

were

carried in the news columns allover the world; Einstein and his theories were given a prominent tists place on the front pages day after day; leading sciento tell the in great number were called upon w public through the reportorialmedium justhat the In what way the classical all about, just excitement was had been overthrown. structure scientific Instead of being a mere nine days' wonder, the Einstein theories held their place in the public mind. devoted space to them.' The more serious periodicals men First and last, very nota'ble a group of scientific attempted to explain to the general reader the scope These efforts, and content of Einstein's system. than could be no more well considered as they were, of the very radical partially successfulon account trine doccharacter of the revisionswhich the relativity demands In our fundamental concepts. Such son revisions cannot be made In a day; the average perhas not the viewpoint of the mathematician which

permits a sudden and complete exchange of one set of fundamentals for another. But the whole subject had caught the popular attention so strongly, that f even complete Initial ailureto discover what it was allabout did not discourage the general reader from to pursuing the matter with determination to come ton some understanding of what had happened to Newand Newtonian mechanics.

The

Donor

and

the

Prize"

In May, 1920, Mr. Eugene Higglns, an American citizenlong resident In Paris, a liberalpatron of the friendof the Scienarts and sciences, and a lifelong

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

and its proprietors, suggested test that the success of the Fourth Dimension Prize Conof 1910 had been so great that it might be desirable to offer another prize in similar fashion for the best popular essay on the Einstein theories. He stated that if in the opinion of the Scientific American tance, importhese theories were of sufficient

TiFic

American

and the probability of getting a good number of meritorious essays were great, and the sufficiently public need and desire for enlightenment were ciently suffihe would feelinclinedto offer such a present, to the prize, leaving the conduct of the contest Scientific American as in the former It event.

was

the judgment of the editors of the Scientific American that all these provisos should be met with an affirmative,and that Mr. Higgins accordingly be encouraged to offer could with propriety the prize. In his preliminary letter Mr. Higgins had suggested in view of the apparent greater importance that to of the subject be proposed for discussion by the contestants of 1920, the prize offered should liberalthan in the former instance. probably be more This view met with the approval of the editors as totallyunprepared for the rewell; but they were ceipt, late in June, a cablegram from Mr. Higgins of

stating that he had decided to go ahead with the matter, forwarding a draft for and that he was $5,000 to represent the amount of the prize. Such a sum, exceeding any award open to a professional man with the single exception of the Nobel Prize, for which he cannot compete, fairlytook specifically the breath of the Editors, and made it immediately

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

clear that the contest would attract the widest attentio ous and that it should score the most conspicuIt also made it clear that the handling success. than of the contest would be a more serious matter had been anticipated. In spite of the fact that it would not for some time be possible to announce the identity of the it Judges, was felt that the prospective contestants ration; should have every opportunity for extensive prepathe contest was announced, and the rules mined governing it printed as far as they could be deterin can on such short shrift, the Scientific Amerifor July10, 1920. Several points of ambiguity had to be cleared up after this initial publication. In particular,it had been Mr. Higgins' suggestion that in the very probable event of the Judges'nabilityo i t agree upon the winning essay, the prize might, at their discretion,be divided between the contributors actually of the best two essays. This condition was but the Post Office in the first announcement, printed Department insisted upon its withdrawal, on the would ground that with it in force the contestant for $5,000 or not know competing whether he were for $2,500, and that this would introduce the "element

so

necessary, under of chance" which alone was the Federal statutes, to make the contest a lottery. So this provision was replaced by one to the effect were not able to agree, that in the event the Judges the Einstein Editor should cast the deciding vote favored by them. between the essays respectively The announcement attracted the widest attention, copied in newspapers and was and magazines all over the world. Inquiries poured in from all quar-

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

sible and the Einstein Editor found it almost imposto keep himself supplied with proofs of the quiri conditions and rules to mail in response to these inIt was immediately clear that there was going to be a large number of essays submitted, and that many distinguished names among would be listed the competitors.

ters,

The

Judges

In the Scientific American for September i8, was announcement carried in the following words: "We are assured with complete certainty that the competition for the five-thousand-dollar prize will be very keen, and that many essays will be submitted which, if they bore the names of their authors, would The as pass anywhere authoritative statements. judges willconfront a task of extraordinary difficulty in the effort to determine which of these is efforts are the best; and we believe the difficulties such that

multiplicationof judges would merely multiply the It is altogether likely obstacles to an agreement. impressions of two or three or five that the initial judges would incline toward two or three or five decisionwould be attainable essays, and that any final

only after much consultation and discussion. It to us that by making the seems committee as small as possible while still preserving the necessary feature that itsdecision represent a consensus, we shall simplify both the mental and the physical problem of to an agreement. We believe that the award coming should if possible represent a unanimous decision,

require-

6

ment

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

Is far

more

ti"me,the than among bringing together of two men and the details of general administration of their work together are far simpler than if there were three or five. So we have finally decided to have but two judges, and in this we have the endorsement of all the competent opinion that we have consulted. "The gentlemen who have consented to act as ton are Judges Professors Leigh Page and Edwin PlimpAdams, of the departments of physics of Yale and Princeton Universities,respectively. Both are that has paid of the younger generation of physicists

two

men

specialattention to those phases of mathematics and physics involved In the Einstein theories, and both have paid special attention to these theories themselves. to We are gratified be able to put forward so as Judgestwo men eminently qualified to act. fessor We feel that we may here appropriately quote ProPage, who says in his acceptance : 'As the large prize offers a great Inducement, I had thought However I realizethat not of entering the contest. many people In this country have made a considerable Einstein'stheory, and if all who have study of to should enter the contest, It would be difiicult Without any desire to put secure suitableJudges.' self, the gentleman in the position of pleading for himwe think this suggests very well the extent to tants, the conteswhich the Scientific American, Indebted to and the public at large, are for their willingness Professors Page and Adams In the difiicult to serve capacity of Judges." It might appropriately have been added to this

THE

lilNSTElN

$5,000

PRIZE

that it was altogether to the credit of spirit that the first two science and the scientific with the invitation to act gentlemen approached as Judgeswere willing to forego their prospects as in order thus to contribute to the success contestants

announcement

of the

contest.

Three

Thousand

Words

the conditions, the one which evoked most was comment that statingthe word limit. This hmit decided upon after the most careful discussion of was agined imnot the possibilities f the situation. It was o for a moment that any contestant ceed would succussion in getting within 3,000 words a complete disof all aspects of the Special and the General however felt that Theories of Relativity. It was for popular reading a single essay should not be I will much if any longer than this. Moreover, have encourag say quite frankly that we should never Mr. Higgins to offer such a prize if we had supposed that the winning essay was the only from the contest, thing of value that would come if we had not expected to find in many or of the other essays material which would be altogether deserving of the light. From the beginning we had in view the present volume, and the severe restriction deliberatelyimposed for the purin length was pose of forcing every contestant to stick to what he

significantviewpoints, and to considered the most give his best skill to displaying the theories of Einstein to the utmost advantage from these viewpoints. fek that divergent viewpoints would We

Of

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

than advantageously treated in this manner if we gave each contestant enough space to discuss from all sides; and that the award of the subject the prize to the essay which, among other requirements, to the Judges to embody the best seemed choice of material, would greatly simplify the working of the contest without effecting any injustice against those contestants who displayed with equal skillless happily chosen material. Perhaps on this point I may again quote with profit the editorial page of the Scientific American: "An essay of three thousand words is not long than once; if it does enough to lose a reader more lose him it is a failure, and if it doesn't it is a competitor that will go into the final elimination trialsfor the prize. If we can present, as a result of the contest, six or a dozen essays of this length we that will not lose the lay reader at all, shall have

more

be

produced something amply worth the expenditure of Mr. Higgins' money and our time. For such a number of essays of such character will of necessity different present many aspects of the Einstein theories, differentways, and in doing so and in many

will contribute greatly to the popular enlightenment. "Really the significant part of what has already but appeared is not the part that is intelligible, casts the rather the part that, being unintelligible, shadow of doubt and suspicion on the whole. The successful competitor for the prize and his close contestants will have written essays that,without any claim

to

one

completeness, will emphasize what seems each author the big outstanding feature; and every T of them will be intelligible. ogether they will

to

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

in all probability be reasonably complete, and will individual characteristic intelligibility. retain the of They will approach the various parts of the field from various directions ^we thispage with could fill how the one item of the foursuggestions as to dimensional character of Einstein'stime-space might be set forth for the general reader. And when a man must say in three thousand words as much as he can of what eminent have said in whole scientists

"

"

cases volumes ^well, the result in some will be sheer failure, in others a product of the first and The best of the essays will shine through intelli water. selection what is to be said,and brilliant of in saying it. It is to get a group success of essays of

this character, not to get the single essay which will earn the palm, that the prize is offered."

The

Competing

Essays

At all times after the first stein announcement the EinEditor had a heavy correspondence; but the firstreal evidence that the contest was under way came first with the arrival of the essay, which wandered into our ofiicein the middle of September. About a week later they began to filter n at the rate i of one or two per day testants mostly from foreign con"

the mails. Heavy did not commence returns until about ten days before the closing date. The great avalanche, however, was reserved for the morning of Monday, November Here we had the benefitof three ist. days' mail; there were Among essays. about 120

who

were

taking

no

chances

on

those which

were

thrown

out

on

10

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ness

on who 31st. Essays were received in greater quantity from Germany than from any other foreign country, doubtless because of the staggering value of $5,000 land when converted into marks at late 1920 rates. Engessays and one or more stood next on the list; were slavia, received from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Jugomark, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, DenItaly, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, India, Jamaica,

to

and the FijiIslands. Canada, of course, contributed her fair share; and few of our own states were missing on the roll-call. The general level of English composition among was the essays from non-English-speaking sources may about what might have been expected. A man have a thorough utilitarian knowledge of a foreign tongue, but when he attempts intensiveliterarycompetitio brought up in that with a man who was tongue he is at a disadvantage. We read French and German and Spanish and Italian with ease should ourselves; we without too much difficulty, in any of these never undertake serious writing languages. Not many of the foreign contributions, were as ludicrous as the one we quote to of course, some extent in our concluding chapter, but most of below par as literary compodistinctly them were sitions. Drs. De Sitterand Schlick were the notable to exceptions to this; both showed the ability compete on a footing of absolute equality with the best of the native product. foregone conclusion that We dare say it was a

South Africa

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

II

many

a

over

few should have been over absurdity. The winning essay contains 2,919 words, in plus or minus a reasonable allowance for error far from being on so counting; that it should come to those answer the ragged edge should be sufficient

that

protested against the severityof the limitation. inquirer,by the way, wanted to know if 3,000 testant words was not a misprint for 30,000. Another consuggested that instead of disqualifying any over essay that was the line,we amputate the superflu This was a plausible words at the end. who One enough suggestion, since any essay able to compete after such amputation must necessarily have been one of extreme worth; but fortunately we did not have to decide whether we should follow the Perhaps twenty of the essays submitted scheme. were so seriously in excess of the limit that it was not even necessary to count their words in detail;

to 3,500 words or of these offenders ran a good one, too, from which thereabouts, and one deal of material in this volume we use a good a were actually had 4,700. On the other extreme few competitors who seemed to think that the most

"

"

shortest essay was necessarily the best, and who tried to dismiss the subject with 500 or 1,000 words. By a curious trick of chance there were submitted in competition for the prize exactly 300 essays. Of course a few of these did not require serious considerat is ^this inevitable in a contest of such But after excluding all the essays that magnitude.

"

were

admittedly not about the Einstein theories at so execrable all, and all those whose English was

12

RELATIVITY

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them quite out of the question, and all so those which took the subject lightly as not to limit of 3,000 words, write reasonably close to the to explanation given over and all those which were in which Einstein's theories verify of the manner those of the writer, and allthose in which the writer cosmic scheme for attempted to substitutehis own Einstein's after all this,there remained some 275 essays which were serious efforts to explain in simple terms the nature and content and consequences of Special and General Relativity.

as

to

make

"

Looking

for

the

Winner

was

essays to

have every realizationof the difficulty this work. of on The caliber of the essays submitted was the many which would have whole high. There were been well worthy of the prize in the absence of better many distinctly which it others that were was the ground of not possible to eliminate on be specificfaults, and which could only adjudged "not the best" by detailed comparison with specific this detailedcomparison which other essays. It was took time, and which so delayed the award that we

"

of adjudicationthe

able to publish the winning essay any sooner was this than February 5th. Especially difficult process of elimination after the number of surviving essays had been reduced to twenty or less. The essay had to advantages of plan possessed by one be weighed against those of execution exhibited in comanother. A certain essay had to be critically

were

not

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

13

pared with another so like It In plan that the two might have been written from a common outline, same a time with third as unlike it In and at the day and night. And all the as scope and content time there was present In the background the consciousne hung upon the a that prize of $5,000 decision to be reached. For anyone who regards have no worse as an we this easy task wish than day have to attack a similar one. that he may some We had anticipated that the bulk of the superior those received during the essays would be among last day or two of the contest; for we felt that the best equipped to attack the men would be subject Impressed with its seriousness. Here we the most were quite off the track. The seventeen essays which withstood most eliminationwere,

stubbornly the Judges' efforts at in order of receipt,numbers 8, 18, 28, 40, 41, 43, 92, 95, 97, 130, 181, 194, 198, 223, distribution. The win267, 270, 275: a fairlyeven ner was -^ the 92nd essay received. The Judges held theirfinal meeting in the editorial The four essays which 18, 1921. officeon January before the committee at the start of the were session to three, and then to two; were speedily cut and after found themselves conan all-day session the Judges scienti to agree on one best. able of these as the This unanimity was especiallygratifying,the more so to be confidently exwas since it by no means pected Itwould be possible a priori on grounds, that of attainment. Even the Einstein Editor, who might have been calledupon for a final decisionbut wasn't, hardly be classed as a dissenter;for can with some slight mental reservations in favor of the essay by

14

RELATIVITY

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Francis which did not enter the Judges' final discussion at all, and which he rather suspects appeals his personal taste than to his soundest to more he judgment, is entirely in accord with the verdict

Mr.

rendered.

fact that the prize went to England was no stein's surprise to those acquainted with the history of Eintheories. The Special Theory, promulgated fifteen years ago, received its fair share of attention from mathematicians all over the world, and is doubtless as well known and as fully appreciated here as elsewhere. But it has never been elevated to a position of any great Importance In mathematical i theory, simply because of itself,n the absence of itsextension to the general case, It deserves little Importance. It Is merely an interesting bit of abstract

speculation. The General Theory was put out by Einstein in Owing to the scienfinished form during the war. tific his paper, and hence a clear undermoratorium, standing

The

methods and results and of the sweeping consequences If the General Theory should prevail, did not attain general circulation outside Germany untilsome time in 191 8 or even later. Had It not been for Eddlngton it is doubtful that the British astronomers would have realized that the

new

of the

eclipse expeditions were of particular consequence. Therefore at the time of these expeditions,and even ings, as late as the November announcement of the findIn America men the general body of scientific had not adequately realized the immense distinction between the Special and the General Theories, had

not

to

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

I5

distinctive consequences of any import, and we fear had not even in many cases that realized explicitly the deflectionof light and the behavior of Mercury were matters strictly the General and in no sense of Certainly when the American Special Theory. of the for somenevv'spapers were searching frantically body interpret to their public the great stirmade to by the British announcement that Einstein's predictions had been verified,they found no one to do our this decently; nor were magazines much more vote in successful spiteof the greater time they had to deto the search. In a word, there isnot the slightest in large for doubt that American science was room measure caught asleep at the switch perhaps for no reason within its control; and that American writers in no such favorable case to write convincingly were as were on their British and continental the

"

subject

contemporaries. So it was quite in accord with what might have been expected to find, on opening the identifying envelopes, that not alone the winning essay, but its from members immediate rivals, come two most of that school of British thought which had been in contact with the Einstein theories in their entirety for two years longer than the average American of This riper familiaritywith the equal competence. fruit. Indeed, had was subject bound to yield riper it not been for the handicap of writing in a strange language, it is reasonable to assume that the scientists of Germany would have made a showing superior to that of either Americans or British and for

"

the

same

reason

to

better advantag

relativity

and

gravitation

The

Winner

of

the

Prize

Bolton, the winner of the big prize, we in a suppose may fairly be referred to as unknown Indeed, at the time of the sense. strictscientific

publication of his essay in the Scientific American nothing could be learned about him on the American side of the water beyond the bare facts that he was man, not a young and that he had for a good many

years occupied

Mr.

positionof rank in the BritishPatent Office. (It will be recalled that Einstein himself in the Swiss Patent Office for some was time.) In response to the request of the Scientific American for a brief biographical sketch that would serve to introduce him better to our readers, Mr. Bolton

a

supplied such

acterist concise and apparently such a charstatement that we can do no better than

a

quote it verbatim.

born in Dublin in i860, but I have lived in since 1869. After attending sundry small My schools, I entered Clifton College in 1873. career there was checkered, but it ended well. I was always fairly good at natural science and very fond of all sorts of mechanical things. I was an honest worker but no use at classics, and as I did practicallynothing else for the firstfour years at Clifton,I came to consider myself something of a dunce. But sooner later most people get their or opportunities,often seemingly by accident. Mine intende did not come tillI was nearly 17. As I was "I was England

for the engineering profession, I was sent to the military side of the school in order to learn

THE

EINSTEIN

$5,000

PRIZE

I then considered which subject was This was very weak. certainly true, as at that time I barely knew how to solve a quadratic, I was only about halfway through the third book of Euclid, and I knew no trigonometry. But the teaching

some

mathematics,

at

inspiring,and I took readily to mathematics. I left CHfton In 1880 with a School Exhibition and a bridge. mathematical scholarship at Clare College, Camwas

degree in 1883, I taught science and mathematics at Wellington College, but I was attracted by what I had heard of the Patent Office career and I entered it in 1885. During my official I have been one of the Comptroller's private secretaries I am now During the a Senior Examiner. and I was war attached to the Inventions Department of the Ministry of Munitions, where my work related

"After taking my

of essays on varlbut ous publications subjects, my only extra-official I read a paper relate to stereoscopicphotography. before the Royal Photographic Society on thissubject in 1903, and I have also written in the Amateur Photographer." That Mr. Bolton did not take the prize through default of serious competition should be plain to any reader who examines the text from competing The essays whicH Is to be found In this volume. of reference list these competitors, too, supplemented by the names that appear at the heads of complete essays, shows a notable array of distinguished personalit and I could mention perhaps a dozen more

2

RELATIVITY

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men of science whose excellent well known essays have seemed a trifletoo advanced for our immediate use, but to whom I am under a good deal of the ideas which I have of obligation for some language. attempted to clothe in my own Before leaving the we subject, wish to say here in which a word of appreciation for the manner the Judgeshave discharged their duties. The reader i to will have difficultyn realizing what it means

very

We read such a number of essays on such a subject. fortunate beyond all expectation in finding v/ere Judgeswho combined a thorough scientificrasp of g the mathematical and physical and philosophical aspects of the matter point with an extremely human viewv/hich precluded any possibilityof an award sion, to an essay that was not properly a popular discuseach and with a willingness to go to meet those with among other's opinions that is rare, even less ground for confidence in their own views than ispossessed by Drs. Page and Adams,

II.

THE

An

WORLD"AND

of the the

US

phy Philoso-

OF

Our

various

Contact

with

Time

and

the

by

contributors

editor

time beyond the dawn of history, mankind has been seeking to explain the universe. At first itself further probthe effortdid not concern ably

FROM

causes

than

the

the

to

senses.

make a supposition as to what were presented to of the various phenomena As knowledge increased, firstby observat later by experiment also, the ideas as and

to

passed progressively through three v/era thought to the theological (thecauses stages be spiritsor gods); the metaphysical (thecauses were thought in thissecondary or intermediate stage inherent, animating, energizing printo be some ciples finally (thecauses were ; and the scientific

these

"

causes

thought of

simply mechanical, chemical, and magneto-ele or attractionsand repulsions,qualities itself, or o characteristics f matter of the thing of which matter isitself composed.) With increase of knowledge, and along with the quiry inquiryas to the nature of causes, there arose an inWhat was the also as to what realityv/as.

as

nature of the stuffof which the universe essential was matter, things in made, what was what were (the realities) the noumena themselves, what were

20

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

? lying back of the phenomena (the appearances) Gradually ideas explaining motion, force, and energy developed. At the same were time inquiry was made as to the nature the working of his mind, the of man, nature of thought, the relation of his concepts (ideas)to his perceptions (knowledge gained through the and the relationsof both to the

noumena

direction taken by this inquiry has been that of a conflictbetween two schools of thought which we may characterize as those of [The ancient Greek absolutism and of relativism.]* philosophers believed that they could tap a source of knowledge pure and absolute by sittingdown in

[The general

of time and chair and reasoning about the nature space, and the mechanism of the physical world. ]~^^ [They maintained that the mind holds in its own right certain concepts than which nothing is more fundamental. They considered itproper to conceive

and the other things of time and space and matter by the "R'^orld having a as presented to their senses real existencein the mind, regardless of whether any external reality could be Identified with the concept as ultimately put forth. They could even dispute with to be ascribed the qualitieswhich were significance to this abstract conceptual time and space and matter. All this was done without reference to the external reality,often In defiance of that reality. The mind could picture the world as Itought to be ; facts refused to fitInto the picture, If the recalcitrant for them. We allhave heard the so much the worse tale of how generation after generation of Greek philosophers disputed learnedly why and how it was

THE

WORLD

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21

that a livefishcould be added to a brimming pail of ing water without raising the level of the fluidor increascommon the weight ; until one day some person conceived the troublesome idea of trying it out experime to learn so whether it were and found True or false,the anecdote admirnot. that it was ably illustrates the subordinate place which the nals exter* held in the absolutist system of Greek thought.] [Underthis system a single observer Is competent to examine a single phenomenon, and to write down the absolute law of nature by referring the resultsto his innate ideas of absolute qualities and states. The root of the word absolute signifies"taking away," the word Implies the and in Its philosophical sense ability the mind to subtract away the properties or of qualitiesfrom things, and to consider these abstract quahties detached from the things; for example, to take away the coldness from Ice,and to consider pure or abstractcoldness apart from anything that Is cold ; to take away or motion from a moving body, and to consider pure motion apart from anything that This assumed power Is based upon the Somoves. cratlctheory of Innate Ideas. According to this theory

"

the mind is endowed by nature with the absolute Ideas of hardness, coldness, roundness, equality,motion, and all other absolute qualities and states, and does not have to learn them. so Thus a Socratic philosopher could discuss pure or absolute being,

Getting

Away

from the

1121

"

Greek

Ideas

[ThisGreek

mode

2 2

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

late Middle Ages, at which time itwas stillltogether a in order to dispose of a troublesome fact of the ing external world by quoting Aristotle against it. Durat least the Renaissance, which intellectually marks

the transitionfrom ancient to modern, there into being another type of absolutism, equally came The extreme, equally arbitrary,equally unjustified. revolt against the mental slavery to Greek ideas carried the pendulum too far to the other side,and early modern science as a consequence is disfigured by what we must now recognize as gross materialism. The human mind was relegated to the position innocent bystander. The external reality of a mere was everything, and aside from his function as a recorder the observer did not in the least matter. The whole aim of science was to isolate and classify fact. The role of the observer the elusive external in every possible way minimized. It was was of his duty to get the facts right,but so far as course any contributionto these was concerned he did not he was definitelydisqualified. He count really intruder; from his position played the part of an he was outside the phenomena searching for the The only absolute truth about these phenomena. difference between his viewpoint and that of Aristotle was that the latterlooked entirelyinsidehimself for as the elusive "truth," while the "classical" scientist, looked for It entirelyoutside himself. we callhim now,

"

illustrate the differencebetween the two viewpoints which I have discussed,and the third one stanc which I am about to outline,by another concrete inThe Greeks, and the medievals as well,were

me

Let

THE

WORLD

"

AND

US

23

fond of discussing a question which embodies the This question whole of what 1 have been saying. swer involved, on the part of one who attempted to anit,a choice between the observer and the external It was put in many world as the seat of reality. forms; a familiar one isthe following: "If the wind blew down a great tree at a time and place where there was no conscious being to hear, would there be this question any noise?" The Greek had to answer in the negative because to him the noise was entirely a phenomenon scientist of the listener. The classical it in the affirmativebecause to him had to answer the noise was entirelya phenomenon of the tree and it in the the air and the ground. Today we answer from that negative, but for a very differentreason which swayed the Greek. We believe that the noise is a jointhenomenon nals, p of the observer and the exterfailto so that in the absence of either it must believe there are sound waves take existence. We There is no produced, and all that; but what of it? falling tree and the noise in the presence of the than there would absence of the observer, any more be in the presence of the observer and the absence nomenon pheof the tree and the wind; the noise, a joint of the observer and the externals, exists presence. only in their joint

Relativism

and

Reality

p,,.-

This is the viewpoint of relativism. The statue is The golden for one observer and silverto the other. is risinghere and setting in another part of the sun here and clear in Chicago. The world. It is raining

24

RELATIVITY

AND

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werp observer in Delft hears the bombardment of AntIf they and the observer in London does not. be consistent, both the Greek to were and the medieval-modern absolutist would have to dispute "really" golden or silver, whether the statue were "really" rising or setting, were whether the sun "really" fair or foul, whether the weather were

whether

"really" accomwere the bombardment panied by loud noises or not; and on each of these to an agreement questions they would have to come or confess their methods Inadequate. But to the relativist is simple whether this or that be the answer

"

depends upon the observer. In simple cases we understand this fullwell, as we have always realized it. In less simple cases we recognize it less easily or not at all,so that some lutist of our thought is absoin Its tendencies while the rest is relativistlc. to realize this fully or if Einstein is the first ever to realize It so fully as ever not this,then the first to be moved toward a studied effortto free human thought from the mixture of relativism and absolutism and make it consistentlythe one or the other. This brings Itabout that the observed fact occupies we a position of unexpected significance. For when discuss matters of physical science under a strictly

true

"

physical philosophy, we must put away as metarelativistlc "reality" partly everything that smacks of a focus concealed behind our observations. We must and of the attention upon the reports of our senses Instruments that supplement them. These observations, which joinour perceptions to their external manifestations; afford us our only objective objects, them we must accept as final" subject always to such

THE

WORLD

AND

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25

correctionas more refinedobservations may suggest. "true" The question length or area or whether a mass or exists velocity or duration or temperature back of the numerical determination, or in the presence to of a determination that is subject correction, in the absence of any determination at all, is a or metaphysical one and one that the physicistmust not ature ask. Length, area, mass, velocity,duration, tempernone of these has any meaning other than the number obtained by measurement.]* [Ifseveral different determination's are checked over and no be found in any of them, the fault must lie error can not with the observers but with the which we object, must conclude presents different values to different

"

observers.]^^

after all accustomed to this viewpoint; do not demand that Pittsburgh shall present the we distance from New York and from Philadelsame phia, Yorker and the Philadelphian or that the New to any agreement come as to the "real" distance of Pittsburgh. The distance of Pittsburgh depends mand deupon the position of the observer. Nor do we that the man who locates the magnetic pole In one to a spot in 1900 and in another In 1921 come decision as to where it "really" Is; we accept his statement that itsposition depends upon the time of

are

[We

the observation. What this really means Is that the distance to Pittsburgh and the position of the magnetic pole are

"

jointroperties of p

the observer and the observed relationsbetween them, as we might put It. This Is burgh; obvious enough in the case of the distance of PittsIt is hardly so obvious in the case of the

"

26

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

position of the magnetic pole, varying with the lapse of time. But if we reflectthat the observation of both valid, and both 1900 and that of 192 1 were represented the true position of the pole for the see that observer of the date in question, we must this isthe only explanation that shows us the way out. stein I do not wish to speak too definitely the Einof theories in these introductory remarks, and so in shall refrain from mentioning explicitly this place the situation which they bring up and upon which said has directbearing. It will be what I have just be pointed recognized when it arises. What must are out here, however, is that we putting the thing callsthe "observed value" on a which the scientist footing of vastly greater consequence than we should have been willing offhand to concede to it. So far best as any single observer is concerned, his own observed values are themselves the external world; he cannot properly go behind the conditions surnal rounding his observations and speak of a real exterworld beyond these observations. Any world ceptual which he may think of as so existingis purely a conhe infers reason world, one which for some to existbehind the deceptive observations. Provided he makes this reservation he is quite privileged to speculate about this concealed world, to bestow upon It any characteristics that he pleases; but it can have no real existence for him until he becomes able to he observe it. The only reality knows is the one he

can

directlyobserve.

Laws

The

of

Nature

we

observations which

THE

WORLD

AND

US

27

have been trying to endow with characterist of "reality" which they are frequently not reahzed to possess, are the raw material of physical ing science. The finishedproduct is the resultof bringand which

we

large number of these observations.]* [The whole underlying thought behind the making of observations, in fact,is to correlate as many as possible of them, to obtain some generalization,and finally in some to express this simple mathematical form. This formulation Is then called a "law of together

a

existsbecause of a misunderstanding in the lay mind of what is meant by a "law It is perhaps not a well chosen term. of nature." One is accustomed to associatethe word law with the idea of necessity or compulsion. In the realm of nature the term carriesno such meaning. The laws Imperfect attempts to explain of nature are man's natural phenomena ; they are not inherent in matter and the universe, not an iron bar of necessityrunning Laws of nature through worlds, systems and suns. littleore are m to than working hypotheses, subject change

or alteration enlargement or even abandonment, as man's visionwidens and deepens. No sanctity attaches to them, and If any one, or all, them of failto account for any part, or all, the phenomena of of the universe,then itor they must be supplemented

or

abandoned. ]^"^ [The test of one of these laws Is that It can be shown to include all the related phenomena hitherto known and that it enables us to predict new nomena phebe verified. If new factsare can then which discovered that are not in agreement with one of

or

28

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the assumptions on these generalized statements, which the latter is based are examined, those which facts are given are not in accordance with the 'new is modified so as to include the up, and the statement facts. new ]^" [And if one remembers that the laws

formerly based on a range of observations of physics were than at present available,it much narrower seems natural that in the light of this widening knowledge one law or another may be seen to be narrow theories and laws do and InsufRcient. New but explain certain not necessarilydisprove old ones, discrepanciesin them and penetrate more deeply into their underlying principles,thereby broadening our ideas of the universe. To follow the new reasoning behind the we must rid ourselves of the prejudice cient. aid, not because it is wrong but because it is insuffiThe universe will not be distorted to fitour but will teach us the rules of existence. ^"^ ] rules, however, we must guard against the too [Always, easy error of attriutingto these rules anything like has [The modern scientist attained absolute truth.]* a very business-like point of view toward his "laws To him a law is fundamentally nothing of nature." but a short-hand way of expressing the resultsof a large number of experiments in a single statement. And it Is important to remember that this mere currence shortening of the descriptionof a lot of diverse ocisby no means any real explanation of how In other words, the aim and why they happened. cover of scienceis not ultimately to explain but only to disthe relations that hold good among physical quantities and to embody allthese relationsin as few [Thisis and as simple physicallaws as

possible.]"^

THE

WORLD

AND

US

29

inherentlythe method of [Under it a relativism.]* is observed. There are two or set of phenomena many observers, and they write down their several findings. These are reviewed by a finalobserver or judge, who strains out the bias due to the different viewpoints of the originalobservers. He then writes down, not any absolute law of nature governing the observed phenomena, but a law as general as possible [And expressing their interrelations.]^"^ through this procedure modern scienceand philosophy reveal superimpose our with increasing emphasis that we human qualities on external nature to such an extent [we have at once the strongest practical that]^"" In addition to the arguments of reason, justification, for our insistencethat the contact between objective by the observation is the represented and subjective only thing which we shallever be able to recognize as real. We may indulge in abstractmetaphysical speculation heart'scontent, Ifwe be metaphysically to our inclined; we may not attempt to impose the dicta of

metaphysics upon the physical scientist.]*

Concepts

and

Realities

the Inquiry and criticismwhich have gone for centurieshas emerged the following presenton day attitude of mind toward the sum total of our knowledge. The conceptual universe in our minds In some mysterious way parallelsthe real universe, but is totally o ter, unlike It. Our conceptions (Ideas)f matthe ether, molecules, atoms, corpuscles, electrons, motion, force, energy, space, and time stand In the or similar relationto reality as the x's and y's same

[From

30

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

lem. of of the mathematician do to the entities his probMatter, molecules, atoms, corpuscles,electrons, the ether, motion, force,energy, space, and time do

not

existactuallyand reallyas we conceive them, nor do they have actually and really the qualitiesand cepts characteristics with which we endow them. The conare simply representations of things outside ourselves; things which, while real,have an essential Matter, molecules, atoms, to us. not known nature corpuscles, electrons, the ether, motion, force, merely devices, symbols, about reality. They are which enable us to reason parts of a conceptual mechanism in our minds which operates, or enables our minds to operate, in the as same the sequence of phenomena sequence of events in the external universe, so that when we In the perceive by our senses a group of phenomena

energy, space and time

are

out what resultwill externaluniverse, we can reason involved, flow from the interactionof the realities willbe at a given and thus predict what the situation stage in the sequence. But while our conceptual universe has thus a mechanic aspect, we do not regard the real universe as [ miay be illustrated mechanical in itsnature. ]^"^ This Entering his friend's house, a by a little story. from behind. He turns gentleman is seized unawares his head but sees nothing. His hat and coat are removed and deposited in their proper places by invisible some agent, seats and tables and refreshments appear in due time where they are required, The visitorshivers allwithout any apparent cause. for an explanation. with horror and asks his host He Is then told that the Ideas "order" and "rcgu-

THE

WORLD

AND

US

3I

work, and that it is they who acquit not themselves so well of their tasks. These ideas canfelt nor seized nor weighed; they be seen nor reveal their existence only by their thoughtful care I think the guest, for the welfare of mankind. friend's house is coming home, will relate that his haunted. The ghosts may be kind, benevolent, even Now in Newtonian mechanics useful;yet ghosts they are. absolute space and absolute time and force and inertia and all the other apparatus, altogether imperceptible,appearing only at the proper time to make possible a proper building up of the theory, mysterious part as the ideas "order" play the same

larity"are

at

and "regularity" in my story. Classicalmechanics is haunted.]"*' [As a matter of fact,we realizethis and do not allow ourselves to be imposed upon with regard to

[We use a of these agencies.]* mechanistic terminology and a mechanistic mode of reasoning only because we have found by experience our that they facilitate reasoning. They are the find produce results. They are tools which we ter adapted to our minds, but perhaps it would be betthe

true

nature

minds are so constructed as to render our conceptual universe necessarily mechanical in its aspect in order that our minds may reason involved are at all. Two things antithetic subject '(ourerceiving mind which builds up concepts) p and having neither (the external reality) ; and object not complete nor absolute knowledge of either,we cantruly to be said to be affirm which is more mechanistic in itsnature, though we may suspect that really neither is. We no longer think of cause and

to

say that

our

"

32

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

simply effect as dictated by Inherent necessity, we regard them as sequences in the routine of our senseIn a word, we have at impressions of phenomena. length grasped the idea that our notions of reahty, become ultiat present at least, whatever they may mately, are not absolute, but simply relative. We do not explain the universe, but only see, too, that we

describe

our

perceptions of itscontents. The so-calledlaws of nature are simply statements or sum up the relationships of formulae which resume Our effort is and sequences of phenomena. constantly to find formulae which will describe the As our knowledge widest possible range of phenomena. increases, that is, as we nomena, pheperceive new laws or formulae break down, that is, our they failto afford a description in brief terms of all of our perceptions. It is not that the old laws are but simply that they are not comprehensive untrue, enough to include all of our perceptions. The old laws are often particular or limitinginstances of the

new

Have said of the realityof observat it follows that we must that support school of psychology, and the parallel school of philosophy, which hold that concepts originate in perceptions. But this does not Impose so strong

a

upon conceptions as might appear. The restriction do come to us concepts elements of all our from outside; we manufacture nothing out of But when has supplied perception whole cloth. a may sufficientvolume of raw material, we its elements in ways foreign to actual occurrence group in the perceptual world, and in so doing get

THE

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33

conceptual resultsso entirelydifferentfrom what we have consciously perceived that we are strongly to look upon them as having certainlybeen tempted manufactured In our minds without reference to the more significanceis our ability externals. Of even dents to abstract from concrete and objects concrete incithe essentialfeatures which make them alike and different.But unlike the Greeks, we see that our concept of coldness is not something with which we from the beginning, but merely an were endowed experiences with concrete abstraction from concrete that objects have been cold.

The

When

we

Concepts

of

Space

and

Time

'

have formed the abstract Ideas of coldness have had experience indicating and warmth, and that the occurrence of these properties varies in degree, we are in a position to form the secondary abstract notion covered by the word "temperature." When we have formed the abstractideas of size and position and separation, we are similarlyIn a position to form a secondary abstraction to which we "space." Not quite so easy to trace give the name but none to its definitesource the less clearly an abstraction based on experience.Is our Idea of what we call "time." None of us are deceived as to the [We realityof these abstractions.]* do not regard that we regard a chair as space as real in the sense real; it is merely an abstract idea convenient for the location of material like [Nor objects the chair.]"* do we Things regard time as real in this sense. occupy space, events occupy time; space and time themselves we realize are immaterial and unreal;

34

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

same occur. sense

happen in the

that material objectsxist and events e find it absolutely necessary to have, But we

the mental machinery mentioned above as the ternal apparatus by aid of which we keep track of the exfor that world to exist in world, these vessels in. and move Space and time, then, are [It concepts.]* is not confronted with the strange, however, that when vast and bewildering complexity of the universe and in the difficulty keeping separate and distinct our of

among

minds our perceptions and conceptions, we should at our times and as respects certain things project conception illegitimatelyinto the perpetual universe and mistake them for perceptions. The most notable has example perhaps of this projection occurred in the very case of space and time, most fundamental of allof our concepts. We got to think of these as absolute, as independent of each other and of all

other things, and as always existing and continuing or to existwhether or not we anything else existed space as a three-dimensional, uniform continuum, having the same properties in all directions;time as a one-dimensional, irreversible continuum, flowing in one direction. It is difficulto get back to the t idea that space and time so described and defined are concepts merely, for the idea of their absolute existence is ingrained in us as the result probably of long ancestral experience.]^^^ [Newton's definitions of course the represent idea of time and space. He tellsus that classical "absolute, true and mathematical time flows in virtue nature, uniformly and without reference of its own

"

THE

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35

to

any external

by virtue of its own nature and without reference to any external and always remains the same object, from modern Of course is immovable." points standis absurd to call either of these pronounceit ments but they represent about as well a definition; had about can as any words the ideas which Newton time and space, and they make it clear enough that he regarded both as having real existence in the external

world. If space and time are to be the vessels of our is universe, and if the only thing that really matters must measured results, it is plain enough that we have, from the very beginning, means of measuring space and time. Whether we believe space and time to have real existence or not, it is obvious that we can measure shall have to neither directly. We measure space by measuring from one material object have to measure to another; we time by shall We shall some similar convention based on events. later have something further to say about the measurement of time ; for the present we need only point ently time is measured independout that]* [Newtonian of space; and the existenceis presupposed of a

suitabletimekeeper. ]^" [The space of Galileo and Newton was conceived of as empty, except In so far as certain parts of It Positions of bodies in this were ocaipied by matter. In general determined by reference space were kind. This [a "coordinate system" of some

and object;"

to]^^^

certain amount

of

36

The The

relativity

and

gravitation

Reference

Frame

for

Space

mathematician, following the lead of the great French all-around genius, Descartes, shows us very clearly how to set up, for the measurement of known as the Cartesian cospace, the framework ordina The person of most system. ordinary mathematical attainments will realize that to locate a point in a plane we must have two measurements;

and we could probably show this person, without too that we can locate a point in any serious difficulty, An example of this surface by two measurements. is the location of points on the earth's surface by means of their latitudeand longitude. It is equally clear that if we add a third dimension and attempt to locate points in space, we must urement. add a third measIn the case of points on the earth's surface, this might be the elevation above sea level,which would define the point not as part of the spherical surface of the earth but as part of the solid sphere. Or we may fall back on Dr. Slosson's suggestion that in order to define completely the position of his laboratory, we must make a statement way, about BroadteUing and one about 1 1 6th Street, and one how many flights of stairs there are to climb. In any event, it should be clear enough that the complete in space calls for three definitionof a point

measurements.

mathematician formulates all this with the utmost precision. He asks us to]* [pickout any point whatever in space and callitO. We then draw or conceive to be drawn through this point three mutually perpendicular lines called coordinate axes.

The

THE

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37

designate OX, OY and OZ, respectively. Finally, we consider the three planes also mutually perpendicular like the two walls and the

which

we

may

P

:

t I

/V

corner, that meet in one common which are formed by the hnes OX and OY, OY and OZ, and OZ and OX, respectively. These three planes are called coordinate planes. And then any spect other point P In space can be represented with reto O by its perpendicular distances from each of the three coordinate planes the distances x, y, z In the figure. These quantitiesare called the coordina

a

floor of

room

"

of the point.]"* [To the layman there seems something altogether naive in this notion of the scientist's setting up the three sides of a box In space and using them as the basis of all his work. The layman somehow feels that while Itis perfectly all right for him to tellus that he lives at 1065 (one coordinate) 156th Street on (two coordinates) the third floor (three coordinates), it is rather trivial business for the serious-

38

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

to consider the up-and-down, the minded scientist forward-and-back, the right-and-left of every point to with which he has occasion to deal. There seems the layman something particularlyinane and foolish

and altogether puerile about a set of coordinate axis,and you simply can't make him believe that the has to monkey with any such serious-minded scientist funny business. He can't be Induced to take this coordinate-axis business seriously. Nevertheless, takes it with the utmost the fact is that the scientist seriousness. It is necessary for him to define the positionsof points; and he does do it by means of a

set

of coordinate axes. The scientist, however, is not interestedin points of empty space. The point Is to him merely part again of the conceptual machinery which he uses in his effortto run along with the external world. He knows there are no real points, but It suits his convenienc to keep track of certain things that are real by representing them as points. But these things in practically every instance material bodies; are and in practicallyevery instance,instead of staying put in one spot, they insistupon moving about has to use his coordithrough space. The scientist nate system, not merely to define a singleposition of such a "point," but to keep track of the path over which itmoves and to defineitspositionin that path

at

given

moments.

Time

and

the

Coordinate

System

This introduces the concept of time Into intimate relationship with the spatial coordinate system.

THE

WORLD"

AND

US

39

And at once we feelthe lack of a concrete, visualized in fourth dimension.]* [Ifwe want to fix objects

ward the floor alone, the edge of the room running tothe ceiling would become unnecessary and could be dropped from our coordinate system. That is,we need only two coordinates to fix the position of a point in a plane. Suppose instead of discarding the third coordinate, we use it to represent units of time. It then enables us to record the twte ittook a moving point in the floor to pass from position to position. Certain points in the room tically would be verabove the corresponding points occupied by the floor; and the moving point in its path across the vertical height above the floor of such points corresponds to a value of the time-coordinate which from indicatesthe time it took the point to move as ]^^^ [Just the path of the position to position. (forthe the floor is a continuous curve point across mathematician, it should be understood, this term *'curve" includesthe straightline, a specialcase in as happens to be ; which the curvature zero) so the forms a series of points above these in the room continuous curve which records for us, not merely but in addition the path of the point across the floor, the time of itsarrival at each of itssuccessivepositions. In the algebraic work connected with such a problem, the third coordinate behaves exactly the

same,

sent regardless of whether we consider itto repretime or a third spatialdimension; we cannot even tell from the algebra what it does represent. When we come to the more general case of a point ordina moving freely through space, we have but three cofourth one disposal; there is not a at our

40

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

by aid of which we can actually diagram its timespace record. Nevertheless, we can write down the numerical and algebraic relationsbetween its three space-coordinates and the time which ittakes to pass from one position to another ; and by this means we can make all necessary calculations. Its motion is completely defined with regard both to space and to time. We are very apt to call attention to the fact that if we did have at our disposal a fourth spacecould use it to represent the time coordinate, we graphically,as before, and actually construct a geometric

picture of the path of our moving point with regard to space and time. And on this account we are ments very apt to speak as though the time measureconstituteda fourth coordinate, regardless of a picture of any question of our abilityto construct this coordinate. The arrival of a point in a given position constitutesan event; and this event is completely four coordinates three defined by means of in space, which we can picture on our coordinate axes, and one in time which we cannot. The set of coordinate axes in space, together with the zero time, conpoint from which we measure stitute frame of reference. If we arc what we calla can think not going to pay any attentionto time, we of the space coordinate system alone as constituting This expression appears our reference frame. freely throughout the subsequent text, and always with one or the other of these interpretations. We see, then, how we can keep track of a moving point by keeping track of the successive positions which it occupies in our reference frame.]* [Now have implied that these coordinate axes are fixed we

"

THE

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41

us

to

prevent

from

supposing tFiatthey move.]"^ [If they do, they carry with thtm all their points ; and any motion of these points which we may speak about will be merely If motion with reference to the coordinate system. find something outside our coordinate system that we is not moving, the motion of points in our system with regard to those outside itwill be a combination of their motion with regard to our coordinate axes and that of these axes with regard to the external sents points. This will be a great nuisance; and It reprea state of affairs which we shall try to avoid. by if We shallavoid it, at all, selectinga coordinate system with reference to which we, ourselves,are not moving; one which partakes of any motion which we may have. Or perhaps we shall sometimes wish to reverse the process. In studyingthe behavior of some group of bodies, and seek a set of axes which is at rest with respect to these bodies; one which partakes of any motion they may have.

The

Choice

of

Coordinate

Frame

All this emphasizes the fact that our coordinate axes are not picked out for us in advance by nature, one particularspot. We select and set down in some them for ourselves, and we selectthem in the most But different convenient way. observers, or perhaps the same observer studying differentproblems, will find it advantageous to utilizedifferentcoordinate has found It possible, systems.]*[The astronomer and highly convenient, to select a coordinate frame such that the great of the stars have, on

majority

42

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

[Such the whole, no motion with respect to it.]'^* a system would, be most unsuited for investigations confined to the earth; for these we namrally selecta framework attached to the earth, with its origin O if our investigationcovers at the earth's center the more entire globe and at some convenient point if it does not, and in either event accompanying the earth work, in its rotation and revolution. But such a frameas well as the one attached to the fixed stars, would be highly inconvenient for an investigator of the motions of the planets; he would doubtless attach his reference frame to the sun.]^"^ [Inthisconnection a vitalquestionsuggests itself. Is the expression of natural law independent of or dependent upon the choice of a system of coordinates? And to what extent shallwe be able to reconcile

the results of one observer using one reference frame, and a second observer using a differentone? The answer to the second question is obvious.]* [True,if any series of events is described using different sets of axes, two the descriptions will be different, depending upon the time system adopted But if the conand the relative motion of the axes. nection between the reference systems is known, it is possible by mathematical processes to deduce the quantitiesobserved in one system if those observed in the other are known. J^" [Thisprocess of translating the resultsof one observer into those of another is known as a transformation ; -and the mathematical

statement

are (there

formatio of the rule governing the transis called the equation or the equations usually several of them) of the transformation.]* [Transformations of this character con-

THE

WORLD

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US

43

a stitute well-developedbranch of mathematics.]*" [When we inquire about the invariance of natural law itis necessary to be rather sure of just what we by this expression. The statement mean that a given

body is moving with a velocity of 75 miles per hour is of course not a natural law; itis a mere numerical observation. But aside from such numerical results, have a large number of mathematical relations we or less of the which give us a more general statement relations that exist between velocities, ccelerations, a forces, times, lengths, temperatures, presmasses, sures, There are some etc., etc. of these which we as would be prepared to state at once universally valid distance travelled equals velocity multiplied by time, for instance. We do not believe that any conceivable change of reference systems could bring about a condition in which the product of velocity and time, as measured from a certain framework, would failto equal distance as measured from this framework. There are other relations more same less of the same or sort which we probably believe invariant category; there are to be in the same others,perhaps, of which we might be doubtful ; and

"

others which we should presumably there are still holding in certain suspect of restricted ence refervalidity, systems only and not in others. The question of invariance of natural law, then, may turn out to be one which may be answered in the large by a single statement; it may equally turn out to be one that has to be answered in the small, by ticular consideringparticular laws in connection with partransformations between particular reference systems. Or, perhaps, we may find ourselves justi-

44

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

fied in taking the stand that an alleged "law of is truly such a law only in the event that itis nature" independent of the change from one reference system to another. In any event, the question may be formulated as follows : Observer A, using the reference system R, measures Observer B, certain quantitiest, w, x, y, z. the same using the reference system S, measures items and gets the values t', w', x', y', z'. The appropri transformation equations for calculating the one set of values from the other is found. If a mathematical relation of any sort is found to exist between the values t, w, x, y, z, will the same tion relaexist between the values t', w', x', y', z'? If it does not, are we justified in still calling it a law of nature? And if it does not, and we refrain from callingitsuch a law, may we expect in every case to find some relationthat will be invariant under the transformation, and that may therefore be recognized law connecting t, w, x, y and z? as the natural I have found it advisable to discuss this point in than in any other single such detailbecause here more betray uncertainty place the competing essayists of thought and sloppiness of expression. It doesn't to much to talk about the invariance of amount natural laws and their persistenceas we pass from

are coordinate system to another, unless we fairly well fortified what we with respect to just by invariance and by natural law. We don't mean expect the velocityof a train to be 60 miles per hour it with respect to a signal alike when we measure tower along the line and with respect to a moving don't expect the train on the other track. We one

THE

WORLD

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45

angular displacement of Mars to change as rapidly when he is on the other side of the sun as when he is on our side. But we do, I think, rather expect that in any phenomenon which we may observe, we penden sort which is deshall find a natural law of some for its validity neither upon the units we urements, employ, nor the place from which we make our measnor

anything else external to the phenomenon itself. We shall see, later, whether this or expectation is justified, whether it will have to be discarded in the finalunravelling of the absolutist from the relativistic hilosophy which, with Einstein, p

we

are

to

undertake.]*-

Ill

THE

RELATIVITY MOTION

OF

UNIFORM

Classical

Ether the Subject; Ideas on the Possibility of Absolute Apparent AND THE periment ExMichelson-Morley Motion; the tion Final Negaand the This Possibility OF

BY

various contributors

AND THE

EDITOR

being "in ^^ mean that this body is changing motion," we Now it is clear that its position "in space." can the position of an object only be determined In with reference to other objects: order to describe the place of a material thing we must, for example state itsdistances from other things. If there were no such bodies of reference, the words "position in for space" would have no definitemeaning us.]^* bodies of reference [The number of such external pletely which it is necessary to cite in order to define comthe position of a given body In space depends upon the character of the space dealt with. We have seen that when we visualize the space of our

TX7HEN

we

speak

of

body

as

tions experience as a surface of any character, two citaare sufficient; and that when we conceive of it as surrounding us in three dimensions we require It will be realized that the mathematician three.

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

47

is merely meeting this requirement when his system of coordinate axes to serve as

he sets up

a

reference

of "place" must be true also of "motion," since the latter is nothing but change of place. In fact, it would be impossible to ascribe a state of motion or of rest to a body poised allalone in empty space. Whether a body is to be regarded as resting or as moving, and if the latterat what speed, depends entirelyupon the to objects which we refer '^ its positions in Einstein sits at his space.] [As desk he appears to us to be at rest; but we know that he is moving with the rotation of the earth on its axis,with the earth in its orbit about the sun, and with the solar system in itspath through space

true

frame.]* [Whai:is

complex motion of which the parts or the whole be detected only by reference to appropriately can chosen ones of the heavenly bodies. No mechanical been devTsed which will detect this test has ever [ we reserve for discussionin itsproper motion, ]^^" if place the Foucault pendulum experiment which will

" *

reveal the axial rotation of our globe.]* [No to "stand still," savage, if he were could be convinced he was moving with a very high velocity that or in fact that he was [You drop moving at all.]^" a coin straight down a ship's side: from the land itspath appears parabolic; to a polar onlooker it Mars it darts ; whirls circle-wise to dwellers on spirallyabout the sun ; to a stellarobserver itgyrates

through the sky] [ina path of many complications. To you it drops in a straight line from the deck to the [Yet its various tracks in ship-space,

^"^

sea.]*

are

all

48

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

^

[and equally real,]^^^ the one which will be singled out for attentiondepends entirely upon the observer, to and the objects which he refers the motion.]* in the solar system, which is itself [The earth moves approaching a distant star-cluster. But we cannot are say whether we moving toward the cluster,or [or both, or whether we the cluster toward us,]^^ are conducting a successful stern chase of It,or It third body of us,]*[ unless we have In mind some

with reference are star-cluster the measurements

which the motions of earth and [And If we have this, measured.]^" made with reference to it are of rather than with regard with regard to It, significance to the earth and the star-cluster ^-^ alone.]* [We can express all this by saying "All motions are relative; there Is no such thing as absolute motion. has in fact been folThis line of argument lowed by many natural philosophers. But is Its result in agreement with actual experience? Is It really Impossible to distinguishbetween rest and motion of a body Ifwe do not take Into consideration In itsrelationsto other objects? fact it can easily be seen that, at leastin many cases, no such distinction Is possible.

to

Who

Is Moving?a

railroad car with a perfectlystraight track with unchanging velocity: you would find It absolutelyImpossible to ascertain by any mechanical All means moving or not. whether the car were mechanical instruments behave exactly the same,

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

49

in or whether the car be standing still motion.]^* drop a ball you will see it fallto the floor [Ifyou in a straight line,just though you had dropped as more, it while standing on the stationplatform. Furtherheight in if you drop the ball from the same

the velocities the two cases, and measure with which it strikesthe car floor and the station platform, or the times which it requires for the descent, you will ^^^ find these identicalin the two cases.] [Any changes of speed or of direction (aswhen the car speeds up or slows down or rounds a curve) be detected by observing the behavior of bodies can in the car, without apparent reference to any outside This becomes particularly obvious with objects. of motion, which manifest sudden irregularities But themselves by shaking everything in the car. a uniform motion in a straight line does not reveal by itself any phenomenon within the vehicle.]^* if the veil from our win[Moreover, we remove dow

_

that we may observe the train on track, we the adjoining shall be able to make no This Is decision as to whether we or Itbe moving. have all had.]* Indeed an experience v/hlch we [Oftenwhen seated in a train about to leave the station,we have thought ourselves under way, only to perceive as the motion becomes no longer uniform that another train has been backing Into the station hurried on track. Again, as we were the adjoining our we on journey, have, raising suddenly our eyes, been puzzled to say whether the passing train were ; moving with us or againstus or indeed standing still or more rarely we have had the impression that both it and we seemed to be at rest, when in truth both the

extent

to

50

were

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

]^" [Even moving rapidly with the same speed. is a relativeone, for it arises this phrase "in truth" through using the earth as an absolute reference body. We are indeed naive if we cannot appreciate for doing this beyond conthat there is no reason venienc and that to an observer detached from as just reasonable to say that the the earth it were railsare slidingunder the train as that the train is most advancing along the rails. One of my own vivid childhood recollectionsis of the terror with which, riding on a train that passed through a narrow cut, I hid my head in the maternal lap to shut out the horrid sight of the earth rushing past my window. The absence of a background in relativelyslow to retrograde motion was sciousn sufficient prevent my confrom drawing the accustomed conclusion that after all it was really the train that was moving.]*

Mechanical

Relativity

enunciate the following principle: When a body is in uniform rectilinear motion relatively body, then all phenomena take to a second in manner as on place on the first exactly the same the second; the physical laws for the happenings both bodies are identical.]-^ between a on [And system of bodies, nothing but relative motion may be detected by any mechanical means whatever; any to discuss attempt absolute motion presupposes a body external to the system. super-observer on some Even then, the "absolute" motion Is nothing but to this super-observer. By no memotion relative

[So

we

can

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

CI

Is uniform straight-line motion of chanical means be detected. any other than relative character to This is the Principle of Mechanical Relativity. in this. It was known to There is nothing new Galileo,itwas known to Newton, ithas been known ever since. But the curiouspersistenceof the human mind in habits of thought which confuse relativity with absolutism brought about a state of affairs where we attempted to know this and to ignore it at the same time. We shall have to return to the mathematical mode of reasoning to see how this The mathematician has a way all his happened.

of relativitywhich of putting the statement He recalls, have made. we what we have already seen, that the observer on the earth who is measuring his "absolute" motion with respect to the earth has merely attached his reference framework to the earth; that the passenger In the train who measures allmotion naively with respect to his train Is merely carrying his coordinate axes along with his baggage, instead of leaving them on the solid ground; that the astronomer who deals with the motion of the earth about the sun, or with that of the "fixed" stars another, does so simply by the artifice against one of hitching his frame of reference to the sun or to one of the fixed stars. So the mathematician points bodies is In out that dispute as to which of two motion comes right down to dispute as to which of Is the better one, the two sets of coordinate axes more fore nearly "natural" or "absolute." He thereown as

phrases the mechanical principle of relativity follows: Among all coordinate systems that are merely In

52

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

another, no one occupies any position of unique natural advantage; all such systems are equivalent for the Investigation laws of natural laws; all systems lead to the same

and the same results. The mathematician has thus removed the statement from its intimate associationwith of relativity

"

to one

the external observed phenomena, and transferred Itto the observer and his reference frame. We must

or either accept the principleof relativity, seek a set of coordinate axes that have been singled out by as an nature absolute reference frame. These axes be In some must way unique, so that when we refer phenomena to them, the laws of nature take a form not attained through reference of exceptional simplicity look for Where to ordinary axes. shall we such a preferred coordinate system?]*

The

Search

for

the

Absolute

the belief that there was ^" [As such a thing as absolute motion In space.] law developed from the sixthe body of scientific teenth century onward, the not unnatural hypothesis Is matical crept In,that these laws (that to say, their matheformulations rather than their verbal statements) In especially simple would reveal themselves It possible for experimenters to make forms, were their observations from some absolute standpoint; from an absolutely fixed position In space rather

theory [Older

clung

to

than

a

from

to

set

was

moving earth.]-"*[Somewhere Incapable of motion of coordinate axes be found,]"^[a fixedset of axes for measurthe

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

53

and for two hundred years the world of science strove to find it,]^*^ spite of [in that it did not what should have been assurance exist. But the search failed,and gradually the universal so applicabilityf the principle of relativity, o far as it concerned mechanical phenom.ena, grew into general ment, [And after the developacceptance.]* by the great mathematicians of the eighteenth Newton's laws of motion into their most century, of seen complete mathematical form, itwas that so far as these laws are hypothesis concerned the absolutist mentioned Is quite unsupported. No complication Is introduced into Newton's laws if the observer has to In a frame of reference movmake his measurements ing for measurements uniformly through space ; and in a frame like the earth, which moves with changing speed and direction about the sun and rotates on Its

;

time, the complication is not of so as to us give- any clue to the earth's absolute motion in space. But mechanics, albeitthe oldest, is yet only one of the physical sciences. The great advance made in the mathematical formulation of optical and electrO' magnetic theory during the nineteenth century revived hope of discovering absolute motion in the space by means of the laws derived from this [ theory.]^^^Newton had supposed light to be a Its passage so. material emanation, and if it were "empty across space" from sun and stars to the

But against Newton's earth raised no problem. theory Huyghens, the Dutch astronomer, advanced idea that lightv/as a wave the sort. motion of some During the Newtonian period and for many years

54

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

but eventually after,the corpuscular theory prevailed; the tables were turned.]* [Men made rays darkness (see page of light interfere, producing 6i). From this, and from other phenomena like light was a form polarization,they had deduced that ripples; for these motion similar to water of wave interfere, producing level surfaces, or reinforce each of abnormal height. But other, producing waves to be regarded as a form if light were of wave could apparently be motion and the phenomena be explained on no other basis then there must some medium capable of undergoing this form of

"

"

across [Transmissionf waves empty o motion. ]^^^ space without the aid of an intermediary material medium would be "action at a distance," an idea by our tactual, Trammeled to us. repugnant pulling wireconceptions of a material universe, we could not accustom ourselves to the idea of something being immaterial a something as a wave even so transmitted by nothing. We needed a word ether it;just we need a as to carry light if not to shed in its inertia to carry a word projectile flight.]^ was [It ties necessary to invest thismedium with properfor the observed facts. On the to account J^^^[The whole It was regarded as the perfect fluid. able imagined as an all-pervading,Imponderether was substance fillingthe vast emptiness through which lightreaches us, and as well the intermolecular known Nothing more was spaces of all matter.

"

" " "

"

"

definitely, yet this much served as a good working hypothesis on the b sis-of which Maxv/ell was cation. enabled to predict the possibility radio communiof By its fruitsthe ether hypothesis justifie

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

55

exlst?]"^

Absolute

Motion

The

Ether

and

It exist, seems quite necessary, on mere philosophical grounds, that it shall be eligibleto serve as the long-sought reference frame for absolute Surely it does not make sense to motion. filling speak of a homogeneous medium all space, as a means sufficientlyaterial to serve m municati of combetween remote worlds, and in the next breath to deny that motion with respect to this is a concept of [Such a medium significance,]* system of reference as was offered by the ether, coextensive with the entire known region of the for allmotions withuniverse,must necessarilyserve in our escapa inseems [The perceptions.]^*" conclusion that motion with respect to the ether ought to be of a sufficiently unique character to stand out In particular, we above all other motion. ought to be able to use the ether to define, somewhere, a fixed system of axes with respect to the ether, the use of which would lead to natural laws of a uniquely simply description. Maxwell's work added fuel to this hope.]* ing [Durhad the lastcentury, after the units of electricity been defined,one set for static electricalalculations c for electromagnetic calculations,it was one and found that the ratio of the metric units of capacity for the tw'o systems was numerically equal to what had already been found as the velocity with which light is transmitted through the hypothetical ether. One definition at refers to electricity rest, the other

[IfItdoes

56

to

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

In m electricity motion. Maxwell, with littleore working basis than this, undertook to prove that were electrical and optical phenomena merely two cause, j"*^ towhich the general [ aspects of a common designation of "electromagnetic waves" was applied. Maxwell treated this topic In great fullness and In particular,he derived with complete success. certain equations giving the relations between the nomenon various electrical uantitiesInvolved in a given pheq But itwas found, extraordinarilyenough, that these relations were of such character that, the when we subject quantitiesinvolved to a change of -coordinateaxes, the transformed quantitiesdid happened axes not preserve these relations If the new to be in motion with respect to the original This, of course, ones. was taken to indicate that to deal with motion really is absolute when we come electromagneticphenomena, and that the ether which be really may carries the electromagnetic waves looked to to display the properties of an absolute reference frame. Reference to the phenomenon of aberration, which Dr. Pickering has discussed adequately in his essay and which I need therefore mention here only by dragged Indicated that the ether was name, not and through which along by material bodies over It might pass. It seemed that Itmust filter through stices, such bodies, presumably via the molecular interappreciable opposition. Were this v.'ithout doubt as to the we not the case, should be In some possibilityof observing the velocity through the to ether of material bodies; If the ether adjacent such bodies is not dragged along or thrown Into

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

57

eddies,but "stands still" while the bodies pass, there for anything other than imaginable reason seems no the complete success of such observations. And of importance, the course these are of the utmost

moment

we

The

Earth

and

the

Ether

to

the ether is do not know in advance in our earth itself. We what direction to expect this motion or what magnitude have. But one thing to anticipate that it v/ill is clear.]*[Initsmotion around the sun, the earth has, at opposite points on its orbit, a differencein velocity with respect to the surrounding medium which is double its orbital velocity with respect to This difference comes to 37 miles per the sun. second. The earth should therefore, at some time in the year, show a velocityequal to or greater than 18^ miles per second, with reference to the universal The famous Michelson-Morley exmedium. perime of 1887 was carried out with the expectation of observing this velocity.]^" [The ether, of course, and hence velocities be observed directly. But through it, cannot it acts as the medium for the transmission of light.]* [If the velocity of light through the ether is C and that of the earth through the ether is v, then the velocity of light past the v earth, so the argument runs, must vary from C to C + "^j according as the light is moving exactly in the same direction the earth,or in the opposite as

"

58

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the earth'spath to get the influence only of a part of the as so assumes that C has earth's motion. This of course value; an assumption that impresses always the same inherently probable, and one that is at the one as

same

directlythe velocity It is not possible to measure or less) of light (186,330miles per second, more a with sufficientccuracy to give any meaning to the variation in this velocity which might be effectedby adding or subtracting that of the earth in its orbit (a mere i8"4 miles per second). It is,however, possible to play a trick on the light by sending it back and forth over several paths, and comparing {not measuring absolutely,but merely comparing) with great minuteness the times consumed in these several round trips.

Journey Upstream

and

Back

The number of letters the Scientific American has received questioning the Michelson-Morley experime indicates that many quaint people are not acwith the fundamental principle on which it is based. So let us look at a sim.ple analogous Suppose a swimmer or a rower case. make a return rent trip upstream and down, contending with the curhe goes up and getting itsbenefitwhen he as down. Obviously, says snap judgment,ince comes s are the two legs of the journey equal, he derives exactly as much benefit from the current when he goes with it as he suffers handicap from It when

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

59

take against it; so the round trip must time as a journey of the same exactly the same length in still water, the argument applying equally is a wave in the case where the "swimmer" of light in the ether stream. A man But let us look, now at a numerical case. He in still row can at four miles per hour. water rows twelve miles upstream and back, in a current of two miles per hour. At a net speed of two miles hours. per hour he arrives at his turning point in six At a net speed of six miles per hour he makes the down-stream leg in two hours. The elapsed time he is for the journey eight hours; in stillwater the twenty-four miles in six hours. would row to attempt an explanation of this result If we were in words we should say that by virtue of the very fact that it does delay him, the adverse current prolongs the time during which it operates; while by virtue of the very fact that it accelerates his progress, the favoring current shortens Its venue. The careless observer realizes that distances are consci and unequal between the two legs of the journey,

he goes

that times are equal. b If the journeye made directlywith and directly or ether or what not, of water against the stream If the retardation Is effected to Its fullestextent. be a diagonal one, retardation is felt to an course extent and depending measurable as a component,

assums

for itsexact value upon the exact angle of the path. Felt, however, it must always be. begin to get a grip on the Here is where we

problem of the earth and the ether. In any problem involving the return-tripprinciple,there v/ill enter

6o

two

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

of velocities ^that the swimmer and that of the If we know medium; and the time of retardation. any two of these items we can calculate the third. When the swimmer is a ray of light and the velocity of the medium is that of the ether as it flows past the earth, we know the first these two; we hope of to observe the retardation so that we may calculate for the exthe second velocity. The apparatus perime is ingenious and demands description.

"

The

Michelson-Morley

Experiment

The machine is of structural steel, weighing 1,900 pounds. It has two arms which form a Greek cross. Each arm Is 14 feet in length. The whole apparatus is floated in a trough containing 800 pounds of

mercury.

Four

arm,

mirrors are arranged on the end of each sixteen in all,with a seventeenth mirror, M,

set

at

one

of the Inside

corners

of the

cross,

as

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

61

A source a of light (in this case calcium flame)is provided, and its rays directed by a lens toward the mirror M. Part of the light is allowed to pass straight through M to the opposite arm of the cross, where it strikesmirror i. It is reflected back across to mirror 2, the arm thence to 3, and so on until it reaches mirror 8. Thence itis reflected back to mirror 7, to 6, and so on, retracing its former path, and finallyis caught by the reverse side of the mirror M and is sent to an observer at O. In retracing its path the light interference phenomenon sets up an (see below) and the interferencebands are visibleto the observer, who is provided with a telescope to magnify the

diagrammed.

results. A second part of the original light-beam is reflecte by the mirror M, and is off at right angles arms passed to and fro on the adjacent of the manner machine, in exactly the same and over a similar by means I, II, II, path, of the mirrors VIII. This light finally reaches the observer at the telescope, setting up a second set of interference bands, parallel to the first. A word now ference. about this business of light interLight is a wave The length of motion. is but a few millionths of an inch, and the a wave the amplitude is correspondingly minute; but none behave in a thoroughly wave-like less, these waves In particular,if the crests of two waves manner. are superposed, there is a double effect;while if a falls with a trough of another, wave crest of one or there is a killing-off "interference". Under ordinary circumstances interference of

.

. .

62

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

This is simply because are not under ordinary circumstances light waves piled up on one another. But sometimes this piling as so sure the piled-up up occurs; and then, just in the same are waves other, phase they reinforce one aninterwhile if they are in opposite phase they fere. And the conditions which we have outlined above, with the telescope and the mirrors and the ray of light retracing the path over which it went out, are conditions under which Interference does is in exact phase with If the returning wave occur. the outgoing one, the effectis that of uniform double illumination; if it is in exactly opposite phase the effectis that of complete extinguishing of the light, the reversed wave exactly cancelling out the original If the two rays are partly in phase, there is one. cordin partial reinforcement or partial cancelling out, acin phase or nearly to whether they are nearly Finally, If the mirrors are not set out of phase. absolutely parallel as must In practice be the case their parallelism in attempt to measure when we terms parts of the wave-length of light adjacent in the extent to which they of the light ray will vary are out of phase, since they will have travelled a fraction of a wave-length further to get to and from this, that or the other mirror. There will lumin then appear In the telescope alternate bands of iland darkness, whose width and spacing depend upon allthe factors entering into the problem. If it were possible for us to make the apparatus with such a degree of refinement that the path from mirror M via mirrors i, 2, 3, etc., back through M length exactly the same and into the telescope,were

light waves does

not

occur.

"

"

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

63

telescope by way of the mirrors to a margin exactly the same materially less than a single wave-length of error of light why, then, the two sets of interference fringes would come out exactly superposed provided the motion of the earth through the "ether" turn influenceupon the velocity of light; out to have no if such influence exist, these fringes would be or, displaced from one another to an extent measuring the influencein question. But our abilityto set up this complicated pattern of mirrors at predetermined distances falls far short of the wave-length So in practice all that we as a measure of error. can set the Instrument up, say is that having once and passed a beam of light through it,there will be produced two sets of parallel interference fringes. These sets will failof superposition each fringe of from the corresponding one set will be removed fringe of the other set by some definitedistance. Then, any subsequent variation In the speed of light be detected by a along the two arms will at once shiftingof the interferencebands through a distance which we shall be able to measure.

as

"

to

"

"

"

The

Verdict

the theories and assumptions governing at the time of the original performance of this experime itwill be readily seen that if this machine be set up in an "ether stream" with one arm parallel to the direction of the stream and the other at right angles thereto,there will be a differenceIn the speed Then If the apof the light along the two arms.

Under

64

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

paratus be shifted to a position oblique to the ether stream, the excess velocity of the light in the one

arm

to would be diminished, and gradually come zero at the 45-degree angle, after which the light the traveling along the other arm would assume greater speed. In making observations, therefore,

the entire apparatus was server slowly rotated, the obwalking with it,so that changes of the sort anticipatedwould be observed. however, ignorant of the The investigatorswere, position in which the apparatus ought to be set to insure that one of the arms lieacross the ether drift; ignorant of the time of year at which and they were

the earth'smaximum velocitythrough the ether was to be looked for. In particular,it is plain that if the solar system as a whole is moving through the ether at a rate less than the earth's orbital velocity, there is a point in our orbit where our velocity just through the ether and that around the sun cancel out and leave us temporarily in a state of So it was "absolute rest." perime anticipated that the exhave to be repeated in many orientations might seasons of the of the machine and at many year in order to give a series of readings from which the true motion of the earth through the ether might be deduced. For those who have a little tion algebra the demonstrawhich Dr. Russell gives on a subsequent page fectly will be interestingas showing the situation in perIt will be realized that the general terms. more complicated arrangement of mirrors in the described is simply an eightfold experiment as just repetitionof the simple experiment as outlined by

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

65

done so for the mere Dr. Russell,and that It was distances travelled sake of multiplying by eight the in phase. and hence the differencein time and for the grand climax. The experiment And now v' was repeated many times, with the original and with other apparatus, indoors and outdoors, at all seasons of the year, with variation of every condition that The apparatus could imaginably affectthe result. fringes of was ordinarily such that a shift in the anywhere from one-tenth to one one-hundredth of that which would have followed from any reasonable value for the earth's motion through the ether would The result was have been systematicallyapparent. in all directions uniformly negative. At all times and the velocity of light past the earth-bound observer The earth has no motion with was the same. reference to the ether ! The amazing character of this resultis not by any to to [According one possibility be exaggerated.]* carried along by a rapidly experiment the ether was moving body and according to another equally welling planned and well-executed experiment a rapidly movbody did not disturb the ether at all. This was 232 the blind alley into which science had been led.]

The

"Contraction"

Hypothesis

to

explain the contradic one, a very puzzling and it gave physicists no end of trouble. However ious Lorentz and Fitzgerald finally put forward an ingenthat the actual motion explanation,to the effect far of the earth through the ether Is balanced, as

made

5

66

as

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the ability our measuring instruments Is concerned, of instruments by a contraction of these same in the direction of their motion. This contraction be observed directlybecause all obviously cannot bodies, including the measuring instruments themselves (whichafter all are only arbitrary guides), will suffer the contraction equally. According to this theory, called the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction bodies in motion suffer such [ theory,]"^all contraction of their length in the direction of their [thecontraction being made evident by motion ;]^"^ inability observe the absolute motion of the to our ] earth, which it is assumed must exist. "^ [This would sufficeto show why the Michelson-Morley serve experiment gave a negative result,and would prethe concept of absolute motion with reference to the ether. ]^^^ [Thisproposal of Lorentz and Fitzgerald loses itsstartlingaspect when we consider that all matter structure, appears to be an electrical and that the dimensions of the electric and magnetic fields which the electrons of which it is constituted accompany [The forces change with the velocityof motion.]^" of cohesion which determine the form of a rigid body are held to be electromagnetic in nature; the contractionmay be regarded as due to a change In the electromagnetic forcesbetween the molecules.]" In [As one writer has put it,the orientation. the electromagnetic medium, of a body depending for itsvery existence upon electromagnetic forces is not necessarilya matter of indifference.]* [Granting plausibility allthis,on the basis the of an of electromagnetictheory of matter, It leaves us

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

67

unsatisfactory position. We are left with a fixed ether with reference to which absolute motion has a meaning, but that motion remains undetected on and apparently undetectable. Further, if we the length of a moving ship,using a shore measure yard-stick which is stationary on shore, we shall obtain one result. If we take our stick aboard it contracts, and so we obtain a greater length for the ship. Not knowing our "real" motion through the ether, we cannot say which Is the "true" length. Is Itnot, then, more to satisfactory discard allnotion of true length as an inherent quality of bodies, and, by regarding length as the measure of a relation between a particular and a particular observer object length as true as the to make one other?]"[The opponents of such a viewpoint contend that Michelson's resultwas due to a fluke; some ous mysteriinfluencewas for some reason counterbalancing at work, concealing the resultwhich should normally have been expected. Einstein refuses to accept this

in an

believethat allnature is in a contemptible' conspiracy to delude us.]* [The Fitzgerald suggestion Is further unsatisfactory because it assumes all substances, of whatever density,to undergo the same contraction; and above ail for the reason that It sheds no light upon other [ phenomena.]"*Itis Indeed a very specialexplanation is,it applies only to the ; that particularexperiment in question. And indeed itis only one of many possible explanations. Einstein conceived the notion that itmight be infinitely more valuable to take the most general explanation possible,and then try to find from this itslogicalconsequences. This "most

"2

68

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ItIs simply tHait general explanation" is,of course, impossible in any way whatever to measure the absolute motion of a body in space. ]"^ [Accordingly Einstein enunciated, first tivity, the SpecialTheory of Relaand later the General Theory of Relativity. The special theory was so called because It wa" limited to uniform rectilinearand non-rotary motions. The general theory, on the other hand, dealt not only with uniform rectilinear motions, but with

any arbitrary motion

whatever. Bull

by

Taking

the

the

Horns

be

no

such concept as absolute position,absolute motion, dependen absolute time; that space and time are Internot independent; that everything is relative to something else. It thus accords with the

edge.]^* philosophical notion of the relativity all knowlof is based, ultimately, upon [Knowledge is relameasurement; and clearly all measurement tive, consisting merely In the application of a All metric standard to the magnitude measured. numbers are relative; dividing the unit multiplies Moreover, if measure the metric number. and measured change proportionately, the measuring tents number Is unchanged. Should space with allItsconment swell In fixed ratio throughout, no measureeven could detect this; nor should It pulse Furthermore, were space uniformly throughout. and space-contents in any way systematicallytransformed In (as by reflection curved mirrors) point for point, continuously,without rending, no meas-

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

69

urement

proceed undisturbed.]'"^ [Mark Twain said that the street in Damascus "which is called straight,"is so called because while it is not as straight as a rainbow itis straighter than This expresses the basic idea of relaa corkscrew. tivity All our knowledge the idea of comparison. is relative,not absolute. Things are big or little, long or short, light or heavy, fast or slo.w,only by may be as large, compared comparison. An atom to an electron, as is a cathedral compared to a fly. The relativitytheory of Einstein emphasizes two cases of relative knowledge ; our knowledge of time [And and space, and our knowledge of motion.y^'^ instead of allowing the notions of in each case, to relativity guide us only so far as it pleases us to follow them, there abandoning them for ideas more find it easy to take for in accord with what we on the thesis granted, Einstein builds his structure be admitted, must be followed must that relativity out to the bitter end, in spite of anything that it

would

"

may do to our preconceived notions. If relativity is to be admitted at all,it mu^t be admitted in toto;

have no what else it contradicts, we appeal from its conclusions so long as it refrains from contradicting itself.]* developed by was [The hypothesis of relativity Einstein through a priori methods, not the more That is, certain principles usual a posterioriones.

no

matter

were

enunciated as probably true, the consequences of these were developed, and these deductions tested by comparison of the predicted and the observed in no sense It was phenomena. attained by the

70

more

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

nomena usual procedure of observing groups of phelaw or formula which and formulating a tine would embrace them and correctlydescribe the rouor sequence of phenomena. The firstprinciple thus enunciated is that it is impossible to measure or detect absolute translatory

motion through space, under any circumstances or The second is that the velocity of by any means. to all observers light in free space appears the same of regardless of the relative motion of the source light and the observer. This velocity is not affected by motion of the source toward or away from the use this [ifwe may for the moment observer,]^^^ of expression with itsimplication absolute motion.]* Insists that motion of the [But universal relativity source toward the observer Is identical with motion of the observer toward the source. ]-^^ [Itwill be seen that we are at once on the horns Either we must give up relativity of a dilemma. before we get fairlystarted on it, we must overor turn by admitting sense the foundations of common

that time and space are so constitutedthat when we or an go to meet advancing light-impulse, when we veretreat from it,itstill locity reaches us with the same as though we waiting for it. We stood still tion shall find when we are through with our investigais at fault;that our fixed sense that common impression of the absurdity of the state of affairs just tivism outlinedsprings from a confusion between relanated and absolutism which has heretofore domiour thought and gone unquestioned. The impression vanish when v/e have absurdity

the

relativity

of

uniform

motion

7!

Questions

of

Common

Sense

been said from what has just that if we are to adopt Einstein's theory, we must mental of our fundamake very radical changes in some in violent conflict notions, changes that seem It is unfortunate that many sense. with common have been more concerned popularizers of relativity to astonish their readers with incredibleparadoxes

[Butit Is obvious

such as would appeal to sound judgment. Many of these paradoxes do not belong essentially to the theory at all. There is that an enlarged and enlightened nothing in the latter mon sense common would not readily endorse. But combe educated up to the necessary sense must level. "^ ] [There was a time when it was believed, as a

than

to

give

an

account

result of centuries of experience, that the world flat. This belief checked up with the known was facts,and it could be used as the basis for a system

for things that had of science which would account It was entirely happened and that were to happen. for the time in which it prevailed. sufficient Then one day a man to point out that all arose the known facts were equally accounted for on the in order theory that the earth was a sphere. It was for his contemporaries to admit this,to say that so far as the facts in hand were concerned they could flator round not tellwhether the earth was that facts would have to be sought that would connew tradict one or the other hypothesis. Instead of this tlieworld laughed and insistedthat the earth that it could couldnot be round because it was flat;

"

72

not

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

be round because then the people would fall off the oth'er side. But the field of experimentation widened, and men den were able to observe facts that had been hidPresently a man from them. sailed west and arrived east; and it became clear that in spite of previously accepted "facts" to the contrary, the earth was really round. The previously accepted "facts" were then revised to fit the newly discovered into truth; and finallya new system of science came being, which accounted for all the old facts and all ones. the new At intervalsthis sort of thing has been repeated. A Galileo shows that preconceived ideas with regard to the heavens are be revised to wrong, and must accord with his newly promulgated principles. A Newton does the same for physics" and people unlearn the "fact" that motion has to be supported by continued application of force, substituting the idea that it actually requires force to stop a new A Harvey moving body. shows that the things which have been "known" for generations about the human body are not so. A Lyell and a Darwin force to throw overboard the things they have men always believed about the way in which the earth and its intobeing. Every sciencewe possess came creatures has passed through one or more of these periods of facts. to new

readjustment

Shifting Now

we

are

the

Mental

Gears

our

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

73

We get altered; it is our fundamental concepts. concepts wholly from our perceptions,making them a new to fitthose perceptions. Whenever vista is find facts that we perceptions, we opened to our never point. could have suspected from the restrictedviewWe must then actually alter our concepts to in facts fit with the greatest degree of make the new harmony. And we must not hesitate to undertake through any feeling that fundamental this alteration, pered concepts are more sacred and less freely to be tamwith than derived facts.]*[We do, to be fundamental concepts that are easy for a sure, want human mind to conceive; but we also want our laws of nature to be simple. If the laws begin to become tal intricate, why not reshape, somewhat, the fundamenlaws? concepts. In order to simplify the scientific Ultimately itis the simplicityof the scientific system

as

whole that isour principal aim.]^^^ [As a fair example, see v/hat the acceptance of the earth's sphericity did to the idea represented by With a flatearth, "down" is a the word "down." throughout the universe; single direction,the same becomes merely the with a round earth, "down" directionleading toward the center of the particular heavenly body on which we happen to be located. It is so with every concept we have. No matter how intrinsic part of nature and of our being a a certain facts know that new can never we notion may seem, will not develop which will show it to be a mistaken Today we are merely confronted by a gigantic one. us example of this sort of thing. Einstein tells that now when velocitiesare attained which have just come within the range of our close investigation,

a

74

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

cilable things quite Irreconwith our present concepts of time and space and dimension. We are tempted to laugh and mass him that the phenomena he suggests at him, to tell are absurd because they contradict these concepts. Nothing could be more rash than this. When we consider the resultswhich follows from physical velocitiescomparable with that of light, we must confess that here are conditionswhich have before been carefullyinvestigated.We must never be quite as well prepared to have these conditionsreveal Galileo when some epoch-making fact as was he turned the first telescope upon the skies. And if this fact requires that we discard present ideas and dimension, we must of time and space and mass be prepared to do so quite as thoroughly as our medieval fathers had to discard their notions of that there celestial"perfection" which demanded bodies and that everybe but seven thing majorheavenly center uniaersal about the earth as a common hub. We must be prepared to revise our concepts of these or any other fundamentals quite as severely as did the first philosopher who realizedthat "down" in Bagdad in London was not parellelto "down"

"

or

on

earth as a fixed body, light as But we carry is perfectlyproper, for such matters. our earth-acquired habits with us Into the celestial regions. Though we have no longer the earth to as on the earth, that all stand on, yet we assume, be referred to must measurements and movements fixed body, and are only then valid. We some

we

THE

RELATIVITY

OF

UNIFORM

MOTION

75

cling to our earth-bound notion that there is an back-and-forth, right-andabsolute up-and-down, left,in space. We can never may admit that we find it,but we stillthink it is there, and seek to approach it as nearly as possible. And similarly from our earth experiences, which are sufficiently in

a

single place

we

make possible this simplifying assumpti idea that there is one universal ge'tthe

to

to the entire time, applicable at once universe.]^" i [The difficultyn accepting Einstein is entirely the i difficulty n getting away from these earth-bound habits of thought.]*

IV

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

Einstein^s What Tells Us About

Nature

BY

VARIOUS

of

Uniform Study Motion of Time and Space and the Reality External the

AND

THE

contributors

EDITOR

the explanation adopted for the ^^ negative result of the Michelson-Morley tempt thing stands out clearly: the atexperiment, one to Isolate absolute motion has again failed.]*

TIT'HATEVER

tive older negative results of similar sort into a negadeduction to the effect that no experiment is possible upon two systems which will determine that one of them is in motion and the other at failure to detect [He rest.]^-^ elevates the repeated absolute motion through space into the principle that experiment will never reveal anything In the

nature

of absolute velocities. He postulates that can all laws of nature and should be enunciated in for such forms that they are as" true in these forms one though these observer as for another, even observers with their frames of reference be in

motion relativeto one another.]""* [Thereare various ways of statingthe principle has been o of the relativityf uniform motion which

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

77

thus arrived at, and which forms the basis of the Special Theory to emcare of Einstein. If we phasize the role of mathematics and the reference

frame we may say that]*[any coordinate system having a uniform rectilinear motion with respect to the bodies under observation may be interchangeably used with any other such system In describing their motions

the unaccelerated motion of a be detected by observasystem of reference cannot tions on can this system alone.]^"* [Or we made let this aspect of the matter go, and state the relativity In a form more intelligible the to postulate possib that it is imnon-mathematician by simply Insisting by any means whatever to distinguish any other than the relativemotion between two systems that are moving uniformly. As Dr. Russell puts it later page, we boldly that the on a can assume universe Is so constituted that uniform straightahead motion of an observer and all his apparatus will not produce any difference whatever in the result of any physical process or experiment of any kind. As we have seen, this is entirely reasonable, on

to consider the philosophical grounds, untilwe come assumptions of the past century with regard to light and Itspropagation. On the basis of these assumptions had expected the Michelson-Morley experiwe ment to produce a result negativing the notion af universal relativity. It refused to do this, and we agree with Einstein that the best explanation is to to the notion of relativity, return rather than to Invent a forced and specialhypothesis to account for investithe experiment's failure. But we must now

78

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

gate the assumptions underlying the theory of light, the one that requires the ether to serve and remove

as

Light

and

the

Ether

It Is among that the wave the possibilities theory or less seriously of lightitself will in the end be more It is even definitelyamong more the modified. that the ether will be discarded.]* tainly [Cerpossibilities Lord Kelvin estimates that its mass when per cubic centimeter is .000,000,000,000,000,001 rect gram, while Sir Oliver Lodge insiststhat the corfigure is 1,000,000,000,000,000 it is grams, know little so quite evident that we about it that itisbetter to get along without itif we [But can.]^^" to avoid confusion we must emphasize that Einstein ry m.akes no mention whatsoever of the ether ; his theois absolutely independent of any theory of the ether.]^^^ [Save as he forbids us to employ the ether as a standard of absolute motion, Einstein does not in the least care what qualities we assign to it,or whether we retain it at all. His demands are not upon the going to be made upon light itself, alleged medium of light transmission. two When observers in relative m.otion to one their velocities another measure with respect to a third material object, they expect to get different results. Their velocities with regard to this object to be taken as a properly differ,for it is no more universal super-observer than either of them. But if they get differentresultswhen they come to measure the velocitywith which lightpasses their respec-

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

79

Is tlve systems, relativity challenged. Light is with some propriety to be regarded as a universal observer; if it will measure our and velocities against deny it rank as an absolute each other we cannot standard. If we are not prepared to abandon universal "fluke" exrelativity,nd adopt one of the a planat for the Michelson-Morley result, we must boldly postulate that in free space light presents the same velocity C to all observers whatever the tween source of the light, whatever the relativemotion besource and observer, whatever the relative ture motion between the several observers. The deparhere from the old assumption lies In the circumsta Itsether assigned that the old physics with to light a velocityuniversally constant in this ether; have stopped talking about the medium and have we made the constant C refer to the observer's measured light with regard to value of the velocity of himself. I We are fortifiedn this assumption by the Micheling son^Morley resultand by allother observations beardirectlyupon the matter. Nevertheless, as Mr. Francis says In his essay, we feel instinctively that space and time are not so constitutedas to make It possible,if I pass you at 100 miles per hour, for the light-Impulse to pass us both at the same same speed C.]* [The Implicit assumptions underlying be woven so Interthis feeling, they true or false,are now

"

with the comm_only received notions of space and time that any theory which questions them has all the appearance of a fantastic and unthinkable thing. ]"^ [We cannot, however, go back on our

so relativity;

us

that

an

80

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

new set of time and space concepts is necessary entirely mental to reconcile universe relativity with this fundafact of the absolute constancy of the observed that is left for us velocity of light in vacuo, y^ [all to do is to inquire what revisions are necessary, and submit to them.]* [The conceptual difficulties the theory arise of from attributing to space and time the principally properties of things. No portion of space can be by convention; it is compared with another, save No interval of time can things which we compare. be compared with another, save by convention. The has gone when the second becomes "now".]"* first tion [Itis events that we compare, through the intervennever are of of things. Our measurements space or of time, but only of the things and the events that occupy space and time. And since the deal with as though they measurements which we were of space and of time lie at the foundation of

time themselves all physical science, while at the same as constituting, we have seen, the only reality of which we are entitled to speak, it is in order to care the assumptions underexamine with the utmost lying That there are such assumptions is them. clear ^thevery possibility making of is Itself an assumption, and every

"

measurements

carrying them out rests on an inquire which of these it is that relativity asks

to

us

revise.]*

The

Measurement

of

Time

and

Space

perfectlyuniform.

THE

i

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

us tells that the following? to the one second By the very nature of time the superposition of its is then can we successiveintervals impossible. How talk about the relative duration of these intervals? It is clear that any relationshipbetween them can [As of fact, we only be conventional.]"^ a matter habituallymeasure time in terms of moving bodies. The simplest method is to agree that some entity moves with uniform velocity. It will be considered as travelling equal distances in equal intervals of time, the distances to be measured as may be specified by our assumptions governing thisdepartment of investigation. ]"" [The motions of the earth through which we ultimately define the length of day and year, the divisionof the former into 86,400 "equal" intervalsas defined by the motions of pendulum or balance wheel through equal distances, are examples Even when of this convention of time measurement. we correct the motions of the earth, on the basis

How

do

we

What

of what our clocks tellus of these motions, we are following thislead; the earth and the clocks fallout, it is plain that one of them does not satisfy our assumption of equal lengths in equal times, and we decide to believe the clock.]* [The foregoing concerning time may be accepted inherent in time itself. But concerning lengths as it may be thought that we are able to verify absolutely their equalityand especially their invariability. Let us have the audacity to verify this statement. We have two lengths,in the shape of two rods, which coincide perfectly when brought together. What ? Only that may we conclude from this coincidence

6

82

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the two rods so considered have equal lengths at moment. the same place in space and at the same It may very well be that each rod has a different locations in space and at different length at different times; that their equality Is purely a local matter. be detected if they afSuch changes could never fected In all objects the universe. We cannot even ascertain that both rods remain straight when we transport them to another location, for both can curvature very well take the same and we shallhave no means of detecting It. Euclidean geometry assumes that geometrical objects have sizes and shapes independent of position and of orientation In space, and equally Invariable in time. But the properties thus presupposed are only to conventional and In no way subject directverification. be Independent We cannot even ascertain space to of time, because when comparing geometrical brought to the we objects have to conceive them as same [Even the place In space and In tlme.]^^^ that when they are made to coincide their lengths are equal Is, after all,itself an assumption In our Ideas of what constituteslength, inherent And certainly the notion that we can shiftthem from for purto moment, poses place to place and from moment of comparison, Is an assumption ; even Euclid, from modern loose as he was standards in this business of "axioms," knew this and Included a his assumptions. superposition axiom among As a matter of fact,this procedure for determining equality of lengths Is not always available. It It will be noted, that we have free access assumes. Is to be measured to the w which Is to objecthich

statement

"

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

83

Is that this object at rest with respect If It Is not so at rest, we must employ at to us. least a modification of this method; a modification Involve the sending of manner that will In some signals. Even when we employ the Euclidean method be assured must of superposition directly,we that the respective ends of the lengths under comparison time. The observer coincide at the same be present at both ends simultaneously; at cannot best he can only be present at one end and receive a signal from the other end.

The

Problem

of

say, Itassumes

Communication

Accordingly, In making the necessary assumptions to cover the matter of measuring lengths, we must make one with regard to the character of the signals :whlch are to be employed for this purpose. If we a system of signalling that would could assume consume no time In transmission allwould be simple But we have no experience with such a enough. Even If we believe that It ought to be possystem. sible infinite thus to transmit signals at velocity, in the absence of our present ability we to may not, do this,assume that it is possible. So we may only assume, with Einstein,that for our signals we shall employ the speediestmessenger with v/hichwe are at Is light, the present acquainted. This of course including any of the electromagnetic Impulses' term :r that travel at the speed C. Of course in the vast tance o majorityf cases the disthat any lightsignal In which we are interested must go to reach us Is so small that the time taken

84

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

by Its transmission can by no means be measured. We are then, to all intents and purposes, at both places the point of origin of the signal and the point of receipt -simultaneously. But this is not the question at all. Waiving the fact that in astronomical investigationsthis approximation no longer holds, the fact remains that It Is, in every case, merely an approximation. Approximations are all right in observations, where we know that they are But in the approximations and act accordingly.

" "

conceptual universe that parallelsthe external reality, computation Is as good an agent of observation as sensation; if we can visual or auditory or tactile involved In a wrong the error compute procedure Is there, regardless of whether we can see the error it or not. We must have methods which are conceptual free from error; attempt to and If we ignore the velocity of our light signals we do not meet this condition. The measurement of lengths demands that we have a criterionof simultaneity between two remote in inches or remote in light-years, points remote it does not matter which. There Is no diffiodtyin defining simultaneity of two events that fall In the same point or rather, in agreeing that we know by such simultaneity. But with regard what we mean In remote to two events that occur places there be a question. A scientific definitiondiffers may from a mere description in that it must afford us a means of testing whether a given Item comes under In There Is some dlflSculty the definitionor not. tant setting up a definition of simultaneity between disevents that satisfies his requirement. If we t

" "

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

85

our

by "the same mean what we thisis not adequate. We must for determining whether two events at remote points instant," and check up alleged occur at "the same of this procedure. simultaneityby means Einstein says, and we must agree with him, that he can find but one reasonable definitionto cover Is this ground. An observer can tell whether he located half way between two points of his observation; he can have mirrors set up at these points, and note the time at which send out light-signals, he gets back the reflection. He knows that the is the velocity of both signals,going and coming, to him toif he observes that they return gether same; so that their time of transit for the round he must accept the distances as trip is the same, line joining equal. He is then at the mid-point of the the two points under observation; and he may define simultaneity as follows, without Introducing are indeterminate: Two events or anything new between them simultaneous If an observer midway by means, instant, sees them at the same of course, of light originatingat the points of occurrence.]* [ItIs this definition simultaneity,coupled with of

the assumption that all observers, on whatever uniformly experime moving systems, would obtain the same value for the velocityof light,that leads to the apparent paradoxes of the Special Theory of we Relativity. If itbe asked why we adopt it, must In turn ask the inquirer to propose a better system for defining simultaneousevents on different moving

bodies.]""

86

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

In this definitionto Indicate, directly,whether simultaneity persists for all observers or whether it is relative, so that events simultaneous to one observer are not so to another. The Q'.Tfitionmust then be investigated; and the answer, of course, will hinge upon the possibility of making proper allowances for the time of transit of the light signals that may be involved. It seems as though this ought to be possible; but a simple experiment will indicate that it is not, unless the observers Involved are at rest with respect to one another.

[There Is nothing

An

Let

us

Einsteinian

an

Experiment

l Indefinitelyong, straight railroad track, with an observer located somewhere According to the convention along Itat the point M. points A suggested above, he has determined and B in opposite directions from him along the

Imagine

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiniii!Miiiiiiiimiiiiimiiiiiiiim"ii

track, and equally distant from him. We shall imagine, further, than a beneficentProvidence supplies lightning flashes,one A and two striking at findsthem one at B, in such a way that observer M to be simultaneous. While all this is going on, a train Is passing a very long train,amply long enough to overlap the the passengers sectionAMB of the track. Among

"

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

87

there is one, whom we may callM', who Isdirectly to M, opposite M at the instant when, according the lightning strikes. Observe he Is not opposite b M when M sees the flashes,ut a brief time earlier tion, at the instant when, according to M's computathe simultaneous flashes occurred. At this d Instantthere are definitely etermined the points A' and B', on the train; and since we may quite well train-system and trackthink of the two systems ^^as in coincidence at this instant, M' is system is midway between A' and B', and likewise midway between A and B. Now if we think of the train as moving over the see we very track in the direction of the arrow, from the light from easily that M' is running away A and toward that from B, and that, despite or If you prefer because of the uniform velocityof from B reaches him, these light signals,the one sooner over a slightly than the one shorter course, longer course. When the from A, over the slightly light signals reach M, M' Is no longer abreast of bit,so that at this him but has moved along a wee one instantwhen M has the two signals, of these has passed M' and the other has yet to reach him. The upshot is that the events which were ous simultaneare to M not so to M'. It will probably be feltthat this resultis due to tently, having, somewhat our and inconsisunjustifiably localized on the train the relative motion between train and track. But If we think of the track as slidingback under the train in the direction and carrying with itthe points opposite to the arrow, A and B; and if we remember that this in no way

"

"

"

"

"

88

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

M's observed velocityof lightor the distances affects AM as he and BM a observes them: we can still ccept his claim that the flasheswere simultaneous. Then have again the same we situation:when the flashes from A and from B reach M at the same in moment, his new to the left position a trifle of his initial position of the diagram, the flash from A has not yet reached M' in his original position while that from B has passed him. Regardless of what assumpti we make concerning the motion between train-system and track-system, or more elegantly fine regardless of what coordinate system we use to dethat motion, the event at B precedes that at A in the observation of M^ If we introduce a second tion, train moving on the other track in the opposite direcfind that the the observer on it will of course flash at A precedes that at B a disagreement not but actuallyas to the order merely as to simultaneity If we events ! of two conceive the lightning as striking at the points A' and B' on the train, these points travel with M' Instead of with M; they are fixedto his coordinate system Instead of to the other. If you carry out the argument now, you will find that when the flashesare simultaneous to M', the one at A precedes that at B In M's observation. A large number less or of experiments more strate similarIn outlineto this one can be set up to demon"

the consequences, with regard to measured values of time and space, of relativemotion between two observers. I do not believe that a multiplicity of such demonstrations contributes to the intelllglbilityof the that and subject, It Is for this reason I have cut loose from Immediate dependence upon

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

89

the essayistsin this part of the discussion,concentrating upon the single experiment to which Einstein himself gives the place of importance.

Who

Is Right?

We

may

permit Mr.

Francis

to

remind

us

here

that neither M nor M' may correct his observation it accord with the other fellow's- The one to make who does this is admitting that the other is at absolute rest and that he is himself in absolute motion; and this cannot be. They are simply in disagreement

as

events, the simultaneity of two justas two observers might be in disagreement about the distance This can mean or the direction of a single event. nothing elsethan that,under the assumptions we have as made, simultaneity is not an absolute characteristic had supposed itto be, but, likedistance and direction, we is in fact merely a relation between observer and objective, therefore depends upon the particular and happens to be operating and observer who upon the reference frame he is using. But this is serious. My time measurements pend dethe ultimately upon my space measurements; latter, and hence both, depend closelyupon my ideas of simultaneity. Yours depend upon your reading pose of simultaneity in precisely the same way.]* [Supthe observer on the track, in the above experiment, to measure wants the length of something on

to

the car, or the observer on the car something on the be at must track. The observer, or his assistant, both ends of tKe length fo be measured at the same time, or get simultaneousreports In some way from

90

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

these ends; else they will obtain false results. It is plain, then, that with differentcriteria of what "same the time" is,the observers in the two systems may get differentvalues for the measured lengths in question.]"" [Who is right? According to the principle of relativitya decision on this question is absolutely impossible. Both parties are right from their own

points of view; and we must admit that two events in two differentplaces may be simultaneous for certain for other observers, and yet not simultaneous ones. observers who move with respect to the first There is no contradictionin this statement, although it is not in accordance with common opinion, which

believes simultaneousness to be something absolute. But this common not opinion lacks foundation. It canbe proved by direct perception, for simultaneity ner [and of events can be perceived directly,]^* in a maninvolving none of our arbitrary assumptions,] [onlyif they happen at the same place; if the distant from each other, their simulare events taneity be stated only through some or successioncan method of communicating by signals. There is no logical reason why such a method should not lead to differentresults for observers with who move

regard to one another. From what we have said,it follows immediately that in the new theory not only the concept of that of duration is revealed simultaneousness but

also

the motion of the observer.]" [Demonstrationf this should be superfluous; it o that if two ouglit to be plain without argument agree whether two instants are observers cannot

as

on

dependent

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

91

terva instantor not, they cannot agree on the Inof time between instants. In the very example which we have already examined, one observer says is that a certain time-interval zero, and another gives The same it a value different from zero. thing happens whenever the observers are in relativemotion. duration measure the [Two physicistswho

the

same

of a physical process will not obtain the same if they are in relativemotion with regard to

They will also find differentresultsfor the length to measure the of a body. An observer who wants length of a body which is moving past him must in one way or another hold a measuring rod parallel to itsmotion and mark those points on his rod with into simultaneous which the ends of the body come coincidence. The distance between the two marks But if will then indicate the length of the body. the two markings are simultaneous for one observer, they will not be so for another one who moves with a differentvelocity,or who is at rest, with regard to the body under observation. He will have to ascribe a differentlength to it. And there In asking which of them is right: will be no sense

length is

a I24

purely relativeconcept,

as just

well

as

duration.]'

The

Relativity

to

of

Time

and

Space

which distance and time become irebtive instead of absolute quantities under the be stated very Snecial Theory of Relativity can must point out cfiinitely.In the firstplace, we

[The degree

92

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

that the relativity lengths applieswith fullforce of only to lengths that lie parallel to the direction of relativemotion. Those that lieexactly perpendicular for both obto that direction come out the same server those that lie obliquely to it show an effect, becomes depending upon the angle, which of course greater and greater as the direction of parallelism is approached. strated, The magnitude of the effect Is easily demonbut with this demonstration we do not need It turns out that if an obto be concerned here. server finds that a certain moving with a system time interval in the system is T seconds and that a certain length in the system is L inches, then an observer moving parallelwith L and with a velocity V relative to the system will find for these the respectivevalues T -h- K and L X K, where

K=Vi"

"^VC^

C in thisexpression of course represents the velocity of light. It will be noted that the fractionv'/C' is ordinarily very small; that the expression under the radical is therefore less than i but by a very shght margin; and that the entire expression K is Itself therefore less than i but by an even slightermargin. This means, then, that the observer outside the system finds the lengths in the system to be a wee bit longer bit shorter and the time Intervalsa wee than does the observer in the system. Another way Is based, ultimately,upon the of putting the matter fact that In order for the observer in the system to get the larger value for distance and the smaller

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

93

value for time, his measuring rod must go into the distance under measurement more times than that of the moving observer, while his clock must beat a longer second in order that less of them shall be So recorded in a given intervalbetween two events. it is often said that the measuring rod as observed from without is contracted and the clock runs slow. This does not impress me happy statement, a as either in form or in content.]* [The argument that these formulae are contradicted by human experience can be refuted by examining feet instance. If a train is 1,000 a concrete long at rest, how long will it be when running a mile a minute?]"" [I have quoted this question exactly as it appears in the essay from which it is taken, because it is such a capital example of the way tomaril objectionalble in which this business is cusFor the statement crease that lengths deput. and time-intervalsincrease "with velocity" is true in just not this form. The velocity,to have meaning, must be relativeto some external system; and it is the observations from that external system that are affected. So long as we confineourselves to the system in which the alleged modifications of size are stated as having taken place, there is nothing to from what isusual; there observe that isany different is no way to establishthat we are a locity enjoying vein fact within the intent of the relativity and a theory we are not enjoying velocity,for we are moving with the objects which we are observing. It is inter-systemicobservations, and these alone, that we travel with the system show the effect. When

under observation,we

get the

same

results as

any

94

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

Other observer on this system; when we do not so travel, we must conduct our observations from our own fer system, in relativemotion to the other, and reour

resultsto

our

system.

particular observer is specified, when no an assume we must observer connected of course with the train,or with whatever the body mentioned. To that observer it doesn't make the slightestdifference what the train does; it may stand at rest externalsystem or itmay move with respect to some at any velocitywhatsoever ; itslength remains always feet. In order for this question to have the i,ooo it to have, w significance hich its propounder means feet I must restate it as follows: A train is i,ooo long as measured by an observer traveUing with it. If it passes a second observer at 60 miles per hour, The answer what isitslength as observed by him? Now is now to easy.]* [According length of the moving train as seen will be

1,000

V'l

"

(88)V(

186,000

5,280)=*

feet,

.999,999,999,999,999,996

a

change entirely too small for detection by the delicateinstruments. Examination of the exmost pressi K shows that In so far as terrestrial movements are of material objects concerned itis equal to a i]"^ [within far smaller margin than we can hope to make our ever observations. Even the diameter of the earth,as many of the essayists point be shortened only lYi inches for an outside out, will it rushes with its orbitalspeed observer past whom

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

95

ferenc of 18.5 miles per second. But slight as the difits scientific may be in these familiar cases, importance remains the

same.]*

and

Relativity

Reality

simple computation shows that this effectis gerald exactly the amount suggested by Lorentz and Fitzto experiexplain the Michelson-Morley ment.]^ to surprise us, since both [Thisought not

[A

are got up that explanation and the present one If they both achieve that purpose. with the same to the same purpose they must, numerically, come It is,however, most thing in any numerical case. be insisted that the present emphatically to "shortening" of lengths]* no longer appears as a [ "physical" shortening caused by absolute motion through the ether but is simply a resultof our methods gerald [Where Fitzof measuring space and time.]^^^ tion and Lorentz had assumed that a body in mohas itsdimensions shortened in the directionof itsmotion, ]"" [thisery form of statement ceases v

to

tellwhich of two bodies is, is moving, which one is shortened? The answer both for tke other fellow. For each frame of reference there is a scaleof length and a scale of time, and these scales for differentframes are related in involvinghath the length and the time.]"" a manner [Butwe must not yield to the temptation to say that allthis is not real;the confinem.ent a certainscale of length and of time to a single observation system of does not in the least make It [The situunreal.]*

[Forif we

cannot

"

g6

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

atlon is real as real as any other physicalevent.]**^ [The word physical is used in two senses in the It is denied that the observed above paragraph. tractio variabilityin lengths indicatesany "physical" conor shrinkage; and on the heels of this it is is an asserted that this observed variability of itself It is difficulto express t actual "physical" event. in words the distinctionbetween the two senses in in which the term physical is employed but I think this distinction statements, these two be clear once its existence is emto ought phasiz There is no material contraction; it is in r right to say that objects motion contract or ; shorter; they are not shorter to an observer in with them. The whole thing is a phenomenon -iOtion of observation. The definitions which we are obliged are to lay down and the assumptions which we t obliged to make in order, first, hat we shallbe able to measure at all,and second, that we shallbe able to escape the inadmissable concept of absolutemotion, are such that certain realities hich we had supposed w for all observers turn out not ought to be the same for observers who are in relative to be the same have We another. motion with respect to one found this out, and we have found out the numerical relationwhich holds between the reality of the one observer and that of the other. We have found that this relation depends upon nothing save the relative velocity of the two observers. As good a way of emphasizing this as any is to point out that two velocity with respect observers who have the same

"

the system under examination '(and mutual v"'hose relativevelocityis therefore zero)will always get

to

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

97

the same resultswhen measuring lengths and times does not go through any on that system. The object process of contraction; it is simply shorter because it is observed from a station with respect to which it is moving. Similar remarks might be made about but the time-interval is not so easily the time effect; thing and hence does not visualized as a concrete offer such temptation for loose statement. The purely relativeaspect of the matter is further brought out if we consider a single example both backwards and forwards. Systems S and S' are in in relativemotion. An object S which to an observer in S is L units long, is shorter for an observer in S' indicatedthrough the "correction shorter by an amount factor" K. Now if we have, in the first stance in"

statement that objects made the objectionable S' than they are in S, it will are shorter in ^stem be quite natural for us to infer from thisthat objects in S must be longer than those in S'; and from this to assert that when the observer In S measures lying in S',he gets for them greater lengths objects than does the home observer In S'. But if we have, in the first Instance,avoided the objectionabl be much better able to, we statement referred shall to realize that the whole business is quite reciprocal;

are that the phenomena symmetric with respect to the two systems, to the extent that we can interchange the systems In any of our statements fying without modiin any other way. the statements in Objects S appear shorter and times in S appear longer to the external "moving" observer In S' than they do to the domestic observer in S. Exactly In In S' appear shorter to obthe same way,

objects

98

servers

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

in the foreign system S than to the home observer in S', who remains at rest with respect to I think that when we them. get the right angle this situation, it loses the alleged startling upon character which has been imposed upon it by many "apparent size" of the astronomer writers. The is an analogy in point. Objects by on the moon, server virtue of their great distance, look smaller to obon

the earth than to observers on the moon. Do on objects the earth, on this account, look larger to a moon observer than they do to us? They do not; any suggestion that they do we should receive The variation in size introduc with appropriate scorn. by distance is reciprocal, and this reciprocity does not in the least puzzle us. Why, then, should that introduced by relativemotion puzzle us? Time

and

Space

in

Single

Package

Our old, accustomed concepts of time and space, which have grown up through countless generations ancestors, and been handed down to us in of our the form in which we are familiar with them, leave for a condition where time intervals and no room varian not space intervals are universally fixed and infor us to say that]* They leave no room [one cannot know the time until he knows where he Is,nor where he is until he knows the time,]""

place until he knows something about velocity. But in this concise formulation of the differencebetween what we have always believed to be among the consequences and what v/e have seen

or

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

99

locate once of relativity uniform motion, we may at the assumption which, underlying all the old ideas, is the root of all the trouble. The fact is we have to be absolutely always supposed time and space distinctand independent entities.]* [The concept of time has ever been one of the It Is true that most absolute of all the categories. there is much of the mysterious about time; and to clear philosophers have spent much efforttrying ever, Howwith unsatisfactory results. up the mystery to most persons ithas seemed possible to adopt or unit of duration and to say an arbitrary measure that this Is absolute, Independent of the state of the body or bodies on which it is used for practical purposes. has thus been regarded as something [Time flows on regularly and continuously, which of itself regardless of physical events concerning mat[In ter.]^^** other words, according to this view, time Is not affected by conditions or motions in to ignore space. ]"^ [We have deliberatelychosen appear to us, the obvious fact that time can never for be measured by us, or have the least significance a measure as save us, of something that Is closely

"

sions. tied up with space and with material space-dimenhave we supposed that time and Not merely In our easiestperception space are separated In nature as but we have supposed that they are of such fundamentally distinct character that they can never be tied up together. In no way whatever, assumes may space the Euclidean and Newtonian Intellect, depend upon time or time upon space. This Is ever In order to the assumxptlonwhich we must remove and while It may come attain universal relativity;

100

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

hard as the alternative. so hard, it will not come is For this alternative nothing other than to abandon would leave us universal relativity. This course with logical contradictions and discrepancies that could not be resolved by any revision of fundamental concepts or by any cleaning out of the Augean stables of old assumptions; whereas the relativitydoctrine as built up by Einstein requires only such a cleaning logical and out in order to leave us with a strictly The role of Hercules is a very consistentwhole. for us to play. Einstein has played it difficult one for the race at large, but each of us must follow him in playing itfor himself.

Some

Further

Consequences

I need not trespass upon the matter of subject those essays which appear in fullby going here into in which time any detailswith regard to the manner and space are finallyfound to depend upon one another and to form the parts of a single universal But I may appropriately point out that if whole. time and space are found to be relative,we may surely expect some of the lessfundamental concepts that depend upon them to be relativealso. In this disappointed. For one are not expectation we [masshas always been assumed to be a thing,]* constant, Independent of any motion or energy which it might possess. Justas lengths and times depend upon relative motion, however, itis found that mass, which is the remaining factor In the expression for energy due to motion, also depends upon relative velocities.The dependence is such that If a body

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

lOI

of energy E with respect to a certain system, the body behaves, to measurements had been made from that system, as though Itsmass increased by an amount E/C', where C is as usual the velocity of light. ]^"* The key to the situa[This should not startleus. tion liesin the italicized words above, which indicate to the query whether a body has that the answer taken up energy or not depends upon the seat of observation. If I take up my location on the system S, and you on the system S', and if we find that we in relativemotion, we must make some are assumption

takes up

an

amount

about the energy which was necessary, initially, to get us into this condition. Suppose we two are on

[The chances are that either of us passing trains.]* that he is at rest and that it is the other will assume train which moves, although if sufficiently cated sophistione that he is moving and of us may assume

that the other train is at rest.]-" [Whateverour assumption, whatever the system, the locahzation of the energy that is carried in latent form by our Indeed, if systems depends upon this assumption. our our systems are of differingmass, assumptions ideas of the amount even our govern will of energy which is represented by our relativemotion; if your system be the more energy would have massive, more to be localized in it than in mine to produce our relativemotion. If we did not have the universal to principleof relativity forbid,we might make an arbitrary assumption about our motions and hence about our respectivelatent energies;in the presence of this veto, the only chance of adjustment liesin our masses, which must differaccording to whether

I02

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

you

I observe them.]* [For most of the velocities with which famihar E/C^ is,like the differencebetween

or

we

are

and

unity,such an extremely small quantity that the most fail to detect it. But the delicate measurements electronsin a highly evacuated tube and the particles shot out from radioactive materials attain in some cases as velocities high as eight-tenthsthat of light. ferent When measure we the mass of such particlesat diffind that it actually increases velocitieswe going with the velocity,and in accordance with the forelaw.]"*[Thisobservation, in fact,antedates Einstein's explanation, which is far more satisfactory than the earlier differentiationbet^^een "normal mass" mass" called upon which was and "electrical for the increase.]* to account [But If the quantity E/C" is to be considered as an may itnot be possiblethat actualIncreaseIn mass, This would lead to the concluIs energy? sion all mass Is mC^. that the energy stored up In any mass The value is very great, since C is so large; but it is in good agreement with the Internal energy of the as atom calculated from other considerations. It

is obvious that conservation of mass tum and of momenlates cannot both hold good under a theory that transthe one Into the other. Mass is then not considered by Einstein as conservativein the ordinary but itIs the total quantity of mass sense, plus energy Small in any closed system that remains constant. amounts energy may be transformed into mass,

of

and vice

as

displayed

the theory which are often In the are consequences really more

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

IO3

of assumptions. It will be recalled that when had agreed upon the necessity of employing sigwe nals sort, we selectedas the means of signalling of some pened hapthe speediest messenger with which we to be acquainted. Our subsequent difficulties largely due to the impossibility of making a were proper allowance for this messenger's speed, ev^en though we knew its numerical value; and as a consequence thisspeed enters into our formulae. Now have not said in so many words that C is the we but we have tacitly greatest speed attainable, assumed it is. We need not, therefore, be surprised it that formulae give us absurd resultsfor speeds higher our than C, and indicate the impossibility ever ing attainof Whatever we put into a problem the algethese. bra is bound to give us back. If we look at our formula for K, we see that In the event of v equalling C, lengths become zero The Infinite. and times light messenger Itself, then, has no dimension; and for It time stands still. If we suppose v to be greater than C, we get even bizarre results,for then the factor K is the more square root of a negative number, or as the mathematician It an "Imaginary" quantity; and with calls lengths and times become imaginary too. it, The fact that time stops for It,and the fact that it Is the limiting velocity,give to C certain of the Certainly attributes of the mathematician's Infinity. if it can never be exceeded, we must have a new formula for the composition of velocities. Otherwise

nature

when my system passes yours at a speed of 100,000 miles per second. Mobileyours passes a third In direction at the same the same velocity, I shall be

I04

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

forbidden velocity passing thisthird framework at the greater than C. In miles per second of 200,000 fact Einstein is able to show that an old formula, been found to connect the speed which had already of light in a material medium with the speed of that serve sition universally for the compomedium, will now of velocities. When we combine the velocities V and u, instead of getting the resultant i; -f m as we would have supposed, we get the resultant

"

u or

O

C^

(v + u)

-f

tiv

If This need not surprise either, we willbut reflect us that the second velocity effectsa second revision of between the systems length and time measurements if we let either v, or u, or even involved. And now, both of them, take the value C, the resultant still is C. In another way we have found C to behave like the mathematician's infinity,o which, in the t words of the blind poet, if we add untold thousands, no we effect real increment.

Assumption

and

Consequence

A good many correspondents who have given the t sufficient hought to realize that the limiting subject Eincharacter of the velocity C is really read into stein's or system by assumption have written, in more lessperturbed inquiry,to know whether this does not The answer, invalidate the whole structure. of is yes course, ^provided you can show this assump"

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

IO5

answer tlon to be Invalid. The same may be made doctrine whatever, and In reference of any scientific to any one of the multitudinous assumptions underlying It. If we were to discover, tomorrow, a way stein's of sending signals absolutely Instantaneously,Ein-

as we whole structure would collapse as soon had agreed to use this new If we were to method. discover a signallingagent with finite velocitygreater than that of light,relativity would persist v/Ith this velocitywritten in Itsformulae In the place of C. It is a mistake to quote Einstein's theory in support be. that such a velocitycan never of the statement An assumption proves its consequences, but never itself; it must can prove remain always an But in the presence of long human assumption. experience supporting Einstein's assumption that no velocity in excess of C can be found, it Is fair to but demand that it be disputed not with argument with demonstration. The one line of argument that sumpti would hold out a priori hope of reducing the asbe one based on the to an absurdity would familiar Idea of adding velocities; but Einstein has spiked this argument before itIs started by replacing the direct addition of velocities with another method of combining them that fitsin with his assumption and as well with the observed facts. The burden of proof Is then on the prosecution; anyone who would contradict our assertion that C is the greatest velocity attainable may do so only by showing us a Until this has been done, the admission greater one. that it may properly be attempted can In no way be construed as a confession of weakness on the

part of Einstein.

I06

It may

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

be well to point out that In no event may analogy be drawn with sound, as many have tried In the first to do. place sound requires a material medium and its velocity with regard to this rather than relative to the observer we know to be fixed; in the second place, requiring a material medium, is not a universal signallingagent; in the third sound place, we know definitely that itsvelocity can be exceeded and are therefore barred from making the assumption necessary to establish the analogy. The very extraordinary behavior of light in presenting a for all observers, and in velocity that is the same refusing to betray the least material evidence of any for its transmission, rather fortifies in us medium believing that Einstein's assumption regarding the ultimate character of this velocityis in accord with the nature of things.

Relativity

and the

Layman

A great deal

comment

can

making accompaniments easier of acceptance, and we shall conclude the present discussionby saying some [ of these things.]*It has been that the

objected

various effectscatalogued above only apparent, due to the finite velocityof light that the real shape and size of a body or the real time of an event cannot be affectedby the point of view or the motion of an observer. This argument would be perfectly valid, if there were real times and distances; but These are earth-bound there are not. notions, due

are

"

to

our

experience on

an

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

IO7

these circumsta differentobservations of the same thing But when we no longer or event agree. of the same have the solid earth to stand on, and are dealing with velocitiesso high that the relativityeffectsbecome appreciable, there is no standard by which to resolve the disagreements. No one of the observations can mand claim to be nearer realitythan any other. To dethe real size of a thing is to demand a stationary mation. observer or an instantaneous means of inforBoth are impossible. When relativity asks us to give up our earth-

bodies.

Under

notions of absolute space and absolute time i the sensation, at first, s that we have nothing leftto So must the contemporaries of Columbus stand on. have feltwhen told that the earth rested on nothing. The remedy too is similar. Just they had to as be taught that fallingis a local affair, that the earth is self-contained, so and n^-^dsno external support be taught that space and time standards are we must

"

"

bound

local affairs. Each moving body carries its own space and time standards with it;itis self-contained. It does not need to reach out for eternal support, for an absolute space and time that can never quite be attained. All we ever need to know is the relation of the other fellow's space and time standards to This is the firstthing relativity our own. teaches

us.]"^ [The consequences of Einstein's assumptions led many to on the reject theory of relativity,

ground

sense

"

have

the

that its conclusions are contrary to common as they undoubtedly are. But to the contemporaries of Copernicus and Galileo the theory that

I08

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

itsaxis and revolves around the sun was sense; contrary to common yet this theory prevailed. There is nothing sacred about common in the last analysis its judgments based sense; are on the accumulated experience of the human race. From the beginning of the world up to the present known whose velocities generation, no bodies were were not extremely small compared with that of light. The development of modern physics has led to discovery of very some much larger velocities, high as 165,000 miles per as second. It is not to be wondered at that such an enlargement of our experience requires a corresponding enlargement or generalization of the concepts of space and time. Just as the presupposition of primitive man that the earth flat had to be given up in the light was of advancing knowledge, so we are now called upon to give up our

the earth rotates

on

presupposition that space and time are absolute and independent in theirnature. The reader must not expect to understand the in theory of relativity the sense of making it fitin with his previous ideas. If the theory be right these ideas are wrong and must be modified, a process apt to be come [Allthe reader can do is to bepainful.]"^ familiar with the new as concepts, just a child gets used to the simple relations and quantitieshe meets until he "understands" them.]"^ [Mr. Francis has said something of the utmost significance he points out that "understanding" when really in the world except familiarityand means nothing

[The accustomedness.]*

at once

thing about the relativity doctrine that we can hope thus to understand and without pain is the logicalprocess used

one

THE

SPECIAL

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

IO9

is In arriving at our [Particularlyit results.]"^ hard to give a satisfactoryexplanation of the theory In popular language, because the language Itselfis based on the old concepts; the only language which is [Unless really adequate is that of mathematics.]-^^ have, in addition to the terms we of our ordinary knowledge, a set of definitions that comes with a wide knowledge of mathematics and a livelysense of the realityof mathematical constructions,we are likely to view the theory of relativitythrough a fog of familiar terms suddenly become self-contradictory and deceptive. Not that we are unfamiliar with the idea that some of our habitual notions may be wrong; but knowledge of their illusory nature arises and becomes convincing only with time. We may now be ready to grant that the earth, seemingly so solid, is really a whirling globe rushing through space; but we are no more ready Immediately to accept the bald assertion that this space Is not what It seems

than

our

was

ancestors

were

to

[What we round or that It moved. J^^'^ have, if we are to comprehend relativity must with degree of thoroughness. Is the mathematician's any attitude toward his assumptions, and his complete readiness to swap one set of assumptions for another as a mere part of the day's work, the spirit which of I have endeavored to convey in the chapter on nonEuclidean

earth

geometry.]*

Physics

vs.

Metaphysics

[The Ideas of

to be giving

us

may relativity

new

seem,

at

no

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

doubtless; but certainlythe by its author to be quite the apposite of metaphysical. Our actual perception of space is by measurement, real and imagined, of distances between just tion objects, as our actual percepIs it not less metaphysical of time is by measurement.

time and space. meant theory was

New,

ments time as our measurepresent them to us, than to invent hypotheses to force our perceptual space into an absolute space that is forever hidden from us?]^^-[In order not to be metaphysical, we must ceived eliminate our preconto

notions of space and time and motion, and strume focus our attention upon the indications of our inof observation, as affording the only objecti fore manifestations of these qualitiesand therecan the only attributeswhich we consider as has functions of observed [Einstein

phenomena.]*^

consistentlyfollowed the teachings of experience, and completely freed himself from metaphysics.]"* is not always easy to do is clear, I think, [That this if we will recall the highly metaphysical character to often taken by the objections action-at-a-distance theories and concepts; and if we will remind ourselves on that it was purely metaphysical grounds Huyghens' wave that Newton refused to countenance theory of light. Whether, as in the one case, itleads to valid conclusions, or, as in the other, to false us

metaphysical reasoning is something to avoid. Einstein, I think, has avoided it about as thoroughly

ones,

as

anyone

ever

did.]*

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

of

Dividing Methods; the NonEuclidean and Significance AND THE Latter the

the

editor

BY

lution science of geometry has undergone a revois not informed, of which the outsider but which it is necessary to understand if we are lation to attain any comprehension of the geometric formuof Einstein's results;and especiallyif we are it is proper to appreciate why and desirable to formulate these results geometrically at all. The classical geometer regarded his science from a as narrow vieT^^Doint, the study of a certain set of those of the space about us, observed phenomena considered as an entity in itselfand divorced from things about everything in it. It is clear that some that space are not as they appear (optical illusions) and that other things about it are true but by no

THE

"

means

of a right triangle,the formulae for surface and volume of a sphere, etc.).While many things about space "obvious," these need in the one disproof are case and in the other discovery and proof. With alltheir love of mental processes for their own sake, it is

apparent

(the sum-of-squares

property

112

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

then not surprising that the Greeks should have set themselves the task of proving by logical process the properties of space, which a less thoughtful folk tional only for observav/ould have regarded as a subject and experimental determination. But, abstract or concrete, the logical structure have a starting point; and it is fair to demand must that this consist in a statement of the terms we are

to attach going to use and the meanings we are going In other words, the first thing on the to them. o eral probably, sevprogram will be a definition,r more definitions. clastic has a somewhat iconoNow the modern scientist

and especially viewpoint toward definitions, toward the definitionof his very most fundamental ideas. do not speak here in terms We of dictionary definitions.These have for the eminent necessity

object

of explaining the meaning and use of a word to itfor the first one some met time. It is who has just easy enough to do this,if the doer possesses a good a matter of the language. It is not even command tion that the words used in the definiof grave concern be themselves known to the reader; if they are Dr. he must their acquaintance too. not, make Johnson's celebrated definitionof a needle stands he cannot define a as perpetual evidence that when cograph simpler, the lexisimple thing in terms of things still is forced to define it In terms of things Or we might demonstrate this by more complex. driven to define are noting that the best dictionaries such words as "and" and "but" by using such com-

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

II3

"con-

olex notions as are embodied in "connective," tinuative,""adversative," and "particle." It is otherwise with the scientist who undertakes as the basis of further proa definition to lay down cedure in buildingup the tissueof his science. Here a degree of rigorous logic Is called for which would be as superfluousin the dictionary as the effortthere to attain it would be out of place. The scientist, In building up a logical structure that will withstand define everything, not in terms every assault, must less warranted in or of something which he is more supposing his audience to know about, but actually in terms of things that have already been defined. This really means that he must explain what he is talking about In terms of simpler ideas and simpler things, which is precisely what the lexicographer does not have to worry about. This Is why it Is to quote a dictionary definition of time quite trivial force or motion in settlement or or space or matter or nature. of a controversy of scientific semi-scientific

Terms

We

Cannot

Define

But the scientist who attempts to carry out this ideal system of defining everything in terms of what one surmount precedes meets obstacle which he cannot directly. Even a layman can construct a passable definitionof a complex thing like a paralleloplped, in terms of simpler concepts like point, line, plane and parallel. But who shall define point In

terms

of something simpler and ?omething which precedes point in the formulation of geometry? The is plicate scientist embarrassed, not In handling the comlater parts of his work, but in the very be-

114

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ginning, In dealing with the simplest concepts witii which he has to deal. Suppose a dictionary were to be compiled with the definitionsarranged in logical rather than alphabetical order: every word to be defined by the use only of words that have already been defined. The further back toward the beginning we push this project, harder It gets. Obviously we can never the define the first word, or the second, save as synonomous with the first. In fact we should need a dozen to start with or less, v/ords, more ^God-given words define and shall not try to define, v/hich we cannot but of which we must agree that we know the significa Then we have tools for further procedure

"

with, say, the thirteenthword and define all the rest of the words In the language, In logical fashion. strictly have said about definitionsapplies What we equally to statements of fact,of the sort which are going to constitutethe body of our science. In the absence of simpler factsto citeas authority,we shall be able to prove anything, however simple this never itselfbe; and in fact the simpler It be, the may harder it Is to find something simpler to underhe it. If we are to have a logicalstructure of any sort, we begin by laying down certain terms which we must shall not attempt to define, and certain statements Mathematics, shall not try to prove. which we physics, chemistry In the large and In all their many minor fields all these must start somewhere. Instead of deceiving ourselves as to the circumstances be quite surrounding their start, we prefer to frank in recognizing that they start where we decide

; we

can

start

"

"

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

115

them. If we don't like one set of undefined terms as let us try the foundation, by all means another. But always we must have such a set. The classical geometer sensed the difficulty deof fining his first terms. But he supposed that he had it when he defined these in words free of techmet nical significance. "A point isthat which has position without size" seemed to him an adequate definition, because "position" and "size" are words of the ordinary language with which we may all be assumed familiar. But today we feel that "position" and "size" represent ideas that are not necessarilymore fundamental than those of "line" and "point," and that such a definitionbegs the question. We get "point" nowhere by replacing the undefined terms and "hne" and "plane," which really everybody understands, by other undefined terms which nobody understands any better. In handling the facts that it was inconvenient to

to Start

closer to modern practice. He laid down at the beginning a few statements which he called "axioms," and which he that demonstration considered to be so self-evident was superfluous. That the term "self-evident"left for a vast amount room of ambiguity appears to have escaped him altogether. His axioms were axioms solely because they were obviously true.

came

Laying The

the

Foundation

modern geometer fallsin with Euclid when he writes an elementary text, satisfying the beginner's demand for apparent rigor by defining point

Il6

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

geometry

to

some

another quarter. In the first place he is always in search of the utmost possible generality for he has found this to be his most effective tool, enabling him as itdoes to make a singlegeneral

statement

But when he addresses an effort to clarify the foundations of a further degree of rigor and lucidity before been attained, he meets these

fashion.

take the place and do the work of many The classicalgeometer atparticular statements. tained for all his statements generality of a sort, were of any point or line or plane. But the modern

confronted with a relation that holds among points or between points and lines,at once goes to speculating whether there are not other elements or between which itholds. The among cal classiisn'tinterestedin this question at all, geometer because he is seeking the absolute truth about the points and lines and planes which he sees as the so elements of space; to him itis actually an object to circumscribe his statements that they may by no

geometer,

possibility refer to anything other than these elements. feels that Whereas the modern geometer his primary concern is with the fabric of logical propositions that he is building up, and not at all with the elements about which those propositions revolve. It is of obvious value if the mathematician can lay down a proposition true of points, lines and planes. But he would much rather lay down a proposition true at once other things; of these and of numerous for such a proposition phenomena will group more He feels that on pure under a single principle.

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

1 1

grounds there is quite as much interestin scientific set of elements to which his proposition applies any one is as there is in any other; that if any person to confine his attention to the set that stands for the cist, space, that person ought to be the physiphysicist's If he has produced a tool not the geometer. is which the physicistcan use, the physicist welcome it;but the geometer cannot understand why, to use on that ground, he should be asked to confine his attention to the materials on which the physicist

employs that tool. It will be alleged that points and linesand planes liein the mathematician's domain, and that the other things to which his propositions may apply may not so lie that if he will not name them and especially in advance he cannot expect that they will so lie. But the mathematician willnot admit this. If mathematics is defined on narrow grounds as the science of number, even the point and line and plane may be be excluded from its field. If any wider definition be ^there is just one must sought and of course definitionthat the mathematician will accept: one Dr. Keyser's statement that "mathematics is the art or scienceof rigorous thinking." The immediate concern of thisscienceis the means tions, and definiof rigorous thinking undefined terms cern axioms and propositions. Its collateralcon" " " "

Is the things to which these may apply, the things which may be thought about rigorously the mathematician's domain Is everything. But now so than ever vastly extended that It becomes more important for him to attainthe utmost generalityIn allhis pronouncements.

"

Il8

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

such generalization is the very "geometry," name with the restricted significance The which its derivation and long usage carry. have it distinctlyundertherefore must geometer stood for him "geometry" means that simply the process of deducing a set of propositions from a set of undefined primitive terms and axioms; and that "a he means some geometry" when he speaks of particular set of propositions so deduced, together with the axioms, etc., on which they are based. If set of axioms you take a new you get a new

One

barrier

to

geometry. go will,if you insist, on callinghis by the familiar names "point," undefined terms "line," "plane." But you must distinctly understand is a concession to usage, and that you are that this to restrictthe application of his not for a moment He would much prefer, in any way. statements however, to be allowed new names for his elements, to say "We start with three elements of different

The

geometer

sorts,

exist,and to which we A, B and C or if you prefer, primary, secondary and tertiary elements or yet intrinsic at possessing no significance again, names He will then all,such as ching, chang and chung." he requires to serve lay down whatever statements the purposes of the ancient axioms, all of these referri to some one or more of his elements. Then he is ready for the serious business of proving that, all his hypotheses being gi-anted,his elements A, B and C, or I, II and III, or ching, chang and chung, to are tions. subject this and that and the other proposi-

assume

to

"

"

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

II9

be urged that the mathematician cian. who does all this usurps the place of the logiA little will show this not to be the reflection in The logician fact occupies the same case. position that the geometer with reference to the geometer the chemist, occupies with reference to the physicist, the arithmetician, the engineer, or anybody else lieswith some particular set whose primary interest

The

will objection

of elements to which the geometer's system applies. The mathematician is the tool-maker of all science, cian but he does not make his own tools these the logidescends supplies. The logician in turn never

"

to

as the actual practice of rigorous thinking, save he must necessarilydo this in laying down the general procedures which govern rigorous thinking. He in Isinterested processes, not in theirapplication. He us may tells that if a proposition is true itsconverse be true or false or ambiguous, but Its contrapositive is always true, while its negative is always false. from a particularproposition "If A But he never,

is B then C Is D," draws the particular contrapositive inference "If C is not D then A is not B." That is the mathematician's business.

The

Role

of

Geometry

The mathematician is the quantity-production man rower of science. In his absence, the worker In each narfield where the elements under discussiontake self, forms could work out, for himparticular concrete that the propositions of the logical structure applies to those elements. But It would then be found that the engineer had duplicated the work of the physicist, and so for many other cases; for the

I20

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

whole trend of modern science is toward showing background of principles lies at the that the same root of all things. So the mathematician develops the fabric of propositions that follows from this, that and the other group of assumptions, and does this without in the least concerning himself as to the nature of the elements of which these propositions He knows only that they are true for may be true. any elements of which his assumptions are true, and Whenever the worker that is all he needs to know. in some particular fieldfinds that a certain group of for his elethe geometer's assumptions is true ments, is ready at the geometry of those elements hand for him to use. Now it is all right purposely to avoid knowing are talking about, so that the what it is that we

which by any posthey may eventually apply, they cannot sibilit be "self-evident." We at pleasure, may, accept as self-evidenta statement about points and lines and planes; or one about electrons, centimeters integers, fractions,and one or and seconds; about irrationalnumbers; or one about any other concrete But we cannot accept as thing or things whatever. self-evidenta statement about chlngs, changs and base our "axioms" on some chungs. So we must other ground than this; and our modern geometer has his ground ready and waiting. He accepts his

of these things shall constitute mere forms which may be filled in, when and if we by the names of any things In the universe of "axioms" turn out to be true. But what our lay them we these axioms themselves? When in ignorance of the Identityof the elements to

names

blank

THAT

PARALLEL

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121

axioms on the ground that k pleases him to do so. To avoid ail suggestion that they are supposed to be or even necessarilytrue, he drops the self-evident, "axiom" and substitutesfor it the more term less color"postulate." A postulate is merely someword thing to accept, for the time being, that we agreed If itturns out to be as a basis of further argument. true, or if we can find circumstances under which and elements to which it applies, any conclusions which deduce fi=om itby trustworthy processes are valid we limitations. And the propositions within the same which tell us that, if our postulates are true, such they, too, are valid, and such conclusions are true but without anv reservation at all! Perhaps an illustration what this means of just will not be out of place. Let it be admitted, as a postulate,that 7 + 20 is greater, by i, than 7 + 19. Let U'S then consider the statement: "If 7 + 19 6^, then 7 + 20 66^ We know at least we are quite certain that 7 -f 19 is not equal to 65, if by "7" and "19" and ^%S^^ we mean what you

"

"

"

think

We are equally sure, on the same But, grounds, that 7 + 20 is not equal to 66. have permitted assumption that we under the one ourselves, it Is unquestionable that if"i + 19 were

we mean.

equal to 6^^ then 7 + 20 certainly would he equal So, while the conclusion of the proposition to 66. which I have put in quotation marks is altogether false, the proposition itself, under our assumption, is I have taken an illustrationesigned d entirelytrue. teres Into be striking rather than to possess scientific I could just as easily have shown a true proposition leading to a false conclusion, but of

122

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

such

sort

as

certain assumption.

What

May

We

Take

for

Granted?

This is all very fine;but how does the geometer One is tempted know what postulates to lay down? to say that he is at libertyto postulate anything he the results;and that whether pleases, and investigate be realized, the proposior not his postulate ever tions he deduces from it, being true, are of that interest. Actually, however, itis not quite scientific as simple as to sufficient make all that. If it were be as simple as all that; a single postulate it would but it turns out that this is not sufficientny more a it is sufficient have a single undefined term. to than We must have several postulates; and they must be such, as a whole, that a geometry flows out of them. The requirements are three.

In the first place,the system of postulates must be "categorical" or complete there must be enough cover of them, and they must enough ground, for In the support of a complete system of geometry. practice the test for this is direct. If we got to a point in the building up of a geometry where we

"

one could not prove whether a certain thing was way always, or always the other way, or sometimes one way and sometimes the other, we should conclude an that we needed additionalpostulate covering directly or indirectly. And we should this ground ^because it is |precisely that postukte the make

"

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

23

things that

we

we

can't

prove

agree to

assume.

philosophy. In the second place, the system of postulates must be consistent no one more or of them may lead, individually or collectively,to consequences that contradict the results oi"any other or others. If in find we we the course of building up a geometry have proved two propositions that deny one another, we search out the implied contradictionin our postulates and remedy it. Finally,the postulates ought to be Indepedent. It should not be possible to prove any one of them as a consequence of the others. If this property fails, the geometry does not failwith it;but it is seriously disfiguredby the superfluity assumptions, and one of of them should be eliminated. If we are to assume

"

the anything unnecessarily,we may as well assume whole geometry and be done with it. The geometer's business then is to draw up a set ever. of postulates. This he may do on any basis whathavior They may be suggested to him by the beof points,lines and planes, or by some other

concrete

phenomena ; they may with equal propriety be the product of an inventiveimagination. On proceeding to deduce their consequences, he will discover or and remedy any lack of categoricity consistenceor independence which his originalsystem of postulates may have lacked. In the end he will have so large ure a body of propositions without contradictionor failthat he will conclude the propriety of his postulates

to

have

based

on

the geometry

124

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

And

What

Is It All

About?

it Is this geometry ever realized? Strictly is not this questhe geometer's business to ask or answer tion. But research develops two viewpoints. There is always the man who indulges in the pursuit of facts for their sake alone, and equally the man who facts lead to something else. his new to see wants One great mathematician is quoted as enunciating a new theory of surpassing mathematical beauty with the climacteric remark 'And, thank God, no one will ever be able to find any use for it." An rogated equally distinguished contemporary, on being interof concerning possible applications for one his most abstruse theorems, replied that he knew no present use for it;but that long experience had

made

him confident that the mathematician would from immediat develop any tool, however remote never for which the delvers in other fields utility, use. would not presently find some If we wish, however, we may inquire with perfect etry propriety, from the side lines, whether a given geomis ever realized. We may learn that so far as has yet been discovered there are no elements for and that there is which allitspostulates are verified, On the other hand, therefore no realizationknown. likelyfind that many differentsets of we may more preted elements are such that the postulates can be interas

applying to them, and that we therefore As have numerous realizations of the geometry. be interested in human being the geometer a may d ferenc all this,but as a geometer it really makes little ifto him.

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

25

about us, we see it,for reason some grounded In the psychological history of the human race, as made up in the small of points, which go to make up lines,which in turn constitute can start at the other end and planes. Or we break space down firstinto planes, then Into lines, Into points. Our perceptions and conceptions finally of these points, lines and planes are very definite indeed, as the Greeks thought, that indeed; it seems certain things about them are self-evident. If we

When

we

look

at

space

properties of point, wish to take these self-evident line and plane, and combine with them enough additional hair-splitting to assure the modern specifications have really a categorical that we geometer system of assumptions, we shall have the basis of a This will be perfectly good system of geometry.

what we unavoidably think of as the absolute truth with regard to the space about us; but you mustn't It will also say so in the presence of the geometer. It has be what we call the Euclidean geometry. in been satisfactory the lastdegree, because not only space, but pretty much every other system of two or three elements bearing any relationsto one another be made, by employing as a means can of interpretationthe Descartean scheme of plotting, to fit into the framework of Euclidean geometry. But It is not the only thing in the world of conceptual It begins to appear that it possibilities, and be the only thing In the world of cold may not even To see just how this hard fact that surrounds us. torica Is so we must return to Euclid, and survey the hisdevelopment of geometry from his day to the present time.

126

relativity

and

gravitation

Euclid's Geometry Point, line and plane Euclid attempts to define. Modern to objection these efforts was made clear p above. Against Euclid'sspecificerformance we urge fault that his "definitions"are the further specific really assumptions bestowing certainpropertiesupon points, lines and planes. These assumptions Euclid supplements in his axioms; and in the process of proving propostions he unconsciously supplements further. This is to be expected from one them still for laying down an axiom was whose justification

the alleged obvious character of the statement made. If some tion, things are too obvious to require demonstradeothers may be admitted as too obvious to mand at all. statement explicit

on

two

opposite sidesof

O*

AB

and without further formality speak of the That it does so point C in which it intersects M. intercept M, rather than in some way dodges it,is

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

127

really an assumption as to the nature of lines and planes. Or again, Euclid will speak of a point D on the line AB, between or outside the points A sary and B, without making the formal assumption necesto insure that the line is "full' of points so that such a point as D must exist. That such assumptions follows from our are as these necessary If we think of our geometry previous remarks. dealing with "chings," "changs," and "chungs," as or with elements I, II and III, it is no longer In the least degree obvious that the simplest property in the world applies to these elements. If we wish must state it explicitly. any property to prevail we With the postulates embodied In his definitions, those stated in his axioms, and those which he reads by his methods of proof, Euclid into his structure tion foundahas a categorical set enough to serve as for a geometry. We then climb into may Euclid's shoes and take the next step with him. We follow him while he proves a number of things about Intersectinglines and about triangles. To tically be sure, when he proves that two triangles are idenon constitutedby moving one of them over

"

the ground that the admission of motion, especiallyof motion thus imposed from without, into a geometry of things is not beyond dispute. If Euclid has caught our have that if we modern viewpoint, he will rejoin any doubts as to the admissibility of motion he will lay down a postulate admitting it,and we shall be silenced. Having exhausted for the present the interestof intersectinglines, our guide now passes to a contop of the other, we

may

protest

on

128

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

meet. plane that never siderationof linesin the same He definessuch linesas parallel. If we that object he should show the existence of a derived concept like this before laying down a definition that calls for it he can show that two lines drawn dicular to exist, perpen-

He willexecute the same linenever meet. this proof by a special sort of superposition, which itself, on requires that the plane be folded over

to

through the third dimension of surrounding space, rather than merely slidalong upon itself. We remain quiet while Euclid demonstrates that if two lines are cut by any transversal in such a way sections to make as corresponding angles at the two interequal, the lines are parallel. It is then in : if the lines are order to investigate the converse parallelto begin with, are the angles equal?

Axioms Made

to

Order

This sounds innocent enough; but in no way was for that matter, or, Euclid able to devise a proof So he took the only way out, and said a disproof. that if the lines were tended parallel, obviously they exdirection and made the angles in the same so obvious, he argued, that equal. The thing was

"

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

29

reallyan axiom and he didn'thave to prove it; He he stated it as an axiom and proceeded. so didn't state it in precisely the form 1 have used; he apparently cast about for the form in which it would appear most obvious, and found a statement that suited him better than this one, and that comes to the same tellsus that if thing. This statement two the transversal makes corresponding angles unequal, the lines that it cuts are not parallel and But wisely if sufficiently do meet prolonged. he enough, he did not transplant this axiom, once had arrived at it, the beginning of the book where to the other axioms were grouped; he leftitright where following the proposition that if the angles it was, were parallel. This of course equal the Hues were so was that it might appeal back, for its claim to of the obviousness, to its demonstrated converse

It was

proposition. EucHd must have been dissatisfied ting with this cutwere acutely of the Gordian knot; his successors For twenty centuries the parallel axiom was so. in an otherwise perfect regarded as the one blemish had his shot work; every respectablemathematician at removing the defect by "proving" the objectionable The procedure was the same; always axiom. in its place write another expunge the parallelaxiom, or less"obvious" assumption, and from more less directly or more this derive the parallel statement Thus if we may assume that the sum of is the angles of a triangle always exactly 180 degrees, or that there can be drawn only one line through can we prove a given point parallelto a given line, Sometimes the substitute Euclid's axiom. assump9

130

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

tion was

stance openly made and stated,as in the two Incited; as often it was admitted into the demonstration implicitly, when it is quietly asas sumed that we can draw a triangle similar to any

given triangle and with area as great as we please, "defined" as everywhere or parallels are when one anyequidistant. But such "proofs" never satisfied other than the man who made them; the search went merrily on for a vaHd "proof" that should not in substance assume the thing to be proved.

XX)CATINGTHE

DISCREPANCY

Saccher?, ItalianJesuit, tom an would have struck botimagination. He if he had had a little more

gave

an

exhaustive reductio ad absurdum, on the basis of the angle-sum theorem. This sum be must (a) greater than or (b) equal to or (c) less than 180 degrees. Saccheri showed that if one of these in a' singletriangle,it must occur occurs alternatives in every triangle. The first case trouble; gave little o admitting the possibilityf superposing in the special manner mentioned above, v/hich he did Implicitly, he showed that this "obtuse-angled hypothesis" contradict itself. He "acute-angled pursued the himhypothesis" for a long time before he satisfied self that he had caught it,too, in an inconsistency. This leftonly the "right-angledhypothesis," proving the Euclidean angle-sum theory and through it the parallelpostulate. But Saccheri was wrong: he had found no actual contradiction in the acute-angled hypothesis for none existstherein. k The fullfacts were probably firstnown to Gauss,

"

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

I3I

had who had a fingerin every mathematical pie that to do with the transition to modern times. They firstpubHshed by Lobatchewsky, the Russian, were John Bolyai by a who anticipated the Hungarian narrow margin. All three worked independently of Saccheri, whose book, though theoreticallyavailable in Italian libraries, was actually lost to sight and had to be rediscovered in recent years. Like Saccheri,Lobatchewsky investigatedalternative possibihties. But he chose another point of attack: through a given point it must be possible to draw, in the same plane with a given line (a) no linesor (b) one line or (c)a plurality lines, of which is shall not meet the given line. The word parallel pothes defined only in terms of the second of these hyso we avoid it here. These three cases to correspond, respectively, those of Saccheri. Lobatchewsky ruled out just did as The first case Saccheri, but accepting consciously the proviso attached to itselimination the third he could not rule ; pothes He developed the consequences of this hyout. as far as Euclid develops those of the second one, try sketchingIn a fulloutline for a system of geome"nonand trigonometry based on a pluralityof This geometry cutters." constitutes a coherent whole, without a logical flaw. This made it plain what was the matter with Nobody Euclid's parallel axiom. could prove it from his other assumptions because itis not a consequence True or false,it is independent of of these. them. Trinity Church is in New York, Faneuil Hall cause is in Boston, but Faneuil Hall is not in Boston beYork; and we could not Trinity is in New

132

prove

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

In Boston if we knew that Faneuil Hall was that Trinity is in New nothing about America save York. The mathematicians of 2,000 years had been pursuing, on a gigantic scale,a delusion of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

What

Moreover,

the

Postulate

Really

Does

in the absence of an assumption covering know which of the we the ground, shall not alternatives (a), (b), (c) holds. But when one holds in a single case it holds permanently, as Saccheri and Lobatchewsky both showed. So we cannot basis; we must know which proceed on this indefinite is to hold. Without the parallel postulate or one a therefor that shalltellus the same thing substitute or have not got a we tellus something different, build a categorical set of assumptions ^we cannot at all. That Is why Euclid had to have geometry his parallelpostulate before he could proceed. That is why his successors had to have an assumption equivalent to his. The reason why ittook so long for this to percolate into the understanding of the mathematicians was that they were thinking, not in terms of the geometry modern and about undefined elements; but In terms of the old geometry and about strictly defined and circumscribed elements. If we stand underis meant by Euclidean line what and plane, of course to use the parallel postulate, the old geometer to adopt the word, Is true of course, ern modIf we agree to employ an element to viewpoint. which that assumption applies, the assumption is

"

"

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

33

realized. The very fact of accepting the "straight" line and the "flat" plane of Euclid constitutes acceptan of his parallel postulate the only thing from other geomethat can separate his geometry tries. it; the prior But of course we can't prove postulates which we would have to use in such an attempt apply where it does not apply, and hence it cannot possibly be consequences of. To all this the classical Euclidean that we

"

in mind elements of some to seem sort which, with one reservation,his postulatesapply. He to know wants what these elements look like. We can, and must, produce them else our talk about drivel. But we must take care generality is mere does not try to apply that the Euclidean geometer ness to our elements the notions of straightness and flatnot which inhere in the parallelpostulate. We cantime. satisfyand defy that postulate at the same If we do not insiston this point, we shall find that dean are we reading non-Euclidean properties into Eucligeometry, and interpretingthe elements of the latter as straight lines that are not straight, flat planes that are not flat. It is not the mission of nonEuclidean geometry thus to deny the possibility of Euclidean geometry; It merely demands a place of equal honor.

to

"

have

rejoins

The

Let

us

Geometry

of

Surfaces

ask the Euclidean geometer whether he can recognize his plane after we have crumpled itup like basket. He to the waste a piece of paper en route will hesitateonly long enough to recall that in the

134

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

special case of superposition he has reserved for himself the privilege of deforming his own plane, and to realize that he can always iron his plane out smooth again after we are through with it. This

emphasizes the true nature of the two-dimensionality which is the fundamental characteristicf the plane o (and of other things,as we shalldirectlysee). The plane is two-dimensional in points not because two sets of mutually perpendicular Euclidean straight lines can be drawn in it defining directions of northsouth and east-west, but because a point in it can be located by means The same statement of two measures. may be made of anything whatever to which the "surface" Is applicable; anything, however term crumpled or irregular it be, that possesses length and breadth without thickness. The surface of a

sphere, of doughnut

of a known as a (mathematically of torus), French horn, all these possess a gear wheel, of a two-dimensionality in points; on all of them we can draw lines and curves and derive a geometry of figures. If we get away from the notion that these geometry of two dimensions must deal with planes, and adopt in place of this idea the broader restriction itshalldeal with surfaces,we shallhave the that generalization which the Euclidean has demanded that we produce, and the one which in the hands of the modern geometer has shown results. In this two-dimensional geometry of surfaces In general, that of the plane is merely one specialcase. Certain of the features met in that case are general. If we agree that we know what we mean by distance, find that on every surface there is a shortest we

cylinder,of

an

ellipsoid,f o

cone,

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

I35

distance between two points, together with a series along which such distances are of lines or curves we callgeodesies. On taken. These linesor curves faces the plane the geodesic is the straightline. On surin general the geodesic, whatever its particular role that is and peculiar shape, plays the same it is the played by the straight line in the plane; itself secondary element of the geometry, the surface and all other surfaces of its type are the tertiary elements. And it is a fact that we can take all the possible spheres, or all the possible French-horn know it being surfaces,and conceive of space as we broken down by analysis into these surfaces instead compose habituallydewe of into planes. The only reason natural space into planes isbecause itcomes But geometric points, lines to us to think that way. be recognized as abstractions and surfaces must for all of them lack one without actual existence, or more of the three dimensions which such existence implies. These figures exist in our minds but not So any decomposition in the external world about us. non of space into geometric elements is a phenomehas no parallel and no of the mind only; it is made in in significance the external world, and There one way or in another purely at our pleasure. isn'ta true, honest-to-goodnessgeometrical plane in than there is an honest-toexistence any more intrinsic grounds goodness spherical surface: so on decomposition is as reasonable as another. one fundamental postulates are Certain of the most nate obeyed by all surfaces. As we attempt to discrimibetween surfaces of different types, and get, for Instance, geometry that shallbe valid for spheres a

136

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

but not for conicolds in general, we and ellipsoids do so by bringing in additional postulates that must embody the necessary restrictions.A characteristic faces shared by planes, spheres, and various other suris that the geodesies can be freely slid along upon themselves and will coincidewith themselves in

ment all positions when thus slid;with a similar arrangefor the surface itself. But the plane stands almost unique among surfaces In that it does not force us to distinguishbetween its two sides; we it can turn it over and still will coincide with itself; and this property belongs also to the straight line. It does not belong to the sphere, or to the great

circles which are the geodesiesof sphericalgeometry; through the threewhen we turn one of these over, find that dimensional space that surrounds it, we liesin the wrong way to make superthe curvature position If we postulate that superposition possible. be possible under such treatment, we throw out the sphere and spherical geometry; if we postulate that superposition be only by sliding the surface upon itself as Saccheri failedto we admit that geometry Lobatchewsky as see, realized, and as Riemann t showed at great length in rehabilitating he "obtuseangled hypothesis." Lobatchewsky's acute-angled geometry is realizedon a surface of the proper sort, which admits of unrestrictedsuperposition; but itis

"

not

of a surface that I care to discussin an articleof this scope. Euclidean geometry is the natural and easy one, I suppose, because it makes it easy to stop with three dimensions. If we take a secondary element, a geodesic, which is "curved" in the Euclidean sense. the

sort

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

1 37

tertiaryelement, a surface, which is likewise curved. Then unless we are to make an altogether abrupt and unreasonable break, we shall find that as just the curved geodesic generated a curved surface, the curved surface must give rise to a "curved as the curved geodesic needed a space"; and just into, and the curved surface second dimension to curve a third, so the curved three-space requires a fourth. Once started on this sort of thing, there doesn't really seem to be any end.

we

get

Euclidean

Nevertheless, we space we live In, or

or

Non-Euclidean

face the possibilityhat the t any other manifold of any sort whatever with which we deal on geometric principles, shall we may turn out to be non-Euclidean. How finally determine this? By measures the Euclidean measures the angles of an actual triangle and finds the sum to be exactly i8o degrees; or he draws parallel finds them to be lines of indefinite extent and equally distant; and from these data everywhere he concludes that our space Is really Euclidean. But he Is not necessarilyright. We ask him to level off a plot of ground by means of a plumb line. Since the line always points to the earth's center, the "level" plot is actually a very small piece of a sphericalsurface. Any test conducted on this plot will exhibit the numerical characteristics of the Euclidean geometry; yet we know the geometry of this surface is Riemannlan. The angle-sum Is really greater than i8o degrees; lines that are everywhere equidistant are not both

must

"

geodesies.

138

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

The trouble, course, is that on this plot we deal of with so minute a fraction of the whole sphere that we cannot make measurements sufficiently refinedto detect the departure from Euclidean standards. So itisaltogether sensiblefor us to ask: *'Is the universe of space about us really Euclidean in whatever of realized geometry it presents to us? Or is it really non-Euclidean, but so vast in size that we have never to a sufficiently yet been able to extend our measures large portion of it to make the divergence from the Euclidean standard discernibleto us?" "i^ This discussion is necessarily fragmentary, leaving out much that the writer would prefer to include. But itis hoped that itwill nevertheless make it clear in the Einstein competition that when the contestants

speak of a non-Euclidean universe as apparently having been revealed by Einstein, they mean simply that to Einstein has occurred a happy expedient for testing Euclideanism on a smaller scale than has heretofore been supposed possible. He has devised a new and ingenious sort of measure which, if his resultsbe valid, enables us to operate In a smaller

that any non-Euclidean region while yet anticipating characteristics the manifold with which we deal of This will rise above the threshold of measurement. does not mean that Euclidean linesand planes, as we picture them in our mind, are no longer a"fi-Euclidean, but merely that these concepts do not quite so closely correspond with the external reality as we had supposed. As to the precise character of the non-Euclideanism which is revealed, we may leave this to later

chapters and

to

need

THAT

PARALLEL

POSTULATE

1 39

only point out here that It will not necessarilybe restrictedto the matter of parallelism. The parallel interest to us for two postulate is of extreme firstbecause historically was it reasons; the means by which the possibilities and the importance of forced upon our atnon-Euclidean geometry were tentio

and second because it happens to be the immediate ground of distinction between Euclidean geometry and two of the most interesting alternatives. But Euclidean geometry is characterized, not by a singlepostulate,but by a considerable number We may attempt to omit any one of postulates. covered of these so that itsground is not specifically by a direct to replace any one at all, or of them alternative. We might conceivably do away with the superposition postulate entirely, and demand that figuresbe proved equivalent,if at all,by some drastic test. We might do away with the more postulate, firstproperly formulated by Hilbert, on which our ideas of the property represented in the word "between" depend. We might do away with any single one of the Euclidean postulates,or with any combination of two or more of them. In some cases this would lead to a lack of categoricity and we vided should get no geometry at all; in most cases, probrought a proper degree of astuteness to we the formulation of alternatives for the

rejected

perfectly good system postulates, should get of non-Euclidean geometry: one realized,if at all, by other elements than the Euclidean point, line and plane, and one whose elements behave toward one another differentlyfrom the Euclidean point, line and plane.

we

I40

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

Merely to add definiteness this chapter,I annex to here the statement stein that in the geometry which Einbuilds up as more nearly representing the true external world than does Euclid's,we shall dispense assumption, underlying his with Euclid's (imphcit) explicitlystated)superposition postulate, to the effectthat the act of moving things about does not pense time disaffecttheir lengths. We shall at the same with his parallelpostulate. And we shalladd fourth dimension to his three not, of course, a anything in the nature of a fourth Euclidean straight line perpendicular, In Euclidean space, to three lines that are already perpendicular to each other, but something quite distinct from this, whose nature we shall see more exactly in the next chapter. If it clear that it is the present chapter has made proper for us to do this,and has prevented anyone from supposing that the results of doing it must be visualized in a Euclidean space of three dimensions or of any number of dimensions, it will have served itspurpose.

;(

"

VI

THE

SPACE-TIME

World

of

CONTINUUM

Way

Minkowski's

It Fits Into

by the

except as

editor,

noted

formulation of basis for the secure for expresshis results, and especially a means ing facts of the dependence mathematically the which he had found to existbetween time and space, Einstein fellback upon the prior work of Minkowski. It may be stated right here that the id^a of time as a fourth dimension is not particularly a It has been a topic of abstract speculanew one. tion best part of a century, even for the on the part of those whose notions of the fourth dimension were pretty closelytied down to the idea of a fourth dimension of Euclidean point-space, which would be marked by a fourth real line,perpendicular to the other three, and visibleto us if we were only it. Moreover, every mathematician, able to see whether or not he be Inclined to this sort of ters mental exercise,knows well that whenever time enhis equations at all,it does so on an absolutely equal footing with each of his space coordinates, so that as far as his algebra Is concerned he could distinguishbetween them. When never the variables in conto the mathematician X, y, z, t come

SEEKING

142

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

'

physical Investigation,he knows nection with some before he starts that the firstthree represent the dimensions of Eudidean three-space and that the last stands for time. But if the algebraic expressions handed to him Independently of such a problem were be able to tell, he would never of allphysical tie-up, from them alone, whether one of the four variables to pick out represented time, or if so, which one for this distinction. It was Minkowski who firstformulated all this In a form susceptible of use In connection with the theory of relativity. His starting point liesin the Mr. between the point and the event distinction Francis has brought this out rather well in his essay, being the only competitor to present the Euclidean geometry as a realpredecessor of Newtonian science, part of the Newtonian system. rather than as a mere I think his point here is very well taken. As he says, Euclid looked Into the world about him and it composed of points. Ignoring all dynamic saw he considerations, builtup In his mind a static world his geometry as a scienof points, and constructed tific machine for dealing with this world In which duced motion played no part. It could to be sure be introby the observer for his own purposes, but when introduced It was so p specificallyostulated to be a lines matter at all to the points or of no moment It was figures that were or moved. purely an observat device. Intended for the observer's convenienc and In the bargain a mental device, calling for no physical action and the play of no force. So far as Euclid In his daily life was obliged to take cognizance of the fact that in the world of work-a-

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

1 43

he day realities motion existed, must, as a true Greek, have looked upon this as a most unfortunate deviation telle of the reality from his beautiful world of inplored abstraction,and as something to be deand ignored. Even in their statuary the Greeks clung to this Idea. A group of marvelous action, like the Laocoon, they held to be distinctly

a

"

second rate production, a prostitutionof the noble Zeus a figure like the art; their ideal was majestic bust, be it understood, but not necessarily a mere always a figure In repose without action. Their

statuary

as stood for things, not for action, just their geometry stood for points,not for events. Galileo and Newton took a differentviewpoint. interestedin the world as it is,not as They were mental it ought to be; and if motion appears to be a fundabound to Include part of that world, they were ItIn their scheme. This made It necessary for them more to pay much attention to the concept of time Greeks. In and itsplace in the world than did the the superposition process, and even when he allowed to be generated by a moving point, the sole a curve interestwhich Euclid had In the motion was the figures his static effect which was to be observed upon after Its completion. In this effectthe rate of the So all questions of velocity motion did not enter. have In ignored, and we and time are completely fact the curious spectacleof motion without time. To Galileo and Newton, on the other hand, the time which It took a body to pass from one point of Importance. Its path to another was of paramount The motion itself was the object their study, and of they recognized the part played by velocity. But

144

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

Galileo and Newton were still sufficiently under the influenceof Euclid to fitthe observed phenomena of motion, so far as they could, upon Euclid's static world of points. This they effected by falling in

with the age-old procedure of regarding time and disassociated space as something entirely and distinct. The motion of an object in theory, of a point to be recorded by observing itssuccessiveposiwas tions. With each of these positions a time was to be associated,marking the instantat which the point ciation, attained that position. But in the face of this assoto be maintained as space and time were

" "

entirelyseparate entities.

The This

Four-Dimensional

severe

World

of

Events

kowski separation of time and space Minhas now that questioned, with the statement the elements of which the external world is composed, are not points at all, and which we observe, This calls for a revision of our but are events. that the perceptual whole habit of thought. It means world Is four-dimensioned, not three-dimensioned have always supposed; and it means, as we at the between time and very least, that the distinction space Is not so fundamental as we had supposed. [This should not Impress us as strange or Incomphehensible. What do we mean when we say that a plane Is two-dimensional? Simply that two coordinates,two numbers, must be given to specify the position of any point of the plane. Similarly for a point In the space of our accustomed concepts we must give three numbers to fix the position as

"

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

I45

by giving the latitudeand longitude of a point on the earth and its height above sea-level. So we say this space is three-dimensional. But a material body is not merely somewhere; it is somewhere

or

now,]^"^

material Is meaningless unless we at the same time object specify the time at which it held that position. [If I am on considering the life-history an object a of moving train, I must give three space-coordinates time-coordinate to fix each of its posiand one tions. And each of its positions,with the time ]^^^ constitutesan event. The pertaining to that position, dynamic, ever-changing world about us, that shows is a the same aspect at no two differentmoments, or coand since four measures world of events; ordina fix an event, we say this are required to world of events is four-dimensional. If we wish to

test out

was

or

will he somewhere

a

the soundness of thisviewpoint, we may well do so by asking whether the naming of values for the four coordinates fixesthe event uniquely, as the naming of three under the old system fixesthe point uniquely. Suppose we take some particularevent as the one from which to measure, tions and agree upon the directo be taken by our space axes, and make any vestig convention about our time-axiswhich subsequent inCertainly may show to be necessary. then the act of measuring so many miles north, and down, and so many so west, many and so many time and seconds backward, brings us to a definite Perhaps event. place which is to say, to a definite nothing "happened" there,in the sense in which we

"

10

146

RELATIVITY

AND

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serious usually employ the word; but that is no more to locate a point with reference to than if we were familiar space coordinate system, and find it to our lie in the empty void of interstellar space, with no material body occupying it. In this second case we have a point, which requires, to insure its existenc still and location,three coordinates and nothing have an event, which in the first case we more; still four coordinates requires for its existenceand definition It is not an event about and nothing more. which the headline writers are likelyto get greatly excited; but what of that? It is there, ready and waiting to define any physical happening that falls as the geometer's point is ready and upon it,just waiting to define any physical body that chances to fall upon it,

A It IS

now

Continuum

of

Points

In order to introduce a word, which I of shall have to confess the great majority the improperly, without essayists introduce, somewhat explanation. But when I attempt to explain it,I realize quite well why they did this. They had to have it; and they didn't have space in their three thousand words to talk adequately about itand about anything else besides. The mathematician knows by a continuum; very well indeed what he means but it is far from easy to explain it in ordinary language. I think I may do best by talking first at length about a straight line,and the points some on it. If the line contains only the points corresponding

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

1 47

distancesi, 2, 3, etc., from the startthe integral ing point, it is obviously not continuous there are inclusive parativ than the few (comgaps in it vastly more p speaking)oints that are present. If we extend the limitationsso that the line includes all proper points corresponding to ordinary proper and imfractionslike yi and 17/29 and 1633/7

to

" "

what the mathematician callsthe rationalnumbers i we shallapparently filln these gaps ; and I think the impulse would be to say that the line layman's first is now continuous. Certainly we cannot stand now at one the "next" point, point on the line and name There is no "next" as we ago. could a moment rationalnumber to 11 6/1 25, for instance; 11 5/124 before it and 1 17/126 comes but between comes after it, it and either, or between it and any other lie many rational number we might name, others Yet in spiteof the fact that the same sort. of the line containing all these rational points is now "dense" (the technicalterm for the property I have it is indicated), still not continuous; for I can just easilydefine numbers that are not contained in it irrational numbers in infinitevariety like y 2;

"

"

the number pi 3.141592 which defines the ratio of the circumference of a circleto the diameter, and many other numbers of similar sort. If the line is to be continuous, there may be no holes in Itat all;Itmust have a point corresponding to every number I can Similarly for possibly name. the plane, and for our three-space; If they are to be continuous,the one must contain a point for every possible pair of numbers x and y, and the other for

or,

even worse,

=

. ,

.

148'

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

all. A line is a continuum of points. A plane is a continuum of points. A three-space is a continuum differ only in their of points. These three cases dimensionality; it requires but one number to determin a point of the first continuum, two and three But the respectivelyin the second and third cases. essentialfeature is not that a continuum shall consist of points, or that we shall be able to visuaHze a pseudo-real existence for it of just the sort that can we plane and point. visuahze in the case of line, The essential thing is merely that it shall be an aggregate of elements numerically determined in as such a way as to leave no holes, but to be just amples continuous as the real number system itself.Exhowever, aside from the three which I have to used, are difficult construct of such sort that the layman shall grasp them readily; so perhaps, fortified sented, with the background of example already preI may venture first upon a general statement.

every possible set of three numbers x, y and I can name. There may be no holes in them

z,

that

at

The

Suppose

sort

one

"

Continuum

in

General

or

Have a set of "elements" of some any sort. Suppose that these elements possess fundamental identifying more characteristics,

we

analogous to the coordinates of a point, and which, like these coordinates, are capable of being given find that no two numerical values. Suppose we set t elements of the set possess identicallyhe same of definingvalues. Suppose finally and this Is the test that the elements of the set are such critical

"

"

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

1 49

fy, what numerical values we may specido specify the proper number of defining magnitudes we define by these an actual element of the set, that corresponds to this particular collection of values. Our elements then share with the real number system the property of leaving no holes, of sion constitutinga continuous succession in every dimenwhich they possess. We have then a continuum. Whatever its elements, whatever the character of their numerical identifiers, whatever the number n of these which stands for itsdimension, there may be holes or we have no continuum. There must no be an element for every possible combination of

n

that,no it we

matter

""

of these combinatio Granted this same may give the element. our a condition, elements constitute continuum. As I have remarked, itis not easy to citeexamples anything to the person of continua which shallmean The totalityof carbonunaccustomed to the term. oxygen-nitrogen-hydrogen compounds suggested by one essayistas an example is not a continuum at all, for the set contains elements corresponding only to integervalues of the numbers M^hich tell how many us in the molecule. We atoms of each substance occur have a compound cannot containing V2 carbon Perhaps the most or atoms, atoms. 3^ oxygen clidean satisfactoryof the continua, outside the three Euthe manifold space-continua already cited,[is This is four-dimensional; each note of music notes. has four distinctions length,pitch.Intensity, timbre to distinguishIt perfectly,to tellhow long, how high, how loud, how We might have a little

numbers

we

can

name,

and

no

two

"

rlch.]"^

150

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

done

;

it

could be

t sible and we should then be satisfied hat every poscombination of four values, /, p, i, t for these four identifying characteristicswould give us a musical effect, and one to be confused with no other. There is in the physical world a vast quantity of sort or another. The music-note continua of one continuum brings attentionto the fact that not allof these are such that their elements make their appeal This remark is a pertinent one; to the visual sense. for we are by every right of heritage an eye-minded race, minded and It is frequentlynecessary for us to be rethat so far as the external world Is concerned, the verdictof every other sense is entirelyon a par with that of sight. The things which we really like matter, see, and the things which we abstract from these visual Impressions, like space, are by no means allthere is to the world.

Euclidean

and

Non-Euclidean

a

Continua

continuum of any sort whatever having one or two or three dimensions, we are of the able to represent It graphically by means line,the plane, or the three-space. The same set of numbers that defines an element of the given ean Euclidcontinuum likewise defines an element of the dimensionality;so the one continuum of the same for continuum corresponds to the other, element for the other. But element, and either may stand dimensions, if we have a continuum of four or more this representationbreaks down In the absence of a Euclidean point-space to real, four-dimensional

we are

If

dealing with

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

I5I

picture. This does not in the leastdetract from the realityof the continuum which we are thus custom prevented from representing graphically In the acfashion. In The Euchdean representation, fact, may in some be unfortunate It may be so entirelywithout cases as significance to be actuallymisleading. For In the Euclidean continuum of points, be It line,plane or

serve

as

"

three-space,there

regard

as

which possess a less. clidean In particular,in the Euclidean plane and in Euthree-space, there is the distance between two points. I have Indicated,In the chapter on nonEuclidean geometry, that the parallel postulate of h Euclid,which distinguishes is geometry from others, other of numerous could be replaced by any one postulates. Grant Euclid's postulate and you can g prove any of these substitutes;rant any of the substitute and you can prove Euclid's postulate. Now it happens that there is one of these substitutes to siderab which mpdern analysishas given a position of conimportance. It is merely our good old friend the Pythagorean theorem, that the square on the hypothenuse equals the sum of the squares on the sides; but it Is dressed in new clothes for the present occasion. Mr. Francis' discussionof thispart of the subject, his figure,ought to make it clear that and especially this theorem can be considered as dealing with the distancebetween any two points. When we so consider itas the fundamental, definingpesit, and take

narily certain things which we ordiderived properties, but secondary none the great deal 'of significance

are

152

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

tulateof Euclidean geometry which distinguishes this from others, we have a statement geometry of considerab We have, first, content. that the characteristic Euclidean space is that the property of distance between two points is given by the square root of the sum of the squares of the coordinatefor these points by the expression differences

"

V.(X--x)^

.+

.(Y"

+ y); {Z"zX\

represent the coordinates of where the large letters the one point and the small ones those of the other. have more We than this, however; we have that for allobservers, no matter this distance is the same how different their values for the individualcoordinates of the individualpoints. And we have, finally, a direct as result of looking upon the thing from variant this viewpoint, that the expression for D is an "inthat every observer which simply means the value may use the same expression in calculating of D in terms of his own values for the coordinates involved. The distance between two points in our space is given numerically by the square root of the for sum of the squares of my coordinate-differences the two points involved; it is given equally by the ordina square root of the sum of the squares of your coor those of any other observer damenta the funwhatsoever. We have then a natural law natural law characterizingEuclidean space. If we wish to apply it to the Euclidean two-space we (theplane) have only to drop out the superfluous by analogy If coordinate-difference; we wish to see law for a what would be the fundamental natural

"

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

53

Euclidean space, we have only to four-dinienslonal introduce under the radical a fourth coordinate-difference fourth dimension. for the If we were not able to attach any concrete meaning to the expression for D the value of allthiswould be the conmaterially lessened. Consider, for instance, tinuum There is no distance between of music notes. There isof course different notes. significance in talking about the difference pitch,in intensity, n i in duration, in timbre, between two notes; but there in a mode of speech that implies a composite is none how far one note escapes being expression indicating identicalwith another in all four respects at once. is that the four dimensions The trouble, of course, of the music-note continuum are not measurable in terms we of a common unit. If they were, should less to measure more or their combination expect in unit. We can make absolutely terms of thissame in all three dimension of Euclidean measurements

space with the

unit, with the same measuring rod in fact. [This presents a peculiarity of our three-space which Is not possessed by all threeRiemann has given andimensional manifolds. other in illustration the system of allpossiblecolors,

same

composed of arbitrary proportions of the three primaries, red, green and violet. This system forms a three-dimensionalcontinuum; but we ure meascannot between two colors the "distance" or difference In terms of the difference between two others.]"" Accordingly, In spiteof the factthat the Euclidean three-space gives

formal representation of the color continuum, and In spite of the fact that the E f hypotheticalour-dimensional uclidean space would

us

154

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

perform a like officefor the music-note continuum, We thisrepresentation would be without significance. folds should not say that the geometry of these two maniis Euclidean. We should realize that any set Euclidean of numerical elements can be plotted in a space of the appropriate dimensionality; and that accordingly, before allowing such a plot to influence

us

classifythe geometry of the given manifold as Euclidean, we must pause long enough to ask whether into the picture. the rest of the EucHdean system fits

to

If the square root of the sum of the squares of the sesses elements poscoordinate-differencesbetween two in significance the given continuum, and if itis invariant between observers of that continuum who employ differentbases of reference,then and only then may we allege the Euclidean character of the given continuum. If under this test the given continuum falls of Euclideanism, it Is In order to ask what type of geometry itdoes present. If It Is of such character that the "distance" between two elements possesses vesti we this question by Inshould answer significance, that distance in the hope of discovering varia a non-Euclidean expression for It which will be InIf it Is not of such character, we should of seek some other characteristic single elements or a groups of elements, of real physical significancend It of such sort that the numerical expression for would be Invariant. If the continuum with which we have to do Is one in which the "distance" between two elements possesses varia and If It turns out that the Insignificance, expression for thisdistance Is not the Pytha-

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

55

gorean

one,

but

one

continuum, we say that this continuum has a "curvature." This means that, if we interpret the elements of our continuum as points in space (which

of

our

properly do) and if we then try to superpose this point-continuum upon a Euclidean continuum, it will not "go"; we shall be caught in some such absurdity as trying to force a sphere into if it won't coincidence with a plane. And of course is that it is curved or go, the only possible reason distorted,like the sphere, in such a way as to prevent itsgoing. It is unfortunate that the visualizing of such curvature requires the visualizing of an additional dimension for the curved continuum to into; so that while we can picture a curved curve surface easilyenough, we can't picture a curved threespace or four-space. But that is a barrier to visualization in no sense to understanding. alone, and of

course we

may

Our

World

of

Four

Dimensions

It will be observed that we have now a much broader definition non-Euclideanism than the one of which served us for the investigation of Euclid's at pleasure accept may parallel postulate. If we this postulate or replace itby another and different for any other one, we may presum.ably do the same or any others of Euclid's postulates. The very statement that the distance between elements of the continuum shall possess significance, and shall be measurable by considering a path in the continuum which involves other elements, is an assumption. If discard it altogether,or replace itby one^ostuwe

156

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

lating that some property of the elements other joint we than their distance be the center of interest, get a So for any other of non-EucHdean geometry. Euclid's postulates; they are all necessary for a Euclidean system, and in the absence of any one of them we get a non-Euclidean system. Now the four-dimensional time-space continuum of Minkowski is plainly of a sort which ought to separation can pass from one from one element to another in this continuum to another by traversing a path involving event "successive" events. Our lives consist in very doing just this; we pass from the initial event of to the finalevent our by traversing a path career leading us from event to event, changing our time

"

"

the

coordinates continuously and simultaneously in the process. And while we have not been in the habit of measuring anything except the space interval between two events and the time interval between two events, separately, I think it is clear enough that, considered as events, as elements in the world of four dimensions, there is a less separation between two events that occur in my officeon day than between two which occur in my the same ring officea year apart; or between two events occur10 minutes apart when both take place in my officethan when one takes place there and one in London or on Betelguese, It is not at all unreasonable, a priori, then, to for the separation, in seek a numerical measure If we space-time of four-dimensions, of two events. find it,we shall doubtless be asked just what its

and

space

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

57

be

sumably circumspection. It will prewith some be something which we cannot observe with the visualsense alone, or itwould have forced itself It ought, upon our attentionthousands of years ago. I should think, to be something that we would sense by employing at the same time the visual sense and the sense of time-passage. In fact, I might very that, by my very remarks about it plausibly insist in the above paragraph, I have sensed it. Minkowski, however, was not worried about this He had only to identify the phase of the matter. invariant expression for distance; sensing it could that this expression was wait. He found, of course, not the Euclidean expression for a four-dimensional an interval. He had discarded several of the Euclideanswered

to significance subjective

us

is.

This

must

late assumptions and could not expect that the postugoverning the metric properties of Euclid's space would persist. Especially had he violated the in discarding, with Einstein, the Euclidean canons ing notion that nothing which may happen to a measurrod in the way of uniform translation at high So he had to be velocity can affect its measures. was clidean; non-Euprepared to find that his geometry yet it is surprising to learn how slightlyit deviates from that of Euclid. Without any extended discussionto support the statement, we may say that he found that when two observers measure the time- and the space-coordinates of two events, using the assumptions and therefore the methods themselves to the of Einstein and hence subjecting val of the pure time-intercondition that their measures and of the pure space-intervalbetween these

I5"

events

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

will not necessarily be the discover that they both get the same expression

same,

S=V(X"

If

our

(CT^Ct)\

acceptance of this as the numerical measure of the separation in space-time between the two events should lead to contradiction we could not so accept it. No contradiction arises however and we the mathemamay therefore accept it. And at once tician is ready with some interpretative remarks.

The

Curvature

of

Space-Time

invariant expression for separation,It will be seen, is in the same form as that of the Euclidean four-dimensional invariant save for the minus sign before the time-difference (the appearance of the C in connection with the time coordinate t constant is merely an o adjustmentf units; see page 153). This tells us that not alone is the geometry of the time-space continuum non-Euclidean in its methods but also in itsresults, the extent to of measurement, It compares with the that it possesses a curvature. Euclidean four-dimensional continuum in much the

spherical surface compares with a illuminating plane. As a matter of fact, a more analogy here would be that between the cylindrical surface and the plane, though neither is quite exact. To make this clear requires a little iscussionof an d

same

The

way

that

elementary consider.

notion which

we

have

not

yet had

to

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

59

Our three-dimensional existence often ""reduces, for all practicalpurposes, to a two-dimensional one. room The may and objects the events of a certain be quite satisfactorily defined by thinking of them, not as located in space, but as lying in the floor of for this Mathematically the justification the room. viewpoint is got by saying that we have elected to consider a sliceof our three-dimensional world of know as a the sort which we plane. [When we consider this plane and the points in it,we find that have taken a cross-section of the three-dimenwe sional reduced, world. A line in that world is now for us, to a single point the point where it cuts our plane; a plane is reduced to a line the line

"

"

where itcuts our plane ; the three-dimensional world ItselfIs reduced to our plane itself. Everything three-dimensional fallsdown Into its shadow in our of the three plane, losing in the process that one dimensions which Is not present in our plane.' For simplicity's ake it Is usual to take a crosss

section of space parallelto one of our coordinate We think of our three dimensions as extendaxes. ing it Is easier In the directions of those axes; and to take a horizontal or verticalsection which shall simply wipe out one of these dimensions than to take an oblique sectionwhich shallwipe out a dimension that consistspartly of our originallength, and partly

original of our original width, and partly of our height. If we have a four-dimensional manifold to begin may of the four equally shake out one with, we dimensions, one of the four coordinates, and consider the three-dimensional result of this process as

l6o

a

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

tinuum. cross-section the original four-dimensional conof And where, in cross-sectioning a threehave but three choices of dimensioned world, we a a coordinate to eliminate,in cross-sectioning world ping of four dimensions we have four choices. By dropout

we

get

our

or

the

t,

accustomed three-dimensionalspace is we cross-section it, we strictlyEucli'dean. When get a Euclidean plane no matter what the direction in which we make the cut. Likewise the Euclidean plane is wholly Euclidean, because when we crossget a section it in any direction whatever we Euclidean line. A cylindricalsurface, on the other hand, is neither wholly Euclidean nor wholly nonEuclidean in this matter of cross-sectioning. If we take a section in one direction we get a Euclidean line and if we take a section in the other direction we the cylindricalsurface be a circular get a circle (if ifwe take an oblique section one). And of course but a of any sort, it is neither line nor circle, thing compromise between the two -the significant being that itis stillot a Euclidean line. n The space-time continuum presents an analogous we cross-section it by dropping situation. When out any one of the three space dimensions, we get a three-dimensional complex in which the distance formula is still non-Euclidean, retaining the minus tainin sign before the time-difference and therefore reBut the geom.etric character of its parent. in if we take our cross-section such a way as to eliminate disappears. the time coordinate, this peculiarity Now

"

The

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

l6l

In fact our familiar plus, and the cross-section Is Euclidean three-space. If we set up a surface geometry on a sphere, we find that the elimination of one dimension leaves us with a line-geometry that is stillnon-Euclidean since It pertains to the great circlesof the sphere rather than to Euclidean straight lines. In shaking Minkowski's continuum down Into a three-dimensional by eliminating any one of his coordinates, one if we eliminate either the x, the y or the z, we have lefta three-dimensional geometry in which the In the distancedisturbing minus sign stilloccurs formula, and which Is therefore still on-Euclidean. n If we omit the t, this does not occur. We see, then, that the time dimension Is the disturbing factor, the one which gives to space-time Its non-Euclidean

Is character so far as the possession of curvature Is not concerned. And we see that this curvature in all directions, and In one direction Is the same actually zero whence the attempted analogy with a .; cylinder Instead of with a sphere. Many writers on relativity try to give the space"

time continuum an appeal to our reason and a character Inevatablenessby insistingon the lack of of b any fundamental distinction etween space and time. The very expression for the space-time invariant denies this. Time is distinguishable from space. The three dimensions of space are quite Indistinguishable can Interchange them we without affecting formula, we can drop one out and never know the which Is gone. But the very formula singlesout time from space, as InherentlydifferentIn some as distinct It is not so inherently differentas we have way.

"

62

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

different to always supposed; it is not sufficiently thinking in terms of the offer any obstacle to our But while we four-dimensional continuum. can [this space and time together in this way, group does not mean differ. A cook

to all that space and time cease may combine meat with potatoes but meat and potatoes and call the product hash, 223 do not thereby become identical.]' at

The

Question

of

Visualization

to say

that while, mathematically speaking, the space-time It continuum may be a great simplification. does not To be sure, really represent the external world. you can't see the space-time continuum In precisely that you can the three-dimensional the same way space continuum, but this Is only because Einstein changeab finds the time dimension to be not quite freely Interwith the space dimension. Yet you do

perceive this space-time continuum. In the manner be just appropriate for Itsperception; and it would itself on as sensibleto throw out the space continuum the ground that perception of the two Isnot of exactly sort, as to throw out the space-time conthe same tinuum

on

tions, appropriate conveneither may stand as the mental picture of the external world; it Is for us to choose which Is the us more convenient and useful image. Einstein tells us that his image Is the better, and tells why. Before we look Into this,we must let him tellus of his conabout the geometry tinuum something more What he tellsus Is, in its essentials, just this ground.

With

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

63

this. The observer In a pure space continuum of three dimensions finds that as he changes his position, his right-and-left,his backward-and-forward, and his up-and-down fixed directions inherent are not but are fully interchangeable. The in nature, server obin the s adjoinedketch, whose verticalsare indicated by the arrows, find very differentveras tical horizontal components for the distance and between the points O and P; a similar situation would prevail If we used all three space directions. The statement analogous to this for Einstein's fourdimensional continuum of space and time combined

is that, as observers change their relative motion, their time axes take slightlydifferentdirections,so that what is purely space or purely time for the becomes space one in the with a small component in the time direction,or time with a small component space direction,for the other. This it will be seen explains fully why observers in relative motion can

164

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

differ about space and time measurements. We should not be at all surprised if the two observers of the figure reported different values for horizontals verand verticals;we should realize that what was tical for one had become partly horizontal for the so, says Einstein, with his obother. It is just server of time and space who are in relativemotion

to

one

sees as another; what one space the other sees as partly time, because their time axes do not run quite parallel. The natural question here, of course, is "Well, If you know what to where are their time axes?" look for, of course, you ought to be able to perceive terva them in just the way you perceive ordinary time in-

nary, with the reservation that they are imagilike your space axes, after all,just and that you must only expect to see them in imagination. If you look for a fourth axis in Euclidean threespace to represent your time axis,you will of course not find it. But you will by all means agree with In a definitedirection;and me that your time runs this it is that defines your time axis. Einstein adds that ifyou and I are In relativemotion, my time does In quite the same direction as yours. not run How shall we prove It? Well, how would we did not prove It If he told us that our space axes In precisely the same direction? Of course run we upon the could not proceed through direct measures know Imaginary. axes themselves: we these are What we should do would be to strike out, each of us, a very long line Indeed in what seemed the true horizontal direction; and we should hope that If we made them long enough, and measured them

"

THE

SPACE-TIME

CONTINUUM

65

should be able to detect any divergence that might exist. This is precisely what do with our time axes if we wish to verify we must Einstein'sstatement that they are not precisely parallel; demand of and what better evidence could we

accuratelyenough,

we

than the evidence already the truth of this statement our measure that when we respective presented ferent between two events, we time components get dif"

results?

What

The

It All

Leads

To

preceding chapters have been compiled and written with a view to putting the reader in a state of mind and in a state of informedness which shall enable him to derive profit from the reading of the actual competing essays which make up the balance of the book. For this purpose ithas been profitable to take up in detail the preliminaries of the Special Theory of Relativity, and to allow the General Theory to go by default, in spite of the fact that it 18 the latter which constitutesEinstein's contribution for this of importance to science. The reason is preciselythe same as that for taking up Euclidean geometry and mastering Itbefore proceeding to the study of Newtonian mechanics. The fundamental tical, IdenIdeas of the two theories,while by no means

In general terms the same; tions and the condisurrounding their application to the Special Theory are so very much simpler than those which general confront us when we apply them to the more case, that this may be taken as the controlling factor In a popular presentation. We cannot omit

are

66

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the General Theory from consideration,of course; but we can omit it from our preliminary discussion, and leave its development to the complete essays which follow, and which in almost every case give it the larger half of their space which its larger In the process of the slow and demands. content difficult preparation of the lay mind for the assimilation set of fundamental ideas, of an altogether new it is altogether desirable to give the Special Theory, with its simpler applications of these ideas, a place out of proportion to its importance in Einstein's have therefore completed structure; and this we done. The Special Theory, postulating the relativity of of uniform motion and deducing the consequences "special that relativity,is often referred to as a case" tion of the General Theory, in which this restricThis is not strictly of uniformity is removed. The General Theory, when we speaking correct. have formulated it,will call our attention to something which we really knew all the time, but to which we that in the regions of chose not to give heed space to which we have access, uniform motion does not exist. All bodies in these regions are under in, the gravitational Influenceof the other bodies thereand this Influenceleads to accelerated motion. Nothing in our universe can possibly travel at uniform velocity; the Interference of the rest of the bodies in the universe prevents this. Obviously, we ought not to apply the term "special Nevertheless, occurs. to a case case" that never Is of extreme mental this case value to us In our

"

processes.

Many

we

are

THE

SPACE-TIiME

CONTINUUM

67

concerned are so nearly at constant velocity that we find it convenient to treat them as though they were or correcting uniform, either ignoring the resulting error for itat the end of our work. In many other cases are we able to learn what actually occurs under accelerated motion by considering what would have occurred under uniform motion were such a thing possible. Science isfullof complications which we unravel In this fashion. The physicist deals with gas pressures by assuming temperatures to be is never constant, temperature though he knows constant; and In turn he deals with temperatures by After this, he assuming pressures to be constant. is able to predict what will happen when, as in

nature,

are pressures and temperatures varying By using as a channel of attack the simultaneously. occurs, we get a simple case that never artificially grip on the complex case that gives us a true picture And because in actual nature of the phenomenon.

we

close as we please to this artificial by supposing the variable factor to approach case, it to be absolutely assume constancy, so when we

can

come

as

speak of the result as the limiting case. This situationdoes not occur, but is the limitingcase for those that do occur.

constant

we

in the matter of motion, we abandon the limitingcase of uniform velocity and look artificial, into the general,natural one of unrestricted motion, have builtup to find that the structure which we we deal with the limiting case provides us with many of the necessary Ideas and viewpoints. This Is what in it lies the value of the limiting case. we expect

When,

"

We

shall see

68

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

holds good in the established for the limiting case, We shall see that the idea of the fourgeneral one. dimensional space-time continuum as representing ground forming the whole backthe external world persists, definitely of the General Theory much more Incidentally we shall than in the Special Theory. see that the greater generality of the case under a greater degree of generality consideration will demand in the geometry of this continuum, a nonEuclideanism of a much more whole-hearted type But all the revision than that of the Special Theory. have been of fundamental concepts which we for the sake of the Special at such pains to make Theory will remain with us in the General. With this we may consider our preliminary background as

to the essayists, established,and give our attention deeply into the subject who will try to take us more have yet gone, without losing us in its than we intricacies.

Lyndon

Bolton

Winner

of the

Einstein

Prize

Essay

Contest

VII

RELATIVITY

The Essay in Winning Higgins Eugene

by

lyndon

the

Contest

for

the

$5,000 Prize

bolton

senior

examiner,

british LONDON

patent

office

t reader is probably acquainted \vlth.he method of specifying positions of points in a plane by their distances from two mutually perpendicu lines, or if the points are in space by their distances from three mutually perpendicular box. The planes like adjacent sides of a flat-sided for exhibiting relause method is in fact in common tions between quantities by graphs or diagrams. These sets of axes, as they are called,together with be supposed any scales used for measuring, must

THE

rigid,otherwise the events or points which they are used to specify are indefinite. The lengths which locate any point with reference to a set of axes are called its coordinates. When such systems are used for physical purposes, be supplemented by they must clocks to enable be deterto the times at which events occur mined. The clocks must be synchronized, and must here to state go at the same rate, but it must suffice that this is possible without indicating how these con-

7"

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

be attained. A system of axes with its ence, clocks will hereinafter be called a Frame of Referand every observer will be supposed to be provided with such a frame partaking of his motion. All the tion which partake of an observer's moobjects will be called his system. It is a question whether among allpossibleframes of reference any one frame or class of frames is more ment suited than another for the mathematical stateof physical laws. This is for experience to decide, and a Principle of Relativity is a statement

ditlons can

embodying

the

answer.

The

Mechanical

Principle

of

Relativity

It has been ascertainedthat all such frames are of equally suitable for the mathematical statement general mechanical laws, provided that their motion isrectilinear nd uniform and without rotation. This a fact is comprehended in the general statement that are all unaccelerated framesof reference equivalent for the statement of the general laws of mechanics. This is the mechanical principle of relativity It is well recognized however that the laws of dynamics as hitherto stated involve the assumptions that the lengths of rigid bodies are unaffected by the motion of the frame of reference,and that measured times are likewise unaffected; that is to say that his own on any length measured system by either of two relativelymoving observers appears the to both observers, or that lengths of same objects rates of clocks do not alter whatev^er the moand tion relative to an observer. These assumptions

RELATIVITY

I7I

obvious that it is scarcely perceived that they are assumptions at all. Yet this is the case, and as a matter of fact they are both untrue.

seem so

The

Special

Principle

of

Relativity

all unaccelerated frames of reference laws, are equivalent for the purposes of mechanical this is not the case for physical laws generally as tromagne long as the above suppositions are adhered to. Eleclaws do alter their form according to the motion of the frame of reference; that is to say, if these suppositions are true, electromagnetic agencies act in different ways according to the motion of There is nothing the system in which they occur. a priori impossible in this, but it does not agree with experiment. The motion of each localityon the earth is continuallychanging from hour to hour in electromagbut no corresponding changes occur netic actions. It has however been ascertained that appears d discarding these suppositions the difficulty ison and electromagnetic laws retain their form Accordin under all circumstances of unaccelerated motion. to the theory of relativity,he correct t view is deducible from which replaces these suppositions the following postulates: (1) By no experiment conducted on his own system can an observer detectthe unaccelerated motion of his system. (2) The measure of the velocityof lightin vacuo is unaffected by relative motion between the of light. observer and the source Both these postulates are well establishedby ex-

Although

172

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

miliar The first by the famay be illustrated periment. difficulty of determining whether a slowly happens to be sittingin, or an moving train one The passenger has is in motion. one,

is, or either to wait for bumps (that accelerations) else he has to look out at some which adjacent object he knows to be fixed,such as a building (that he is, has to perform an experiment on something outside his before he can decide.

adjacent

system),

second postulate Is an obvious consequence in water, as theory of light. Just waves of the wave once started by a ship, travel through the water in with a velocity independent of the ship, so waves space travel onward with a speed bearing no relation to that of the body which originated them. The however is based on experiment, and can statement be proved independently of any theory of light. It is not difficult deduce from these postulates to

tems certain remarkable conclusions relating to the sysof two observers, A and B, in relative motion, following: among them the on (1 ) Objects B's system appear to A to be shorter in the direction of relative motion than they appear to B.

The

(2) This

opinion Is reciprocal. B thinks that A*s A's system are too great. on measurements

times: each observer thinks that the other's clocks have a slower rate than his own, so that B's durations of time appear shorter to B than to A, and conversely.

appear

so

in general appear

net

RELATIVITY

173

(5) (6)

(7)

right angles to the direction of motion are unaffected. These effectsvary with the ratio of the relative velocity to that of hght. The greater the relative velocity, the greater the effects. They vanish if there is no relativevelocity. For ordinary velocities the effectsare so small to as escape notice. The remarkable point however is their occurrence rather than their

Lengths

at

magnitude. (8) The observers similarly form different estimates of the velocities bodies on each other's of The velocity of lighthowever appears systems. to all observers. the same Taking into account these revised views of lengths may and times the mechanical principleof relativity be extended to physical laws generally as follows: All unaccelerated frames are of reference equivalent forthe statement of the general laws of physics. In is called the Special, or this form the statement Restricted,Principle of Relativity, because it is restrict frames of reference. Naturally to unaccelerated

some

the laws of classical mechanics now require modification,since the suppositions of unalterable lengths and times no longer apply.

The

Four

Dimensional

Continuum

Lengths and times therefore have not the absolute formerly attributedto them. As they character present themselves to us they are relationsbetween the objectnd the observer which change as their a motion relativeto him changes. Time can no longer be regarded as something independent of position

174

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

and motion, and the question is what is the reality? The only possible answer is that be must objects regarded as existing in four dimensions, three of these being the ordinary ones of length, breadth and thickness, and the fourth, time. The term "space" is applicable only by analogy to such a region; it has been called a "continuum," and the analogue of a point in ordinary three-dimensional space has been By "dimension" appropriately called an "event." be understood merely one must of four independent quantities which locate an event in this continuum. In the nature of the case any clear mental picture of such a continuum Is impossible; mankind does not possess the requisite faculties. In this respect the a mathematician enjoys great advantage. Not that he can picture the thing mentally any better than other people, but his symbols enable him to abstract the relevant properties from It and to express them in a form suitable for exact treatment without the necessityof picturinganything, or troubling whether or not the properties are those on which others rely for their conceptions.

Gravitation

The

limitation of

and

Acceleration

of general law to systems is hardly satisfactory. uniformly moving The very concept of general law is opposed to the notion of limitation. But the difficulties formuof lating a law so that the statement of it shall hold good for all observers, whose systems may be moving with different and possibly variable accelerations,

statements

are

very

great.

RELATIVITY

175

and besides, of any general dynamical principles, the behavior of measuring rods and clocks would be as so such terms erratic as to render unmeaning clude rigidity and measured time, and therefore to prethe use of rigid scales,or of a rigid frame of tigation. reference which is the basis of the foregoing invesThe

following example taken from Einstein will make this clear,and also indicate a way out of the difficulty.A rotating system is chosen, but since rotation is only a particular case of acceleration It as an example of the method of treating will serve accelerated systems generally. Moreover, as it will be seen, the attribution accelerationto the system of is simply a piece of scaffolding which can be discarded when the general theory has been further developed. Let us note the experiences of an observer on a rotating disk which Is Isolated so that the observer has no directmeans of perceiving the rotation. He on the disk will therefore refer all the occurrences to a frame of reference fixedwith respect to it,and partaking of Itsmotion. He willnotice as he walks about on the disk that he himself and all the on objects It,whatever their constitution or state, are acted upon by a force directed away from a certain point upon It and Increas with the distance from that point. This point Is actually the center of rotation, though the observer does not recognize It as such. The space on the disk In factpresents the characteristic properties

field. The force differs from of a gravitational gravity as we know It by the fact that It Is directed

176

away

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

from instead of toward a center, and it obeys a differentlaw of distance; but this does not affect the characteristic properties that it acts on all bodies alike,and cannot be screened from one body by the interposition another. An observer aware of of the rotation of the disk would say that the force was centrifugalforce; that Is, the force due to inertia which a body always exerts when itis accelerated. Next suppose the observer to stand at the point of one the disk where he feelsno force,and to watch some-

else comparing, by repeated applicationsof a small measuring rod, the circumference of a circle having its center at that point, with its diameter. The measuring rod when laid along the circumference is moving lengthwise relativelyto the observer is therefore to contraction by his and subject laid radially to measure When the reckoning. diameter this contraction does not occur. The rod

will therefore require a greater proportional number of applicationsto the circumference than to the diameter, and the number representing the ratio of to the circumference of the circle the diameter thus measured will therefore be greater than 3.14159-}-, the relative which is Its normal value. Moreover velocity decreases as the center Is approached, so that the contraction of the measuring rod Is less when appliedto a smaller circle;nd the ratioof the a circumference to the diameter, while still greater to It than before, than the normal, will be nearer from the lessthe difference and the smaller the circle the normal. For circles hose centers are not at the w force the confusion is still point of zero greater, to sincethe velocities elative the observer of points r

RELATIVITY

77

change from point to point. The know it is thus as we whole scheme of geometry disorganized. Rigidity becomes an unmeaning term since the standards by which alone rigidity can be to tested are themselves subject alteration. These facts are expressed by the statement that the observer' is non-Euclidean; that is space measured to say, in the region ments under consideration measuredo not conform to the system of Euchd. The same confusion arises in regard to clocks. No two clocks will in general go at the same rate, clock will alter its rate when moved and the same

on

them

now

about.

The

The

General

Principle

of

Relativity

region therefore requires a space-time its own, be it noted that with this geometry of and special geom.etry is associated a definite tional gravitafield, if the gravitational field ceases to and brought to rest, exist,for example if the disk were disappear, and all the irregularities measurement of Euclidean. the geometry of the region becomes This particular case illustrates the following propositions

which form the basis of this part of the theory of relativity: (1 ) Associated with every gravitational field is a that is, a structure system of geometry, of field. measured space peculiar to that

(2) Inertialmass

are

one

and the same. (3) Since in such regions ordinary methods of fail,owing to the indefiniteness measurement

lyS

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

of

must

geometry

of space in which no gravitational field exists in Euclidean.* The connection between a gravitationalfield and its appropriate geometry in suggested by a case is thus cause their common which acceleration was the gravitaassumed to exist from whatever cause tional fieldarises. This of course is pure hypothesis, to be tested by experimental trial of the results derived therefrom. Gravitational fieldsarise in the presence of matter. Matter is therefore presumed to be accompanied by a specialgeometry, as though it imparted some peculiar kink or twist to space which renders the methods of Euclid inapplicable,or rather we should say that the geometry of Euclid is the particular form which the more general geometry Is either absent or so remote assumes when matter influence. The dropping of the to have no as notion of accelerationis after all not a very violent change in point of view, since under any circumstances Is supposed to be unaware the observer of All that he is aware is that a the acceleration. of fieldand his geometry coexist. gravitational The prospect of constructing a system of geometry does not depend upon measurement may which Nevertheless this hopeful. not at first sight seem has been done. The system consists In defining

Bolton the geometry *(It will be noted that Mr. of space pronounces in ")lieabsence Euclidean to be of gravitational fields, not that of spaceEditor. ICl. This is in accord witii what was time. pointed out on page

"

(4)

The

RELATIVITY

79

points not by their distances from lines or planes (for this would involve measurement) but by assignin to them arbitrary numbers serve as which labels bearing no distances, relation to measured by its very much as a house is located in a town If this labeling be done sysnumber and street. tematic being had to the condition that regard the label-numbers ^f points which are gether close tomal should differ from one another by infinitesiamounts only, it has been found that a system Perhaps of geometry can actually be worked out. this will appear less artificial when the fact is called to mind that even when standards of length are be done to render lengths of can available no more calculationthan to assign numbers to them, and this is preciselywhat is done in This system of labeling goes by the present case. the name of "Gaussian coordinates" after the mathematician Gauss who proposed it. It is in terms of Gaussian coordinates that physical laws must be formulated if they are to have their

amenable objects

to

tivity widest generality, and the general principleof relais that all Gaussian systems are equivalent for laws. For this the statement of general physical the labeling process is applied not to purpose ordinary space but to the four dimensional spaceThe concept is somewhat difficult time continuum. and it may easily be aggravated into impossibility by anyone who thinks that he is expected to visualize it. Fortunately this is not necessary; itis merely one to which those who unare accusto of these Irrelevancles to think In symbols are liable. It will now be seen that among physical laws the

l8o

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

law of gravitationstands pre-eminent, for Itis gravitating matter which determines the geometry, and determines the form of every other the geometry law. The connection between the geometry and gravitation is the law of gravitation. This law has been worked out, with the result that Newton's law of the inverse square Is found to be approximate for only, but so closely approximate as to account nearly all the motions of the heavenly bodies within the limits of observation. It has already been seen sified that departure from the Euclidean system Is Intenby rapidity of motion, and the movements of bodies are usually too slow for this departure these to be manifest. In the case of the planet Mercury the motion Is sufficiently rapid, and an Irregularity in Its motion which long puzzled astronomers has been explained by the more general law. Another deduction Is that light is to tation. subject graviThis has given rise to two predictions,one of which has been verified. The verification the of Is as yet uncertain,though the extreme culty diffiother for of the necessary observations may account this. Since lightIs to subject gravitationIt follows that the constancy of the velocity of light assumed in the earlierpart of this paper does not obtain In a gravitational field. There is reallyno Inconsistency. The velocityof light Is constant in the absence of gravitation, plies. a condition which unaccelerated motion imThe special Is principleof relativity therefore a limiting case of the general principle.

VIII

THE

NEW TIME

in

of

OF

The

Essay

Behalf

of

Which

the

Greatest Have

Number

montgomery

by

francis

YORK

NEW

all had experiences, on trains and inability tell, boats, illustrating to our without looking off to some body, whether we are at external do so look, rest or moving uniformly; and when we

WE

have

tell,without reference to the ground or some other point external to both systems, whether ours or the other be the seat of motion. Uniform motion be relative,because we find nowhere in must the universe a body in the unique state of absolute rest from which alone absolute motion might be

to

geneous theory of light with its homospace-filling ether seemed to provide a tion, reference standard for the concept of absolute moby experiment with and for its measurement light rays. But when Michelsen and Morley looked for this absolute motion they found no trace of it. To the physicist, nal observational student of the exterworld, nothing existssave observationally;what he can never observe is not there. So: I. By no

wave

82

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

means

whatever may we regard uniformstraightline motion as other than relative. As a further direct consequence of the MichelsenMorlcy experiment we have: II. Light in a vacuum

presents the

186,330 miles per second, to all observers whatever their velocity of relative motion. In addition to being experimentally established, this is necessary to support I, for if light will distinguish between our velocities,its is necessarily a universal standard for abmedium solute

sense motion. But it is contrary to common to suppose that if I pass you at 100 miles per hour, lightimpulse can pass us both at the same the same feel, instinctively, We that space and speed, C.

same

velocity, C

time are not so constituted as to make thispossible. But the fact has been repeatedly demonstrated. And when common sense and fundamental concepts clash with facts,it is not the facts that must yield. We have survived such crises, notably one where we had to change the fundamental concept of up-anddown; if another one is here, says Einstein, let us meet It. This the Special Theory of Relativity does. It accepts Postulates I and II above; their consequences It deduces and interprets. For extensive demonstration of these I lack space, and this has been satisfactorily done by others so It Is not my chief duty; but clearlythey will be startling. For the very ray of lightwhich refuses to recognize our motion Is the medium through which I must relative observe your system and you mine. It turns out that I get different values for lengths and time intervalsin your system than you get, and

THE

NEW

CONCEPTS

OF

TIME

AND

SPACE

83

both right! For me to for me to admit that were accept your you are at absolute rest and I in absolute motion, that your measure of light velocity is right and mine wrong: admissions barred by the postulates. We have nothing to correct; we can only recognize the for the discrepancy; and knowing our relareason tive results calculate from his own velocity, each can what the other's will be. We find, of course, that at ordinary velocitiesthe discrepancy is many times too small for detection;but at relative velocities lightitrisesabove at allcomparable with that of the observational horizon. length is meaningless. To Inquire the "true" Chicago is east of Denver, west of Pittsburgh, south

vice

versa.

do not consider this contradictory, of Milwaukee; we "true" direction of Chicago. demand or the Einstein finds that the concept of length, between points In space or events in time, does not as we had Intrinsic property supposed represent an of the It Like direction, Is merely a points or the events. a relation relation between these and the observer

"

whose value changes with the observer's velocity ideas of the part relative to the object.If our played In the world by time and space do not permit we us to believe this, must alterthese Ideas. Let us see how we may do this.

World

of

Points

To deal with points In a plane the mathematician draws two perpendicular lines, and locates any X point, as P, by measuring Its distances, and Y,

i84

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

peculiar significance, standing out above other directions; he is apt to x measure the distances X y between and Y the points P and Q in these directions,instead of We do the same measuring the single distance PQ. thing when we say that the railroad station is five blocks north and two east.

" "

The

directions of

himself as an observer mathematician visualizes For located on his coordinate framework. zontal another observer on another framework, the horitween x' y' beand vertical distances X' and Y' P and Q are different. But for both, the

"

"

The

THE

NEW

CONCEPTS

OF

TIME

AND

SPACE

85

distance from

case

P direct to Q

is

In each

PQ

V(X V(X'

"

"

"

"

observer so dominated by his coordinate he knows no way of relating P system that with Q save by their horizontal and vertical separation. be shatHis whole scheme of things would tered by the suggestion that other observers on other reference frames find different horizontal and vertical We have to show him the line components. PQ. We have to convince him that this length Is by the absolute property enjoyed his pair of points; that horizontals and verticals are merely relations between the points and the observer, result of the

an

Imagine

observer'sRaving analyzed the distance PQ Into two compos that differentobservers effect this decomponents; differently; not to make that this seems sense to him only because of his erroneous concept of a fundamental difference between verticalsand horizontals.

The Four-Dimensional

World

of

Events

have created a distinction our minds in corresponding to no sufficient reality. Our minds seize on time as inherently separable from space. We see the world made up of things In a continuum of three space dimensions; to make this dead world We

too

86

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

live there runs through it a one-dimensional time continuum, imposed from without, unrelated. But did you ever observe anything suggesting the presence of time in the absence of space, or vice No; these vessels of the universe always versa? occur together. Association of the space dimensions into a manifold from which time is excluded is purely a phenomenon of the mind. The space continuum begin to exist until the time dimension is cannot

supplied,nor in.

can

time existwithout

place

to

exist

The externalworld that we observe is composed, If a point lacks posinot of points, but of events. tion in time itdoes not exist;give itthis position and This world of events is fourit becomes an event. dimensional terrifying which means nothing more to locate than that you must make f"ur measures It does not mean, an at all,that you must event. visualize four mutually perpendicular lines in your accustomed three-space or in a four-space analogous to it. If this to world of four dimensions seems lack reality you will be able to exhibit no better realityfor your old ideas. Time belongs, without question; and not as an afterthought,but as part of

"

the world of

events.

To locate an event we use four measures: X, Y and Z for space, T for time. Using the same ence referframe for time and space, we locate a second Minkowski showed x, y, z, t. event by the measures

that the quantity

V(X"

Isthe same

x)^+(Y"

for allobservers, no

matter

how different

THE

NEW

CONCEPTS

OF

TIME

AND

SPACE

87

quantity

z's

and

"

t's;

as just

V(X

for allobservers,no matter how different is the same their x's and y's. Such a quantity, having the same value for all it represents observers, is absolute. In the plane the true, absolute distance between the points their In dealing with events it repreintrinsic sents property. the true, absolute "Interval,"in time and space It is not space, nor together between the events. have We time, but a combination of the two. always broken it down Into separate space and time In this we are as naive as the plane components. observer who could not visualize the distance PQ ticals. splitinto separate horizontals and veruntil It was difficultyhat another He understood with t cause beobserver, employing a differentreference frame position in differentposition, would make the decomdifferently.We understand with difficulty that another observer, employing a differentreference

"

x)^+

(Y

"

y)^

frame because in uniform motion relative to us, will decompose the "interval" between events differentfrom ours. into time and space components Time and space are relative to the observer; only the intervalrepresenting space-time is absolute. So common sense stands reconciled to the Special Theory of Relativity. Successive Steps Toward Generality

88

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

discard?

By

no

means.

investigatingthe Jeans,

found the general equilibrium of gaseous masses, for direct attack. So he considered too difficult case involved are homogeneous the case where the masses but it occurs; and incompressible. This never throws such light on the general case as to point the way toward attack on it. Euclidean geometry that excludes motion, save engineered by the observer; and then the time is immaterial. Time does not enter at all;the three never space dimensions suffice. This simple case but itsconclusions are of occurs where matter exists; value in dealing with more general cases. When we look into a world alleged to be that of Euclid and find motion, we may retain the Euchdean concept of what constitutesthe world and invent a for the motion; or we machinery to account may Euclidean world, as inadequate, in abandon the favor of a more We have adopted general one. the second alternative. Newton's laws tellsus that a body free to move will do so, proceeding in a straight line at uniform velocity until interfered with. We do not ask, nor does the theory tell us, whence comes the initial motion. There is no machinery to inherent property of Newton^s an by the superposition of the time Euclid's world to make Newton's, produce it;it is world assured continuum upon accepted without

"

question along with that world itself. But Newton saw that his world of uniform motion, like Euclid's, was never realized. In the neighborhood

of one particlea second is interfered with, forced to give up itsuniform motion and acquire a

THE

NEW

CONCEPTS

OF

TIME

AND

SPACE

89

acceleration. This Newton explained by employing the first of the alternatives mentioned ter above. He tellsus that in connection with all matthere exists a force which acts on other matter He does not display the actual in a certain way. cause machinery through which this "force" works, behe could not discover any machinery; he had to stop with his brilliantgeneralization of the observed facts. And all his successors have failed to detect the slightesttrace of a machinery of gravitation.

constant

Einstein asks whether this is not because the machinery is absent because gravitation, like position in Euclid's world and motion in Newton's, is a fundamental property of the world in which It His point of attack here lay In precise occurs. formulation of certain familiar facts that had never been adequately appreciated. These facts indicate that even accelerated motion is relative,in spite of itsapparently real and absolute effects.

"

Gravitation

and

Acceleration

observer In a closed compartment, moving space, acceleration through empty with constant finds that the "bottom" of his cage catches up with that objects he releases; that It presses on his feet It displays to give him the sensation of weight, etc. at rest all the effectsthat he would expect if it were in a gravitational field. On the other hand. If it fallingfreely under gravitational influence, its were no occupant would sense r weight, objectseleased would not leave his hand, the reaction from his every

An

190

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

motion would change his every position in his cage, himself at rest in and he could equally well assume a region of space free from gravitational action. Accelerated motion may always be interpreted, by the observer on the system, as ordinary force effects his moving system, or as gravitational effectson on his system at rest. An alternativestatement of the Special Theory Is

that the observed phenomena of uniform motion may equally be accounted for by supposing the in object motion and the observer with his reference frame at rest, or vice versa. We may similarly state The observed phenomena the General Theory: of In every case be uniformly accelerated motion may explained on a basis of stationary observer and

or of acceleratedobjective, stationary objective with his reference system in accelerated the observer and It motion. Gravitation Is one of these phenomena. follows that if the observer erated enjoyproperly accelaxes (intime-space,of course), absolute the character of the world about him must be such as to present to him the phenomenon of gravitation. It remains only to identifythe sort of world, of which gravitation as it is observed would be a fundamental characteristic. Euclid's and Newton's systems stand as first and The Special second approximations to that world. ton, Relativity Theory constitutesa correction of Newpresumably because it is a third approximation. We must seek in Itthose features which we may most more hopefully carry along into the still general

case.

Newton's

system

of Euclid.

THE

NEW

CONCEPTS

OF

TIME

AND

SPACE

I9I

But Minkowski's invariant expression tellsus that Einstein has had to abandon this; for in Euclidean geometry of four dimensions the invariant takes the form:

V(X"

analogous to that of two and three dimensions. It is not the presence of the constant C in Minkowski's formula that counts; this is merely an so adjustment that we may measure space in miles and time in the unit that corresponds to a mile. It Is the minus sign

demands a plus that where Euclidean geometry makes Minkowski's continuum non-Euclidean. The editor has told us what this statement means. I think he has made it clear that when we speak of the geometry of the four-dimensional world, we

must

not

s ing read into thisterm the restrictionsurroundthe kind of geometry we are best acquainted with that of the three-dimensional Euclidean continuum. So I need only point out that if we are to approximation make a fourth (and we hope, final) to the reality,its geometry must preserve the generality attainedby that of the third step, if itgoes no

"

further.

Einstein's Time-Space

World

Einstein accordingly examined the possible nonEuclidean of four dimensions, in geometries search of one displaying fundamental characteristics would lead which, interpretedin terms of space-time, to the observed facts of gravitation. The mathematics is of this investigation that part of his work follow; so can which, we are told, but twelve men

we

may

192

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

that In the neighborhood of matter the world of space-time is non-Euclidean, and that itscurvature distortionor non-Euclideanism is of or to mathematicians; a certain type already known that the curvature of this world in the neighborhood increases with the mass, of matter and decreases as increases; and that the distance from the matter that is not interfered with every particle of matter direct path travels through space-time in the most possible in that continuum; then the observed facts Inherent accounted for as an of gravitation are If

we assume

geometric property of this space-time world. We distorts this usually say that the presence of matter world, and that this distortion gives the track of through the region affecteditsnon-uniform particles character. Gravitation then is not a force at all; it is the fundamental nature of thmgs. A body free to move definitepath. through the world must follow some Newton Euclid says it will stand still; that it will traverse a straight line In three-space at uniform in a "geodesic" time-rate; Einstein that itwill move through time-space In every-day language, that It will fall. The numerical consequences of Einstein'stheory as are, within the limits of observation, the same cury. Merone those of Newton's for all bodies save This planet shows a small deviation from the path predicted by Newton's law; Einstein'stheory search gives its motion exactly. Again, when modern retion, showed that light must be affectedby gravitaEinstein's theory, because of the extreme velocity of light,deviates from Newton's, where the

"

"

THE

NEW

CONCEPTS

OF

TIME

AND

SPACE

93

factor; and observations speed is less a determining of starlightdeflected by the sun during the eclipse in much better accord with Einstein's theory were Moreover, the Special Theory prethan Newton's. dicts is an observational variable like that mass length and duration. Radioactive emanations have a velocity high enough to give appreciable results here, and the prediction is verified,tending to support the general theory by supporting its limiting

case.

unify our science;and seldom, forced to give it are a we after effecting unification, Einstein for the firsttime brings mechanical, up.

electromagnetic and gravitationalphenomena within This is one reason are one structure. why physicists so open minded toward his theory" they want it to be true.

We

like always

to

The

Layman's

to any

Last

Doubt

evita series of questionsIs In"because the world is so constructed." The things we are content to leave on that basis are those to which we are accustomed, and which we therefore think we understand; those for which this explanation leaves us unsatisfied are those which are new and Newton told us that the world of threeunfamiliar. dimensional space with one-dimensional time superposed bodies left to themso was selves constructed that stant would go on forever In a straight line at conspeed. We think we understand this,but our

The

finalanswer

understanding consists merely of the unspoken query, "Why, of course; what Is there to prevent?"

13

194

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

The

Greeks,

an

at

ferent thisdif-

Newton they would have met with the unanimous demand "Why so; what is there to keep So if,in seeking an explanation of them going?" sooner than we had expected to anything, we come "Because the world Is so constructed," the finality letus not feelthat we have been cheated.

IX

THE

PRINCIPLE

of

OF

it is

RELATIVITY

in

A Statement

What One OF

BY HUGH

ELLIOT

Ideas

CHISLEHURST,

KENT,

ENGLAND

Invarianceof the laws of nature was one of the most popular themes of nineteenth century not tilllast century that philosophy. For it was accorded to the doctrine of general acceptance was the "Uniformity of Law," adumbrated in ancient a carditimes by Epicurus and Lucretius. It Is now nal in the cause axiom of science that the same same conditions is always followed by the same effect. There exists in nature no indeterminate element; all things are governed by fixed laws, and the discovery of these laws is the main business of

THE

science.

guard against reading into idea of the content an erroneous this statement Such a law is of course of a "law of nature." not an enactment of any sort; and itis not even to be thought of as an actual, explanation of the how and why of the phenomena with which it has to do. It really is nothing but an expression beliefin the pronouncement our of of the like conditions do preceding paragraph, that based on produce likeresults. It is a prediction

to

It is necessary

196

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

past experience, and is of value merely in that past experience leads us to credit its accuracy. The composite essay beginning on page 19 discusses this question of the reality of natural laws, and should be consulted in connection

with the present contribution. Editor. This great philosophic principlewas derived of from the study of natural science; i. e., from course

"

observations and experiments conducted upon the ited earth. Their comprehensiveness is therefore limby the fact that the observer is always in a state

of rest, or nearly so, as compared with the earth. All observers upon the earth are moving through space at the same velocity; and it was possible to argue that the uniformity of law might only hold good, when experiments were conducted at this velocity An observer moving at very different velocity might discover that the laws of nature under new were different. these conditions somewhat Such a view could indeed never be very plausible, for motion is only a relative conception. Imagine " a universe consisting of infiniteempty" space, in which there is poised a singlematerial body. How shall we determine whether this body is at rest, or whether itis moving at high or low velocitythrough It is never to anything or space? getting nearer farther from anything, since there is no other body for it to get nearer to or farther from. If we say it is moving at a uniform velocity of a thousand

miles

a

statement second, our really has no significa We have no more for affirming reason that it is In motion than we have for affirming that it is at rest. In short, there is no such thing as

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

RELATIVITY

97

absolute motion; the conception of motion only bodies changing ariseswhen there are two or more their position relatively to one another. This is of what ismeant by the relativity motion. It seemed improbable that the laws of nature would therefore be different if the observer were moving at high velocity; for the movement of the observer is not an absolute quantity, but merely a statement of his no relation to other bodies, and if there were other bodies, the statement itself be meaningless. would

The

Now

among

Behavior

of

Light

is the established laws of nature that which specifiesthe velocity of light moving If the laws of nature variab inare through a vacuum. But this velocity will always be the same. consider what would happen under the following are at rest, and circumstances: Suppose that we

that

observer on another body flies past us at 150,000 miles a second. Suppose that at the moment he passes, a piece of flint from projecting him grazes from a piece of steel projecting us, giving rise to a ure spark; and that we both thereupon set about to measthe velocityof the light so produced. After one second, we should find that the hght had traveled about 186,000 miles away, and since during this second the other observer had traveled 150,000 miles, we should infer that the lighttraveling in his directionwas only about 36,000 miles ahead of him. We should also Infer that he would find this out by his experiment, and that he would estimate the of velocity lightas only 36,000 miles a second in his

an

198

own

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

direction, and 336,000 miles a second in the opposite direction. But if this is so, then that law

the velocity of lightis quite of nature which specifies different for him and for us: the laws of nature must be dependent upon the observer's motion cona clusion which appears incompatible with the idea of

"

the relativity motion. of And it so happens that it is also contradictory to experimental conclusions. Experiments undertaken to settle the point show that each observer finds the same velocity for the light of the spark; and after one second, each observer finds that the light has traveled 186,000 miles from himself. But how is it possible that when it has traveled 186,000 miles himin the same directionas the other observer who self has moved 150,000 miles meanwhile, he should That is think it 186,000 miles ahead of him? still the initial paradox; and sincethere has been no room for error in the experiments, we are forced to conclude In the assumpthat there was something wrong tions

Space

and

we

started.

Time

If In fact be only one Intefpfetatlon. numwe ber each find that the light has moved the same number of seconds, then we of miles in the same be meaning something different must when we speak of miles and seconds. We are speaking in different languages. Some subsidence has occurred in the We foundations of our systems of measurement. There

can

are

each referring to one and the same objective fact;but sincewe describeItquite differently, at and

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

RELATIVITY

99

firstsight incompatibly,

profound alteration have occurred in our perceptions all unsuspected must by ourselves. It has been shown precisely A body moving at high what this alteration Is. directionof its in velocitymust become flattened the in motion; all itsmeasuring apparatus, when turned that direction,is shortened, so that no hint of the flatteningcan be obtained from it. Furthermore, the standards of time are lengthened out, and clocks dards go slower. The extent of this alteration in stanof space and time is stated in the equations of the so-called Lorentz transformation.

some

"

be urged to the above paragraph on the ground that the connection of the observer with the variabihty of measured indicated, lengths and times is not sufficiently and that this variability therefore might be taken as an intrinsic property of the observed Editor. it is not. body which of course

Objection might

"

"

accustomed to describe space as being of sion. three dimensions, and time as being of one dimenAs a matter of fact,both space and time are "ideas," and not immediate sense-perceptions. We we then infera universal continuum perceive matter; b filled y it, which we callspace. If we had no knowledge of matter, we should have no conception of space. SimilarlyIn the case of time : we perceive following another, and we then invent a one event

We

are

continuum which we calltime, as an abstractionbased We do not see space, on the sequence of events. and we do not see time. They are not real things, is real, and that events are in the sense that matter real. They are products of Imagination: useful

200

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

but misleading when we try life, the univ^erseas a whole, free from the divisions and landmarks which we introduce artificial into it for practical convenience. Hence it is perhaps not so surprising after all that in certain highlydivisions transcendental investigations,these artificial to be a convenience, and become should cease a hindrance. Take for instance our conception of time. It differsfrom our conception of space in that it has only one dimension. In space, there is a right and left,an up and down, a before and after. But in time there is only before and after. Why should be this limitation of the time-factor? Merely there because that is the verdict of all our human experience. based on a But is our human experience broad foundation to enable us to say that, sufficiently under all conditions and in all parts of the universe, there can be only one time-direction? May not our belief in the uniformity of time be due to the uniformit

enough in to look on

common

of the motion of all observers on the earth? Such In fact is the postulate of relativity. We now believe that, at velocities very differentfrom our own, the standard of time would also be different From our point of view, that different from ours. standard of time would not be confined to the single direction fore and aft, as we know it,but would also have in it an element of what we might call be right and left. True, it would still of only one dimension, but its direction would differ from the like a direction of our time. It would stillrun thread through the universe, but not In the direction It would have a call straight forward. which we

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

RELATIVITY

201

depends upon slant In It,and the angle of the slant cause It does not follow that bethe velocity of motion. direction down are we all traveling in the same can only the stream of time, therefore that stream "Before" and flow in the directionwhich we know. "after" are expressions which, like right and left, were depend upon our personal situation. If we differently moving situated,if to be precise we were at very high velocity, we should, so to speak, be direction and "before" and "after" facing in a new from would imply a differentdirection of progress familiar. that with which we are now

The

World

of

Reality

But, after all,the universe is the same objective old universe however fast we are moving about In it,and whatever way we are facing. These details merely determine the way we divide it up Into space The universe Is not affected by any and time. arbitrary lines which we draw through It for our personal convenience. For practical purposes, we ascribe to it four dimensions, three in space and one In time. Clearly If the time directionis altered,all ent dimensions both of space and time must have differreadings. If, for Instance,the time direction as slopes away to the left, compared with ours, then be correto right and left must space measurements spondingl altered. An analogy will simplify the

matter.

desire to reach a point ten miles off In a roughly northeasterly direction. We might do so by walking six miles due east and then eight miles

we

Suppose

202

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

should then be precisely ten miles we started. But suppose our compass were out of order, so that its north pole pointed somewhat to the west of north. Then in order to we get to our destination, might have to walk seven east, thought was miles In the direction which we more than seven miles in the direction and a little which we thought was north. We should then reach Both observers have the same point as before. walked according to their lights,firstdue east and then due north, and both have reached the same point: the one observer is certain that the finishing w point is six miles east of the starting-point,hile the is sure itIs seven miles. other Now on we the earth are all using a compass direction as regards time. which points In the same But other observers, on bodies moving with very have a compass In which the timedifferentvelocity, Hence directionIs displaced as compared with ours. our judgmentsf distances will not be alike. In our o analogy, the northerly directioncorresponds to time, and the easterly direction to space; and so long as do not differIn our we use we the same compass measurements of distances. But for any one who

due north. from where

We

different not only notion of the time-direction, time Intervals but space distances will be judged differently. In short, the universe is regarded as a space-time continuum of four dimensions. A "point" in spacea

has

time Is called

at a ^thatwhich occurs tance moment place. The disand at a specified specified between two points In space-time Is called their "interval."All observers will agree as to the magan

"

"event"

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

RELATIVITY

203

nitude of any interval,since It Is a property of the universe; but they will disagree as to its objective composition in space and time separately. In short, space and time are relative conceptions; their relativity is a necessary consequence of the relativity of motion." The paradox named at the outset is for the two overcome; observers measuring the velocity of the light produced as they passed one another, were using different units of space and time. And hence emerges triumphant the Special laws Principle of Relativity, which states that the for all observers, whether are the same of nature they are in a state of rest or of uniform motion in a straightline. Accelerated

Motion

straight line is however a Our experience in very special kind of motion. ordinary lifeis of motions that are neither uniform In a straight line; both speed and direction of nor motion are altering. The moving body Is then said to undergo "acceleration":which means either that its speed Is Increasing or diminishing, or that its direction of motion Is changing, or both. If we former supposition of a universe In to our revert which there Is only a singlebody In "empty" space, we say whether It has acceleration clearly cannot than whether it Is moving, there being no any more outside standard of comparison; and the General Principle of Relativity asserts the Invarlance of the laws of nature for all states of motion of the observer In thiscase, however, a difference might be

Uniform motion

in

204

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

detected by an observer on the moving body Itself. It would be manifested to him as the action of a force; such for instance as we feel when a train in are traveling is increasing or reducing which we speed, or when, without changing speed, itis rounding The force dies away as soon a corner. as the Thus acceleration reveals velocity becomes uniform. itself us under the guise of action by a force. to

Force

may acceleration go together, and we either say that the acceleration is due to the force, or the impression of force to the acceleration. Now when we are traveling with accelerated motion, have quite a different idea of what conwe stitute a straight line from that which we had when If we are moving at at rest or in uniform motion. uniform velocity in an airplane and drop a stone to the earth it will appear to us In the airplane to fall in a straight line downward, while to an observer on the earth it will appear to describe a parabola. This Is due to the fact that the stone gathers speed ItIs to as Itfalls; subject the accelerationassociated mental with gravity. Acceleration obliterates the fundadifferencebetween a straight and curved line. Unless we know what Is the absolute motion of the cannot stone, and the two observers, we say whether lineIs "really" a straightor a curved line. Since the lows conception. It folabsolute motion Is an illegitimate that there Is no such thing as "really" straight or "really" curved. These are only appearances set up as a consequence of our relative motions with no respect to the bodies concerned. If there were such thing as acceleration If the stone fellto the earth at uniform velocity ^thenan observer on the

and

"

"

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

RELATIVITY

205

"

anywhere else would agree that it fell in a straight line; and straight lines would always be straight lines. Under these circumstances, Euclidean geometry But if we are in a state would be absolutely true. of acceleration,then what we think are straight lines "really" curved lines, and Euclidean gometry, are based on the assumption that its lines are straight, founder when tested by more measureaccurate must ments. And in point of fact we in a state of are acceleration: for we are being acted upon by a force namely, the force of gravitation. Wherever there is matter, there is gravitation; wherever there is

earth

or

gravitation there is acceleration; w^herever there is is inaccurate. geometry acceleration Euclidean Hence in the space surrounding matter different a holds the field; geometry and bodies in general move through such space in curved lines. Different parts of space are thus characterized by differentgeometrical properties. All bodies in the on their established courses universe proceed to through space and time. But when they come distorted geometrical areas, their paths naturally to us differentfrom when seem they were moving less disturbed regions. They exhibit the through differenceby acquiring an acceleration;and we explain by alleging the existence of a the acceleration force, which we call the force of gravitation. But their motions can in fact be perfectly predicted if know the geometry we of the space through which they are traveling. The predictions so based have in fact proved more accurate than those based on the law of gravitation.

SPACE,

An

TIME

of

AND

GRAVITATION

of

Putline

by

w. of de

General

sitter in THE

professor

astronomy

OF

UNIVERSITY

LEYDEN

'^Henceforth space by Itselfand time by itself shall sink to mere shadows, and only a union of the two shall preserve reality."

prophecy contained In the above-quoted words, spoken by Minkowski at the meeting of German "Naturforscher and Aerzte" at Cologne In 1908, has, however, only been completely fulfilled by Einstein's "Allgemelne Relatlvitats-theorle" of 1915, which Incorporated gravitation into the union. In the following pages an attempt is made to set forth, without using any technical language, the leading Ideas of that theory: I will confine myself to the theory as published by Einstein in November, 19 1 5, which forms a consistent whole, complete in itself;and I will not refer to later developments, less tentative,and not necmore or essary which are still for the understanding of the theory. The solute mathematics used by Einstein Is the so-calledAbdifficult Calculus. Tt is not more Differential or recondite than that used in other branches of

npHE

-*"

SPACE,

TIME

AND

GRAVITATION

207

theoreticalhysics,but It Is somewhat unfamiliar to p in the most of us, because it Is not generally taught I will,however, In this regular university courses. essay abstain from using any mathematics at all,at least,I will not be using it openly. It Is of course

^-

matical unavoidable to use at least the resultsof the mathebut reasoning, if not the reasoning Itself; so long as they are not put Into formulas they will, It Is hoped, not look so formidable to the reader. Referring to the quoted words of Minkowski, we Physical by "reahty." may ask what Is meant sense, takes for granted that science,like common there is a realitybehind the phenomena, which Is independent of the person by whom, and the particular methods by which it Is observed, and which Strictly Is also there when it is not observed. speaking, all talk about what is not observed Is ingly metaphysics. Nevertheless the physicistunhesitatbelieves that his laws are general, and that the continue to happen according to them phenomena It be Impossib when nobody Is looking. And since would to prove that they did not, he Is fully are to entitled his belief. The observed phenomena

"

the effects the action of this reality, which we of of or assume the existence,on the observer's senses extended and refined senseapparatus, which are The laws governing the phenomena therefore organs. Information regarding this must convey some be able to by any means reality. We shall never know anything elseabout Itbut just these laws. To laws are the reality. If all Intentsand purposes the we server eliminate from them all that refers to the obalone. What refers to the realityIs called

208

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

"absolute," and what involves reference to the observer "relative." The elimination of the relative is one of the things the theory of relativity has set out to do.

The

External

World

and

its

Geometry

To describe the phenomena and derive laws from them, we locate them in space and time. To do this Here it is that the part contribwe use geometry. uted by the observer comes There are an inin. finit

number of geometries, and a priori there seems to be no reason to choose one rather than the other. Taking geometry of two dimensions as an example, draw figureson a piece of paper, and discuss we can their properties, and we can also do so on the shell But we cannot draw the same figures of an egg. The ones on the egg as on the paper. will be distorted as compared with the others: the two Similarly it is surfaces have a different geometry. not possible to draw an accurate map of the earth on a sheet of paper, because the earth is spherical and its representation on the flat paper is always more or less distorted. The earth requires spherical Euclidean, or geometry, which differsfrom the flat, geometry of the paper. Up to a few years ago Euclidean {i.e. flat) geometry of three dimensions had been exclusively used in physical theories. Why? Because it is the true is the one one, answer a generally given. Now statement about facts can be true or false,but a is mathematical discipline neither true nor false; it i.e, consistent in itself or can only be correct

"

"

SPACE,

TIME

AND

GRAVITATION

209

The It always is correct. Incorrect,and of course Is the "true" one assertion that a certain geometry "true" can that it is the geometry of thus only mean, space, and this again, If It Is to have any meaning at that Itcorresponds to the physical all,can only mean "reality." Leaving aside the question whether this are at all,we confronted reality has any geometry Immediately practical consideration with the more how we shall verify the asserted correspondence. There Is no other way than by comparing the conclusion derived from the laws based upon our geometry with observations. It thus appears that for the use of the Euclidean the only justification In enabling us to "draw an is Its success geometry as accurate any other map" of the world. As soon Is found to be more geometry successful,that other be used In physical theories, and we may, if must like,callitthe "true" one. we Accurate observations always consistof measures, determining the position of material bodies In space. tion But the positionschange, and for a complete descripwe of time. An Important also require measures has ever here. Nobody be made must remark lapse a pure measured a pure space-distance,nor of time. The only thing that can be measured is the distance from a body at a certain point of space the of time, to a body (either and a certain moment

another point and another time. We can even go further and say that time cannot It by be measured at all. We profess to measure space, and we clocks. But a clock really measures derive the time from Its space-measures by a fixed rule. This rule depends on the laws of motion of

same

or

at another)

14

2IO

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the mechanism of the clock. Thus finallytime Is defined by these laws. This Is so, whether as a "clock" we an use ordinary chronometer, or the emitting light-waves, or rotating earth, or an atom anything else that may be suggested. The physical be so laws, of course, must that all these adjusted devices give the same time. About the reality of time. If it has any, we know nothing. All we know about time Is that we want It. We cannot adequately describe nature with the three space-coordinates alone, we require a fourth one, which we call time. reason We that the might thus say with some physical world has four dimensions. But so long found possible adequately to describe all it was as by a space of three dimensions known phenomena did not convey and an Independent time, the statement any very Important Information. Only after It had been found out that the space-coordinates and the time are not independent, did It acquire a real

meaning. As is well known the observation by which this found out is the famous experiment of Michelwas It led to the "special" theory of son and Morley. relativity, which Is the one referred to by Minkowski In It a geometry In 1908. of four dimensions Is combination of a three-dimensional space and a one-dimensional time, but a continuum This time-space Is not of truly fourfold order. Euclidean, since the time-component and the three footing, but are the same not on space-components Its fundamental formula has a great resemblance to We Euclidean geometry. may call it that used,

not

a

mere

of "pseudo-Euclidean."

SPACE,

TIME

AND

GRAVITATION

2 1 1

This theory, which we need not explain here, was very satisfactoryso far as the laws of electromagnetism, and especiallythe propagation of light,were concerned, but it did not include gravitation, and then had this curious mechanics generally. We state of affairs, that physicists actually believed in two different"realities." When they were thinking of light they believed in Minkowski's time-space; thinking of gravitation they believed when they were in the old Euclidean space and independent time. This, of course, could not last. Attempts were made so to alterNewton's law of gravitationthat Itwould fitinto the four-dimensional world of the special but these only succeeded In relativity-theory, making law, which had been a model the exof simplicity, tremel it became worse, complicated, and, what was

ambiguous. It is Einstein'sgreat merit to have perceived that gravitation is of such fundamental importance, that it must not be fittedInto a ready-made theory, but be woven Into the space-time geometry must from the beginning. And that he not only saw the necessit doing this, but actuallydid it. of

Gravitation To

see

and

its

Place

in

the

Universe

the necessitywe must go back to Newton's Newton did two system of mechanics. things He canonised Galileo's system (amongst .others). of mechanics Into his famous "laws of motion," the important of which Is the law of inertia, most which says that:

212

RELATIVITY

-^

"

AND

/'

GRAVITATION

in a body, that is not interfered with, moves velocity. straight line with constant be nil,and the body at can The velocity,of course, This is a perfectly general law, the same rest. for all material bodies, whatever their physical or Newton took good care exactly to chemical status. definewhat he meant by uniform motion in a straight line,and for this purpose he introduced the absolute Euclidean space and absolute time as an essential part of his system of laws at the very beginning of his great work. The other thing Newton did was to formulate the law of gravitation. Gravitation was in his system considered as an interferencewith the free, or inertial, motion of bodies, and accordingly

a

required a law of its own. But gravitation has this in common with inertia, from allother interferences, that and in this itdiffers it is perfectly general. All material bodies are to equally subjected it,whatever their physical or tation Gravichemical status may be. But there is more. f and inertiaare actuallyindistinguishable rom number: each other, and are measured by the same "mass". This was already remarked by Newton the himself, and from his point of view It was a most wonderful accidental coincidence. If an apple falls from the tree, that which makes it fallis itsweight, which is the gravitational attraction by the earth, diminished by the centrifugalforce due to the earth's rotation and the apple'sinertia. In Newton's system the gravitationalattractionis a "real" force,whereas the centrifugal force is only "fictitious". But the one is as real as the other. The most refined experiments,already begun by Newton himself,have

SPACE,

TIME

AND

GRAVITATION

213

between them. Their succeeded in distinguishing identityis actually one of the best established facts in experimental physics. From this identity of "fictitious inertial, or and "real," or gravitational, forces It follows that locallya gravitationalfield can be artificially created or distroyed. Thus Inside a closed room which is falling freely, say a lift of which the cable has been broken, bodies have no ferent weight: a balance could be In equilibrium with difweights In the two scales. Having thus come to the conclusion that tion gravitabut Is Identical with is not an Interference, Inertia, are we tempted to restate the law of motion, so as to Include both, thus: do not Bodies which are not interfered with but fall. In straight lines, move Now this Is exactly what Einstein did. Only the

not

" "

"falling" of course requires a precise mathematical definition'(likehe uniform motion In a straight t line), the whole gistof his theory Is the finding and earthly experience the of that definition. In our lastslong, very soon fallingnever the something floor of the room, or the earth Itself Interferes. But In free space bodies go on fallingforever. The In adequately described motion of the planets Is, fact, In as falling, since Itconsists nothing else but obeying Newton's law of gravitation together with his law of Inertia. A body very far removed from allother Is not to matter subjected gravitation,consequently It fallswith constant velocity In a straight line accordin law of Inertia. The problem was to the thus to find a mathematical definition of "falling,"

" "

214

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

tion very far from allmatter as well as the complex paths of the planets around the sun, and of an apple or a cannon-ball on earth.

Gravitation

and

Space-Time

For the definition the uniform rectilinear motion of inertia Newton's Euclidean space and of pure independent time were sufficient. For the much more complicated falling under the influence of gravitation and inertia together, evidently a more ski's complicated geometry would be needed. Minkowcient. insuffipseudo-Euclidean time-space also was Einstein accordingly introduced a general nonEuclidean four-dimensional time-space, and enunciated his law of motion thus: Bodies which are not interfered with move in geodesies. A geodesic In curved space is exactly the same thing as a straight line In flatspace. We only call it by itstechnicalname, because the name "straight line" would remind us too much of the old EucHdean space. If the^ curvature the gets very small, or zero, geodesic becomes very nearly, or exactly,a straight line. The problem has now become to assign to timethat the geodesies will exactly space such curvatures represent the tracks of falling bodies. Space of

two

like a sheet of paper, flat, But In geometry of four or egg. dimensions there are several steps from perfect flatness, "pseudo-flatness," complete curvature. to or Now the law governing the curvature of Einstein's dimensions can curved, like an

b juste

SPACE,

TIME

AND

GRAVITATION

215

time-space, i.e.,the law of gravitation, is simply he curved more never, that it can outside matter, one flatness. {pseudo-) than just step beyond perfect Since I have promised not to use any mathematics I can hardly convey to the reader an adequate idea to of the difficulty the problem, nor do justice the of elegance and beauty of the solution. It is,in fact,

little short of miraculous that this solution,which was the only adopted by Einstein because it was simplest he could find,does so exactly coincide in all itseffects with Newton's law. Thus the remarkably accurate experimental verification this law can at of law. In only one be transferred to the new once instance do the two laws differ so much that the differencecan be observed, and in this case the observat law exactly. This is the confirm the new well known case of the motion of the perihelion of Mercury, whose disagreement with Newton's lav/ for more had puzzled astronomers than half a century.

Since Einstein's time-space includes Minkowski's it can do all that the other was as a particular case, designed to do for electro-magnetismand light. But it does more. The track of a pulse of light is also a geodesic, and time-space being curved in the neighborhood of matter, rays of light are no longer straight lines. A ray of light from a star, passing near the sun, will be bent round, and the star consequent will be seen in a differentdirection from where it would be seen if the sun had not been so This has been verifiedby the nearly in the way.

sun

of 19 19 of

2l6

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

other new phenomenon predictedby the theory, which fallswithin the reach of observation Gravitation chiefly our present means. with affectsthe time-component of the four-dimensional continuum, in such a way that natural clocks appear field to run than in slower in a strong gravitational Thus, if we make the hypothesis a weak one. a sis which, though extremely probable, is still hypothethat an atom emitting or absorbing light-waves is a natural clock, and the further hypothesis still very probable, though less so than the former that there is nothing to interferewith its perfect waves on the sun will give off lightrunning, then an atom of smaller frequency than a similar atom in a laboratory emits. Opinions as yet differ terrestrial by to whether this is confirmed or contradicted as

" "

There is one

"

"

observations.

strength and the charm of Einstein's nor theory do however not lieIn verified predictions, In the explanation of small outstanding discrepancies, but in the complete attainment of its original aim: the identification gravitationand inertia, and of in the wide range of formerly apparently unconnected It embraces, and the broad which subjects view of nature which It affords.

great

The

has been explained, the law the curvature restricts of time-space. of gravitation be of any Inside continuous matter the curvature can the law of gravitation arbitrary kind or amount; then connects thiscurvature ties with measurable properdensity, velocity,stress, of the matter, such as or, etc. Thus these properties define the curvature,

matter,

as

Outside

SPACE,

TIME

AND

GRAVITATION

217

if preferred, the

matter,

curvature

itself. From these definitionsthe laws of conservation can of energy, and of conservation of momentum, be deduced by a purely mathematical process. Thus these laws, which at one time used to be considered fundamental ones as the most of mechanics, now appear as simple corollariesfrom the law of gravitation. It must be pointed out that such things as length, velocity, energy, momentum, are not solute abbut relative,i.e. they are not attributes of but relationsbetween this reality the physical reality, and the observer. Consequently the laws of conservation likethe law of are not laws of the real world, but of the observed phenomena. There gravitation, is,however one law which, already before the days had come to be considered as the most of relativity, fundamental of all, viz: the principleof least action. Now action is absolute. Accordingly this principle retainsits central position in Einstein'stheory. It fundamental than the law of gravitais even more tion, both thislaw, and the law of motion, can since be derived from it. The principleof least action,

i.e.matter

so

far

as

we

can

see

at present,

appears to be ihe

XI

THE

OF PRINCIPLE RELATIVITY

GENERAL

FROM

the

BY

e.

t. bell

university

of

SEATTLE

WASHINGTON

of a sephysical events, that in any brief account lectio strict from itsnumerous aspects is prescribed. The old, restrictedprinciple being contained in the general, its close relations with we shall treat the latter, gravitation, and the significanceof both for our knowledge of space and time. The essence stein's of Eingeneralization Is Itsfinaldisentanglement of that part of any physical event which Is contributed by the observer from that which Is Inherent in the nature of things and Independent of all observers. The argument turns upon the fact that an observer describe any event must with reference to some from which he makes measurements framework of distance.Thus, suppose that at nine o'clock time and At one second past a ball Is tossed across the room. position which we nine the ball occupies a definite jean specify by giving the three distances from the

vast

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

GENERAL

RELATIVITY

219

of the ball to the north and west wells and the floor. In this way, refining our measurements, can we give a precise description of the entire motion of the ball. Our final description will consist of innumerable separate statements, tains each of which confour numbers corresponding to four measurements, and of these one will be for time and three for distances at the time indicated. Imagine now in an automobile looks that a man in and observes the moving ball. Suppose he records the motion. To do so, he must refer to a timepiece body of reference. Say he selects his wristand some watch, the floor of his auto and two sides meeting in a corner. Fancy that just he begins his series as of observations his auto starts bucking and the mainspring of his watch breaks, so that he must measure "seconds" by the crazy running-down of his watch, ratic and distances with reference to the sides of his erDespite these handicaps he completes a auto.

centre

set

of observations,each of which consistsof a time oned measured by his mad watch and three distances reckfrom the sides of his bucking machine. Let us him to have been so absorbed in his experiassume ment that he noticed neither the disorders of his He gives us his watch nor the motion of his auto. We remark that his seconds sets of measurements. are only small fractionsof ours, also his norths and badly mixed. If we interprethis sets in are wests terms of our stationary walls and sober clock we find the curious paradox that the ball zigzagged like an intoxicatedbee. He obacross the room stinat he about know no more than argues that we For we got a smooth how the ball actuallymoved.

220

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

by choosing an artificially simple reference framework, having no necessary relations whatever to the ball. The crooked path plotted from his observations proves, he declares, to that the ball was subject varying forces of which In the room we suspected nothing. He contends that being jarred a system of forces by our room was

asserts,

description, he

which exactly compensated and smoothed out the real jaggednessf path observed by himself. But if o know all about his watch and auto we can easily we apply necessary corrections to his measurements, the corrected set to our reference-frameand, fitting work our own of walls and clock, recover smooth description. For consistency we must carry our readjustments farther. The path mapped from our measurements introduced by is a curve. Perhaps the curvature was sibly some peculiarityof our reference framework? PosIs being acceleratedupward, so our own room that it makes the ball's true path whatever that as may be appear curved downward, just the autoist's zigzags made the path he mapped appear jagged. Tradition attributes the downward curving to the tug of gravity. This force we say accelerates the ball downward, producing the curved path. Is this the only possible explanation? Let us see.

"

"

Gravitation

and

Acceleration

Imagine

see.

man

In

room

out

of which he

cannot

notices that when he releases anything it falls to the floor with a constant acceleration. indepenFurther he observes that all his objects,

He

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

GENERAL

RELATIVITY

221

dcntly of their chemical and physical properties,are Now, he previously way. affectedin precisely the same has rehas experimented with magnets, and marked that they attract certainbodies in essentially he drops are the same way that the things which ing "attracted" to whatever is beneath the floor. Havin terms of explained magnetic attraction He and hypothesis: (A) "forces," he makes his first in a strong "fieldof force," which he his room are designates gravitational. This force pulls all things downward acceleration. Here he with a constant a notes singular distinctionbetween magnetic and a few gravitational"forces" : magnets attract only kinds of matter, notably iron; the novel "force," if indeed a force at all, acts similarly upon allkinds of He makes another hypothesis: (B) His matter. room and he are being acceleratedupward. Either (Ay or (B) describesthe facts perfectly. By no experiment can he discriminatebetween them. So he takes the great step, and formulates the

Equivalence Hypothesis

:

so

introduced in its to field effects an artificial of force by accelerating the framework of reference, tinguis in any small region it is impossible to disthat between them by any experiment whatever.

Next reconsidering his magnetic "forces," he extends festatio the equivalence hypothesis to cover all maniforces of force: The effectsattributedto of any kind whatever can be described equally well by saying that our reference frameworks are accelerated; there Is possible no experland moreover

222

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

which will discriminate between the descrip)tions. If the accelerationsare null, the frameworks are in at rest or other. uniformmotion relatively to one anThis specialcase Is the ''restricted" principle of relativity, hich asserts that it Is Impossible exw perime to detect a uniform motion through the ether. Being thus superfluous for descriptions of natural phenomena, the ether may be abandoned, at least temporarily. The older physics sought this absolute ether framework to which allmotions could be unambiguously referred,and failedto find It. The most exacting experiments, notably that of Mlchelment

son-Morley, revealed no trace of the earth's supposed Fitzgerald acmotion through the ether. counte for the failureby assuming that such motion would remain undetected If every moving body contracted by an amount depending upon Its velocity In the direction of motion. The contraction for ordinary velocitiesIs Imperceptible. Only when as In the case of the beta particles,the velocity Is an appreciable fraction of the velocity of light,Is the mediat contraction revealed. This contraction follows Imfrom Einstein's generalizationconstructed upon the equivalence hypothesis and the restricted principle. We shall see that the contracrelativity tion inevitably follows from the actual geometry of

the universe.*

Let us return for a moment to the moving ball. Four measures, three of distances and one of time, are required In specifying Itsposition with reference

*The author

the sort

comes perilously close to ascribing to this "contraction" See page 96. lEditor, reality which it does not possess. of physical

here

"

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

GENERAL

RELATIVITY

223

framework at each point and at each instant. All of these measures be summed can statement the equations up in one compendious how in changing from our of motion showed found a new to his accelerated auto room we "transformed equations," which seemed to summary, indicate that the ball had traversed a strong, variable field of force. Is there then in the chaos of disagreements anything which is independ observational There is, but it is of all observers? hidden at the very heart of nature.

to

some

"

Paths

of

Four

To exhibitthis, we must recall a familiarproposition of geometry: the square on the longest side of a right-angled triangleis equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. It has long been known that from this alone all the metrical properties Euclidean space in which for the space of living can 2,000 years we have imagined we were be deduced. Metrical properties are those depending Now, in the geometry upon measurement. of Euclidean or not, there is a single propoany space, sition how to find a of similar sort which tellsus direct distance between any two the most points This small distance is that are very close together. urements expressed in terms of the two sets of distance measby which the end-points are located,just as two located neighboring positions of our ballwere by two sets of four measurements say each. We by analogy that two consecutive positionsof the ball

"

"

224

are

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

separated by a small interval of time-space.From the formula for the very small intervalof time-space can we calculate mathematically all the metrical ments properties of the time and space in which measureSo in for the ball's motion must be made.

any

falli geometry mathematical analysis predicts inthe truth about all facts depending upon

measurements

from the simple formula of the interval between neighboring points. Thus, on a sphere the sum of the angles of any triangle formed by arcs exceeds i8o", and this follows from of great circles distance the formula for the shortest ("geodesic") between neighboring points on the sphericalsurface. for one We saw that it takes four measurements, time and three for distances, to fix an elementary ball event, viz., the position of the centre of our at any instant. A system of all possible such sets each, constituteswhat mathematicians of four measurements call a four-dimensional space. The study

of the four-dimensional time-space geometry, once itsshortest-distance proposition is known, reveals all those relationsIn nature which can be ascertained by measurements, that Is, experimentally. We have then to find this Indispensableproposition. Imagine the path taken by a particlemoving solely This being the under the Influenceof gravitation. simplest possible motion of an actual particleIn the real world. It Is natural to guess that Its path will from one point of be such that th-^particlemoves This time-space to another by the most directroute. In fact Is verifiedby forming the equations of the free particle's otion, which turn out to be precisely m

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

GENERAL

RELATIVITY

225

surface points. On the (two-dimensional) of a sphere such a Hne is the position taken by a string stretched between two points on the surface, tween beand this is the shortest distance on the surface But in the time-space geometry we them. find a remarkable distinction: the interval between any two points of the path taken is the longest possible,

and between any two points there is only one longest path. Translated into ordinary space and lime this merely asserts that the time taken between any two points on the natural path is the longest possible. Recall

that when the line-formula for any kind of space is known all the metrical properties bine of that space are completely determined, and comhave just found, namely, the with this what we

now

only to equations of motion of a particle subject equations as those which gravitation are the same fix the line-formula for the four-dimensional timeSince gravitation alone determines the mospace. tion is completely of the particle,and since this motion described by the very equations which fix all the metrical properties of time-space, it follows

determinable) that the metrical (experimentally properties of time-space are equivalent to those of gravitation, in the sense that each set of properties implies the other.

The Universe

of

Space-Time

found the thing in nature depen which Is inof allobservers, and itturns out to be the very structure of time-space itself. The motion of the free particleobviously Is a thing unconditioned 15

We

have

226

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

by accidents of observation; the particle under the influenceof gravitation alone must go a way of its And if some own. field of observer in an artificial force produced by the acceleration of his reference framework describes the path as knotted, he merely Is foistingeccentricities his own of motion upon the direct path of the particle. The conclusion Is rational for we believe that time-space existsindependently way of perceiving it. of any man's Incidentally note that this space Is that of the tances physical world. For only by measurements of disand times can we become aware of our extensio In time and space. If beyond thistime-space "absolute there Is some geometry of measurements geometry," science can have no concern with it,for it be revealed by the one exploring device can never

we

possess

"

measurement.

a

single particle. Let us now be anacan a picture of several. Any event lyzed Into a multitude of coincidences in time-space. For consider two moving particles say electrons. If they collide they both are In very approximately one time. We Imagine the path place at the same of an electron through time-space plotted by a line (In four-dimensional space),which will deviate from a "most direct" (geodesic) path If the electron Is to forces. This Is the "world-line" of the subjected electron. If the world lines of several electrons

We form

have followed

"

point In time-space, the Intersection picturesthe fact of their coincidence somewhere and somewhen; for all their world-lines having a timeInstant they must at som.e space point in common, have been In collision. Each point of a world-line

Intersectat

one

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

GENERAL

RELATIVITY

227

picturesthe position at a certain place at a certain time ; and itis the intersections of world-hnes which to physical events. Of what lies between correspond have no the intersections we experimental knowledge. Imagine the world-linesof all the electrons in the universe threading time-space like threads in a jelly. The intersections the tangle are a complete history of Now distort the jelly. of all physical events. Clearly the mutual order of the intersections will be unchanged, but the distances between them will be shortened or lengthened. To a distortion of the

special choice (by some observe for describing the a reference framework of He cannot change the natural seorder of events. quence Again we have found something of events. which is independent of all observers. We can now recapitulateour conclusions and state In the principle of relativity Its most general form. (i) Observers describe events by measures of distances made with regard to their frameworks times and

a

jelly corresponds

of reference. (2) The complete history of any event Is summarized In a set of equations giving the positions of all the particlesinvolved at every instant. (3) Two possibilities arise. (A) Either these in form for all space-time equations are the same reference frameworks, persisting formally unchange for all shiftsof the reference scheme; or (B),they subsistonly when some specialframework is used, altering their form as they are referred to

different frameworks.

assume

If

(B)

holds,

we

228

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

they profess to represent, owe theirexistenceto some They do peculiarity of the reference framework. not, therefore, describe anything which is inherent in the nature of things,but merely some idiosyncrasy

If (A) of the observer's way of regarding nature. holds, then obviously the equations describe some real relation in nature which is independent of all possible ways of observing and recording it. (4) In its most general form the principle of

states that those relations, relativity and those alone, which persist unchanged in form for all possible are the inherent space-time reference frameworks laws of nature. To find such relations Einstein has applied a the calculus mathematical method of great power This calof tensors with extraordinary success. culus laws of nature, separating the threshes out the from what is independent observer's eccentricities vester. of him, with the superb efficiency a modern harof The residue is a physical geometry or geometrical physics of time-space, in which It appears by the that the times and spaces contributed are several observers' reference frameworks contrivings; while the real, shadows of their own enduring universe is a fourfold order of time and One observer space indisolubly bound together. "time" and separates this time-space into his own "space" in one way, determined by his path through to the world of events; another, moving relatively the first, separates It differently, and what for one is time shades Into space for another. is non-Euclidean. It This time-space geometry is "warped" (curved), amount the of warping at

"

"

"

"

THE

PRINCIPLE

OF

GENERAL

RELATIVITY

229

of place being determined by the Intensity the Thus again gravitation is gravitational fieldthere. rooted in the nature of things. In this sense it is not a force, but a property there of space. Wherever Is matter there is a gravitational field, and hence a warping of space. Conversely, as long ago imagined by Clifford,wherever there is a warping of space, is resolved ultimately there Is matter; and matter Into wrinkles In time-space. To visualize a warped space, consider a simple walks away from a polished globe ; analogy. A man his Image recedes Into the mirror-space, shortening and thinning as it goes, and thinning (In the thing fasterthan Itshortens. Everydirection of motion) around him experiences a like effect. If he tries to discover this by a footrule It automatically horizontal shortens faster as he turns It into the him. The mirrorposition, so his purpose eludes tion. space Is warped In the direction of the image's moFor allbodies, as evidenced by So Is our own. the Fitzgerald contraction, shorten In the direction as trate peneof motion. And just the Image can never the mirror-space a greater distance than half Its radius, so probably time-space Is curved In such a way that our universe, like the surface of a sphere, Is Hnltein extent, but unbounded.

any

XII

FORCE

How

Einstein

FOR

the

VS. GEOMETRY

Has First Cause

BY

the

DUSHMAN

SAUL

general

electric

schenectady,

laboratories

n.

y.

theory of relativity represents a most strikingly original conception of time and space, -"which was suggested by Einstein in order to correlate with allour past experience certainobservationsmade in recent years. It is therefore extremely comprehensive in itsscope ; Itdemands from us a radicalrevision light in our notions of time and space; Itthrows new It on the nature and energy, and finally, of mass furnishes a totallyntw lem conception of the old probof gravitation. The starting point of the theory is the familiar is, observation that motion Is always relative: that we to define the motion of any object must always some use point of reference. Thus we speak of the velocity of a train as 40 miles per hour v/Ith find It Impossib respect to the earth's surface, but would to determine Its absolute speed, or motioii. In space, since we know of no star whose position be spoken of as absolutelyfixed. These and can

npHE

FORCE

VS.

GEOMETRY

23

similar considerations have led to the conclusion, sible pointed out by Newton and others, that it is imposby any mechanical experiments on the earth to itsvelocity in space. measure However, the results of nomena observations on the pheled to the revival of light and electricity of the same problem under another form. As well known, there was evolved from these discoveries, the theory that lightand electricalnergy are of the e same nature, and are in each case manifestations of

al wave-disturbances propagated through a hypotheticmedium, the ether, with a velocity of 186,000 miles per second. The problem therefore arose to as whether the bodies move through this ether. earth and all stellar In that case it ought to be possible to measure the velocity of the earth with respect to this medium, and under these conditions we could speak, in a sense, of absolute motion. A large number of experiments has been tried famous of these, with this end in view. The most ment and the one which stimulated the subsequent developwas that carried out of the theory of relativity, by Michelson and Morley in 1887. To understand the signficance of this experiment we shall refer brieflyto an analogous observation which Is quite familiar. Does It take longer to swim to a point i mile up a stream and back or to a point i mile across The experienced stream and back? swimmer will nnswer that the up-and-down journey takes longer. If we assume that the swimmer has a speed of 5 water miles an hour In still and that the current

232

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

is 3 miles an hour, we find that, while it requires five-eighths hour to make the up-and-down journey, ittakes only one-half hour for the trip across stream and back. The ratio between the times required for is the two journeys thus five-fourths, and if this is written in the form

Vi

"

(f)'

it shows how the result depends upon the square of the ratio of the speeds of the swimmer and the

current.

the earth is moving in its orbit about the sun with a velocity of 18 miles per second. If the through the ether and a light-beam earth moves passes from one mirror to another and back again, the time taken for this journey ought to be longer when the light-pathis in the direction of the earth's tion. motion than when itis at right angles to this direcFor we can consider the light as a swimmer

Now

having

ment and Morley tried the experidifference in the they could not observe any The experiment velocity of light in the two directions. has since been repeated under various conditions, but always with negative results. Einstein's contribution to science consists in interpreting this result as being in accord with in Newton's ideas on mechanical relativity that it demonstrates the impossibility measuring absolute of by optical motion, not only by mechanical, but also

second. When

Michelson

FORCE

VS.

GEOMETRY

233

or

e electricalxperiments. Consequently the velocity dent light must be regarded as constant and indepenof or observer. of the motion of either source The

Relativity

of

Uniform

Motion

Let us consider some of the consequences which follow from this principle. An observer travelling with say one-half the velocityof light in the same directionas a ray of light would find that the latter has the usual velocity of 186,000 miles per second. tion Similarlyan observer travelling the opposite direcin to that of the light-ray, ty with one-half the velocilight, same of would obtain the result. Einstein has shown that these conclusions can be valid only If the units of time and space used by the two observers depend upon their relative motions. A careful calculation shows that the unit of length used by either observer appears to the tion other observer contracted when placed in the direc^

of their relativemotion (butnot, when placed at right angles to this direction), the unit of and time used by either observer appears to the other Moreover, the ratio of the units of too great. length or of time varies with the square of the relativespeed of the two observers, according to a relation which Is similar to that mentioned above This relationshows for the swimmer in the current. that as the relativespeed approaches that of light "the discrepancy between the units Increases. Thus, for an observer moving past our earth with a a velocitywhich Is nine-tenthsthat of light, meter as stickon the earth would be 44 centimeters meas-

234

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ured by him, while a second on our clocks would be about two and a half seconds as marked by his clock. Similarly,what he callsa meter length would, for us, be only 44 centimeters and he would appear to us to be living about two and a half times slower Each observer is perfectly consistent than we are. in his measurements of time and space as long as he confines his observations to his own system, but tem when he triesto make observations on another sysmoving past his,he finds that the resultswhich he obtains do not agree with those obtained by the

other observer. It is not surprising that in accordance with this conclusion it also follows that the mass of a body increase with its velocity. For low velocities must hope ever the Increase is so small that we cannot it, but -as the velocity of light is apto measure proach the difference becomes more and more appreciable and a body having the velocityof light mass, that which simply means would possess infinite be attained by any material such a velocity cannot This conclusion has been experimentally confirmed object. by observations on the mass of the extremely

which are emitted small negatively charged particles by radioactive elements. Some of these particles are which are over nine-tenths with ejected velocities crease that of light, and measurements show that the inin mass Is in accord with this theory. light on The relativity theory also throws new itself. According to this view, the nature of mass struct mass and energy are equivalent. The absolute deof I gram of any substance, if possible, would yield an amount of energy which is one

FORCE

VS.

GEOMETRY

235

hundred million times as much as that obtained by burning the same mass of coal. Conversely, energy The changes are accompanied by changes in mass. latter are ordinarily so inappreciably small as to escape our most refined methods of measurements, but in the case of the radioactive elements we From this standactuallyobserve this phenomenon. point, also, the laws of conservation of energy and are shown to be intimately related. of mass

Universal

Relativity

have dealt with what has been designated as the special theory of relativity. This, as have seen, applies to uniform motion only. In we extending the theory to include non-uniform or accelera time motion, Einstein has at the same deduced a law of gravitation which is much more general than that of Newton. A body falling towards the earth increases in velocity as It falls. The motion is said to be accelera We ascribe this increase in velocity to a gravitational force exerted by the earth on all tween As objects. shown by Newton, this force acts bein the universe, and all particlesof matter varies inversely as the square of the distance,and directlyas the product of the masses. have had a number of theories of Of course, we and none gravitation, ful, of them have proven successEinstein,however, was the first to suggest one a conception of gravitation which has proven extremely He points out that a gravitational significant. force is non-existent for a person falling

we

So far

236

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

freely with the accelerationdue to gravity. For this person there is no sensation of weight, and if he in a closed box which is also falling with the were he would be unable to decide as same acceleration, falling or situated in his system were to whether interplanetary space where there is no gravitational to carry out field. Furthermore, if he were any e optical or electricalxperiments in this box he would

observe the same results as an experimenter on the earth. A ray of light would travel in a straight line far as this observer can perceive, while an exso ternal differently. course, judge observer would, of Einstein shows that this is equally true for all

kinds of acceleration including that due to rotation. In the case of a rotating body there exists a centrifuga force which tends to make on objects the surface fly outwards, but for an external observer this force does not exist any more than gravity existsfor the observer fallingfreely. Thus we can draw the general conclusion that a gravitational fieldor any other fieldof force may be eliminated by choosing an observer moving with ever, the proper acceleration. For this observer, howm the laws of optics and electricityust be just for an observer on the earth. as valid as stein In postulating this equivalence hypothesis Einvation merely makes use of the very familiar obser-

that. Independently of the nature of the acceleration material, all bodies possess the same In a given fieldof force. The problem which Einstein now sets out to solve Is that of determining the law which shall describe the motion of any system In a fieldof force in such

FORCE

VS. GEOMETRY

237

damenta leave unaltered the funand optics. relations of electricity In connection with the solution of this problem he finds Itnecessary to discard the limitations placed In this by ordinary or Euclidean geometry. on us manner geometrical concepts as well as those of force are completely robbed of all notions of absolute

a

general

manner

as

to

of

general theory of

The

Let

us

Geometry

of

Gravitation

consider a circular disc rotating with a tions uniform peripheral speed. According to the deducfrom the "special theory" of relativity,an the edge of this disc,but not observer situated near rotating with it, will observe that units of length measured along the circumference of the disc are along contracted. On the other hand, measurements tion the diameter, which Is at right angles to the direcof motion of the circumference, will show no contraction whatever, and, consequently the observer will find that the ratio of circumference to diameter has not the well known value 3. 141 59 but exceeds this value, the differencebeing greater and greater as the peripheral speed approaches that of light. That is,the laws of ordinary geometry no longer hold true. However, know other cases In which the orwe dinary Euclidean geometry Is not applicable. or Thus suppose that on the surface of a sphere we describe a series of concentric circles. Since the surface is curved, we are not surprised at finding

. .

.

238

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

that the circumference of any one of these circles is less than 3. 141 59 the distance across the .times on the surface of the sphere. circle as measured What this means, use therefore, is that we cannot Euclidean geometry to describe measurements on the surface of a sphere, and every schoolboy knows this from comparing Mercator's of the

.

projection

earth's surface with the actual representation on a globe. to think of it, the reason When come we we sions realize all this is because our sense of three dimenflat surfaces from enables us to differentiate those that are curved. Let us, however, imagine a two-dimensional being living on the surface of a large sphere. So long as his measurements are

he will find it confined to relatively small areas in terms possible to describe all his measurements As, however, his area of Euclidean geometry. of increaseshe will begin to observe greater operation and greater discrepancies. Being unfamiliar with as the existence of such a three-dimensional object a sphere, and therefore not realizing that he Is on the surface of one, our intelligent two-dimensional being will conclude that the disturbance In his geometry is due to the action of a force, and by m.eans of plausible assumptions on the "law" of this force he will reconcile his observations with the laws of plane geometry. Now since an accelerationIn a gravitationalfield is identical with that due to centrifugal force produced by rotation,we concluded that the geometry In a gravitational field must also be non-Euclidean.

That

matter

is

FORCE

VS.

GEOMETRY

239

the

same

curvature

of space bears

dimensions that the relation to three sions, bears to two dimencurvature of a spherical surface do not perceive it, any and that is why we more than the intelligenttwo-dimensional being of the distortion of his space (or would be aware have Furthermore, like this being, we

surface).

assumed

account

the existence of a gravitational force to urements. for discrepancies In our geometrical meas-

of gravitational of space enables effectswith geometrical curvature Einstein to derive a general law for the path of any particle In a gravitational field,with respect both to space and to time. Furthermore, the law dent this motion in terms which are Indepenexpresses

The

of the relative motion and position of the mental the condition that the fundaobserver, and satisfies laws of physics be equally valid for all Involved observers. The solution of the problem kind of higher calculus elaborated the use of a new by two Italianmathematicians, RIcci and Levl-Civita. The result Is a law of motion which is extremely

general In Its validity. For low velocitiesit approximates to Newton's field solution,and In the absence of a gravitational itleads to the same conclusions as the specialtheory from this of relativity. There are three deductions law which have aroused a great deal of interest, by actual observat and the confirmation of two of these be regarded as striking proof of must Einstein'stheory.

XIII

AN

A

INTRODUCTION

in

TO

RELATIVITY

Treatment Connections

Mathematical the Which Einstein's Work are of Out Strongly More Brought and Than Usual Successfully More Explanation in a Popular

t.

davis^

by

harold

university

of

wisconsin,

Madison,

Wis.

/^ ^-^

NE of the first questions which appears in phiis the great realitythat losophy is this: What

of the underlies space and time and the phenomena physical universe ? Kant, the philosopher, dismissed it as a that space and problem, affirm^ing subjective "a time are priori" concepts beyond which we can say

no

more.

the world came upon some startling facts. stein In 1905 a paper appeared by Professor Albert Einwhich asserted that the explanation of certain remarkable discoveries in physics gave us a new conception of thisstrange four-dimensional manifold in which we live. Thus, the great differencebetween knowlthe space and time of philosophy and the new edge is the realityof the latter. It rests

Then

upon

amazinging sequence of physical facts,and the generalized theory, which appeared several it is upon the abstruse years later, founded as differential calculus of Riemann, Christoffel,Ricci

an

objective

from itsmaze

of formulas

AN

INTRODUCTION

TO

RELATIVITY

24

to be sought with the prediction of real phenomena for the in the world of facts. from We shall, therefore, approach the subject this objective point of view. Let us go to the realm how the ideas of of actual physical events and see from the relativitygradually unfolded themselves firstcrude wonderings of science to the stately research that firstdiscovered the great ocean of ner ether and then penetrated in such a marvelous maninto some of itsmost mysterious properties.

The

Electromagnetic

Theory

of

Light

Suppose that we go out on a summer night and A thousand look into the dark depths of the sky. bright specks are flashing there, blue, red, yellow look against the dark velvet of space. And as we mote we must all be impressed by the fact that such rebe known to us at all. as objects the stars can How is it that light, that curious thing which falls upon the optic nerve and transmits itspicturesto the brain, can ever reach us through the black regions space? That is the question which of interstellar has for itsanswer the electromagnetic theory of light. Newton's The firsttheory to be advanced was "corpuscular" theory which supposed that the stars so are pelletsof matter sending off into space little infinitesimally at the rate small that they can move even so of 186,000 miles a second without injuring delicatea thing as the eye when they strikeagainst It. But In 1 801, when Thomas Young made the very Important discovery of Interference, this had to give theory, first way to the wave proposed by Huyghens

16

242

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

in the 17th century. The first great deduction from was the "luminiferous ether," because this, course, of a wave medium for itspropagation was without some quiteunthinkable. Certain peculiarproperties of the at once evident, since we deduce that it ether were fill must time be so extremel all space and at the same tenuous that it will not retard to any noticeable degree the motion through it of material bodies like the planets. But how light was propagated through the ether

stillremained a perplexing problem and various theories were proposed, most prominent among them being the "elasticsolid" theory which tried to ascribe This to ether the properties of an elasticbody. theory, however, laid itself open to serious objection had been on the ground that no longitudinalwaves detected in the ether, so that itbegan to appear that further insight into the nature of light had to be sought for in another direction. forthcoming for in 1864 a new This was soon theory was proposed by James Clerk Maxwell which M seemed to solve all of the diflRtulties.axwell had been working with the facts derived from a study and had shown of electricalnd magnetic phenomena a that electromagnetic disturbances v/ere propagated through the ether at a velocity identical with that of light. This, of course, might have been merely a further and strange coincidence,but Maxwell went demonstrated the interestingfact that an oscillating

that would charge should give riseto a wave electric identicalwith all of the known behave in a manner One particularly impressi properties of a light wave. that these waves, assertion was consisting

AN

INTRODUCTION

TO

RELATIVITY

243

of an alternating electricfield accompanied by an alternating magnetic field at right angles to it, and hence called electromagnetic waves, would advance in a direction perpendicular to the alternating fields. This satisfied the first essential property of light be transverse waves, rays, i. e., that they must and mental the ease with which it explained all of the fundaphenomena of optics and predicted a most between the electrical tical striking interrelation and opproperties of material bodies, gave it at once

a

the various theories. prominent place among The electromagnetic theory, however, had to wait until 1888 for verificationwhen Helnrlch Hertz, in a seriesof brilliant ducing experiments, succeeded in proin the laboratory and electromagnetic waves in showing luat they possessed all of the properties These waves predicted by Maxwell. moved with light: they could be reflected,rethe velocity of fracte

and polarized: they exhibited the phenomenon Interference and, in short, could not be distinguis of from light waves ence except for their differIn wave length.

The

Michelson-Morley

Experiment

With

at

the final establishment of the electromagnetic light as a fact of physics, we have theory of last endowed the ether with an actual substantiality. The "empty void" is no longer empty, but

ocean

great

of ether through which the planets turn being aware that it without ever

Michelson

undertook

an

experi-

244

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

mine originally suggested by Maxwell, to deterthe relative motion of our earth to the ether ocean and six years later he repeated it with the The experiment is assistance of E. W. Morley. known as the Michelson-Morley experiment and now since it is the great physical fact upon which the theory of relativityrests, it will be well for us to examine it in detail. Since we can scarcely think that our earth is privileged in the universe and that it is at rest with that fillsspace, respect to this great ether ocean fast we to discover how we are propose actually But the startling fact is that the experiment moving. devised for this purpose failed to detect any

ment,

motion whatever of the earth relative to the ether.* The explanation of this very curious fact was given by both H. A. Lorentz and G. F. Fitzgerald in what is now widely known under the name of the "contraction hypothesis." It is nothing more nor less than this: Every solid body undergoes a slight change in dimsensions, (i^Vc'), the order when it moves

of

of

velocity v through the ether. The reason why the experiment failed,then, was not moving through the not because the earth was ether, but because the Instruments with which the being conducted had shrunk just experiment was enough to negative the effectthat was being looked

with

a

for.f

*Dr. Davis went rather fully into the algebra of the Miohelson-Morley in a form Dr. Russell But has covered the same ground experiment. from more tie the tyi"ographical viewpoint, and somewhat advantageous it is profitable to discuss twice; so is not we one eliminate point which Editor. this part of Dr. Davis' text.

"

fTIiiastatement

is

as objectionable,

explained

in

Chapter

IV.

"

Editor.

an

introduction

to

relativity

245

The

Lorentz

Transformation

We can not at this point forebear introducing a little mathematics to further emphasize the theory pothes of this contraction hyand the very logical nature

world that was absolutely motionless with respect to the ether and looking at a ray of light. The magnetic and were electricfieldswhich form the ray can be described by means of four mathematical expressions which have come to bear the name of "Maxwell's field

us

Let

suppose

that

we

were

on

that we suppose ask ourselves equations." Now must these equations be changed the question: How so that they will apply to a ray of light which is being observed by people on a world that is moving with a velocity v through the ether? The answer is immediate. From the MichelsonMorley experiment we know that we can not tell how fast or how slowly we are moving with respect to the ether. This means that no matter what world we may be upon, the form of the Maxwell field equations even though the will always be the same, (or frame of reference) be may second set of axes moving with high velocity with respect to the first. in Startingfrom this hypothesis (called technical

language

the covariance of the equations with respect to a transformation of Lorentz coordinates), found that the transformation which leaves the field equations unchanged in form was the following:

x'

=

k(x

"

y' vt),

on

y,

z'

z,

t'

k(t

"

vx/c)

where k is as

page

92.

246

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

be deduced from these very can what, now, simple looking equations? In the firstplace we see that the space of x, y', z', t' is not our ordinary but a space in which time concept of space at all, is all tangled up conwith length. To put it more cretely deduce from them the Interesting we may fact that whenever an aviator moves with respect to our to comearth, his shape changes, and if he were pare his watch with one on the earth, he would find that his time had changed also. A sphere would flatten into an ellipse,a meter stick would shorten up, a watch would slow down and all because, as H. Minkowski has shown us from these very equations, are we really living In a physical world quite different from the world of Euclid's geometry in which we are accustomed to think we live. A variety of has objections very naturally been made to this rather radical hypothesis In an attempt to discreditthe entire theory, but It Is easily seen that any result obtained through the fieldequations must necessarily be In conformity with the theory

And

of contraction,since this theory Is only the physical Interpretationof that transformation which leaves the field equations unaltered. Indeed, It Is even gether possible to postulate the Lorentz transformation towith the assumption that each element of charge Is a center of uniformly diverging tubes of strain and derive the Maxwell fieldequations from this,which shows from another point of view the truly fundamental nature of the transformation. The

The whole

First Theory

of

Relativity

at

AN

INTRODUCTION

TO

RELATIVITY

247

this very Interesting point when Professor Einstein In 1905 stated the theory of relativity. He had noticed that the equations of dynamics as formulated by Newton did not admit the Lorentz transformation, but only the simple Galilean transformation:

x'

=

"

vt, y'

y,

z'

; t' =

t.

situation. Two physical principles, that of dynamics and that of coexistent and yet each one electromagnetism, were admitted a differenttransformation when the system transferred to axes of reference was moving with constant velocity with respect to the ether. Now the electromagnetic equations and their transformation had been shown to be In accord with experimental fact,whereas Ithad long been feltthat Newton's equations were only a firstapproximation to the truth. For example, the elliptic orbit of a planet had been observed by Leverrier to exhibit disquietingtendency to rotate In the direction of a This precession, which In the case motion. of large as 43" per century, could not Mercury was as be accounted for in any way by the ordinary Newtonian laws and was, consequently, a very celebrated case of discordance in gravitationalastronomy. With this example clearly before him, Einstein namics took the great step and said that the laws of dyand all other physical laws had to be remade so that they, also,admit the Lorentz transformation. That Is to say, The laws of physical phenomena, or rather the comathematical expressions for these laws, are Here, indeed,

was a

curious

248

variant Lorentz

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

deductions from

now

we

apply the

The

seem

to

conclusion. One discordant fact in this new theory remained, That same however. precession of the perihelion of lead Einstein to his theory Mercury which had first the new approximations remained unsettled. When were applied to the formula of orbital motion, a indeed, obtained, but the computed precession was, value fell considerably below that of the observed

43" per century.

The

Inclusion

of

Gravitation

the idea of investigatingthe problem from the very bottom, Einstein now undertook a broader daring point of view. In the first place and more in the reason he said that there is no apparent great scheme of world events why any one special be fundamental to the system of coordinates should description of phenomena, justas in the special theory a ray of lightwould appear the same whether viewed from a fixed system or a system moving with constant velocity with respect to the ether. This

With

assumption that no matter matical what system of coordinates we may use, the matheexpressions for the law^sof nature must be In Einstein's own the same. words, then, the first principle of this more general theory of relativity be the following: must 1(1 ^The general laws are nature expressed

makes

the very

broad

of

AN

INTRODUCTION

TO

RELATIVITY

249

to

through

hold

are

for

all systems

of

arbitrary substitutions."^

But thiswas not enough to include gravitation so Einstein next formulated what he was pleased to trated callhis "equivalence hypothesis." This is best illusby an example. Suppose that we are mounting in an elevator and wish to investigate the world from our moving platform. We mount of events more acrapidly, that is with constant celera and more tional and we appear to be in a strong gravitafielddue to our own inertia. Suppose, on the celera other hand, that the elevator descends with an acequal to that of gravity. We would now feel certainthat we were in empty space because our own relativeacceleration has entirely destroyed that field of the earth'sgravitational and allobjects placed upon scales in an elevator would apparently be

without weight. Applying this Idea, then, Einstein decided to do by referring allevents away with gravitationentirely in a gravitationalfieldto a new set of axes which

with constant accelerationwith respect should move to the first. In other words we are going to deal with a system moving with uniform acceleration as with respect to the ether, just we considered a system moving with uniform velocity In the special theory. The next step in the construction of this complicated theory is to reduce these two hypotheses to the language of mathematics and this was accompDie Grundlage Einstein: (1) A. Ann. d. Physik. 4, vol. 49, page 776.

der

allgemeinen

Relativitatstheorie.

250

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

lished by Einstein with the help of M. Grossmann by means of the theory of tensors. On account of the very great Intricacy of the details,we content must ourselves with the mere statement that this really involved the generalization famous expressions known as Laplace's of the and Poisson's equations, on the explicitassumption that these two equations would stilldescribe the to use a are content gravitationalfield when we firstapproximation to the truth. The set of ten differential equations which Einstein got as a result of his generalization he called his field equations

of gravitation.*

*At this point vrc have again used the blue pencil on tests his discussion of the three observational of the adding

nothing

to

Br.

Davis*

texi,

General

Theory

Dr.

Pickering's.

"

The

Editor.

XIV

NEW

What

the

CONCEPTS

World Has Had

Looks

His

FOR

Like

OLD

Einstein

It

r.n.,

After

Way

With

by

john

g. mchardy, LONDON

commander

"The new-created world, which fame in heaven Long had foretold, a fabric wonderful, Of absolute perfection."

Theory of Relativityhas led to de-*--' termining a key law of nature the law of gravitation which is also the basiclaw of mechanics. Thus it embraces a whole realm of physics, and promises, through the researches of Professor Weyl, to embrace another realm electro-dynamics. Its limitations are not yet reached, for Einstein has yet already postulated therefrom a theory of a finite, This essay, however, is mainly unbounded, universe. forces are concerned with mechanics, and electrical

INSTELN'S

"

"

"

not

considered. To have syntheslsed Newton's two great principles his law of motion and law of gravitation interpreting in the process the empirical law of is alone equality of gravitational and inertialmass, Immense achievement; but Einstein'sresearches an

"

"

have opened

up

new

world

to

252

RELATIVITY

AND

GRiWITATION

philosopher which is of greater importance. He has given us a vision of the immaterial world, a geometrica or satisfying mathematical vision,which is more than the "ether" conceptions hitherto presented. The fabric of his vision is not baseless. It is this fabric we shall consider, touching on certain aspects of the Einstein theory in the endeavor to image in miniature of his edifice of present an thought and to show the firmness of itsfoundations. That they are well and truly laid was demonstrated from observations made during by the verification, the solar eclipse In 19 19, of Einstein'sprediction of the displacement of a wave of light in a gravitational field,showing light to have the property of weight. The physical world is shown by Einstein to be a world of "relations." Underlying it there is an are absolute world of which physical phenomena matter the manifestation. "Give me and motion," the world." says Descartes, "and I will construct "Give me a world in which there are ordered relations," "and I will show you the Relativist, says the behavior of matter We first therein" (mechanics). stract view this underlying world as an abstraction, abIn matter as ("bound" energy and electrons, Its attribute force. "free" as in light), and This abstraction we will call the "World-Frame," Later, we will study the underlying world in connection v/ithenergy, and will callthis absolute world The connection between the the "World-Fabric." and the geometrical character of the World-Frame geometrical characters of the World-Fabric is the key to the law of gravitation.

new

concepts

for

old

253

The This is

our

World-Frame

conception of a world, if such were the influence of possible, entirely free from We energy. may conceive of it as an amorphous immaterial something containing "point-events" (a point-event being an instant of time at a point in These pointa conception, not a definition). space have a fourfold order and definite relation events

"

be specified by four base variables or coordinates in reference to some called a reference system, with respect to which they forward or backward, right or left, above or are below, sooner later. This shows the Worldor Frame to be four-dimensional. Thus an aggregate "event," of point-events (oran which implies limited extension in space and limited duration in time)* familiarly describe as length, would have what we breadth, height and time. To express these metrical sional properties most simply we must choose a four-dimenreference system having a particular form

i.e. they

can

"

in this Frame,

particular motion uniform and rectilinear,i.e. unaccelerated, and non-rotating with respect to the system path of a light ray. We call this an inertial

"

axes rectilinear

"event" *Commander McHardy uses a sense in the term somewhat different from in a majority of the essays. He for the reserves that seen four-dimensional in space a the instant time the at element point of "event" name "point-event"; he applies to a collection of and the term forming, An hapthese pening, an together, actual physical observable whole. like a it will be laboratory or a experiment, railroad wreck an realized is of the latter sort, appreciable region of space occupying an a than rather rather appreciable_ interval of time single point, and To than a single second. the "point-event" the element, of Commander MoHardy's the same this bears essay, solid relation that the geometer's bears to his point. is in no to be taken This comment as sense criticism to MoHardy's we us; terminology, appeals of Commander which, rather it merely Editor. to guard make against confusion in the reader's mind.

"

"

"

254

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

because Newton's Law of Inertia holds for such a how observers system alone. This system indicates into space and time. It partition the World-Frame

m o restrictsbservers to uniform rectilinear otion, and In moobservations to bodies and light-pulses such tion. counted Thus gravitationaland other forces are disconditions obtain World-Frame and we in the notwithstanding the fact that oberservers are

presence of energy.

Now the separation between point-events which have a definiterelation to each other must be absolute. The separation between two points in a between them plane is defined by the unique distance (the straight line joininghem). Between pointt

events

the analogue of thisunique distance, which we its timelike call the "separation-interval" (toindicate Its unique is and space-like nature), also unique. importance as and absolute character give it great for all observers regardless thereby it is the same of their reference system. If, in place of the rather cumbersome expression between the x-coordiX X to indicatethe difference

"

nates

compact of two points, we em.ploy the more expression dx; if for the benefitof readers who have little a state explicitly algebra but no analysis we that this expression is a single symbol for a single quantity, and has nothing to do with any product of two tion quantitiesd and x; and if we extend this notato all our coordinates: then it is clear from previous essays that the distance S between two points in a plane referred to a rectilinearsystem OX, OY, is given by the simple equation S^ (dx)'+ (dy)". Einstein and Minkowski show

=

NEW

CONCEPTS

FOR

OLD

255

analogue of S, referred by the equation

to an

to be a modified extension to four which is seen dimensions of the equation for S. We must measure t in the same units as x, y, z. By taking the constant velocity of light (300,000kilometres per second) in length or time as unit velocity,we can measure indiscriminately.* We will analyse brieflythis equation as it epitomizes the Special Theory of Relativity. If the had been Euclidean the equation World-Frame would have been

a'=

but this would not satisfythe "transformation equations" from the Special Theory. which resulted directly from These transformation equations arose between two observed facts; (a) the a reconciliation of all natural phenomena with observed agreement the "Restricted Principleof Relativity" a principle canwhich shows that absolute rectilinearmotion not be established (as regards mechanics this was and recognized by Newton; the Michelson-Morley

"

"

is the result of an editorial revision of the author's text, *This paragraph designed to retain the substance of his presentation, while tying up what definitely with the preceding more essays, he has to say and. eliminating we intervals, infinitesimal finite and between distinction which the We will not essay believe to be out of this character. of place in an readers for having used finite and differential mathematical apologize to our iu violation of mathematical in the same convention. equation, notation Editor.

"

256

to

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

; optical and electro-dynamical phenomena) and (b) the observed disagreement of opticaland electro-dyna (notablyhe constancy of t phenomena laws of dynamics as given by light with velocity) the ing classical echanics, e.^., m regard to the compoundm of relative velocities. Einstein effected this by detecting a flaw in classicalmereconciliation chanics He showed that by regarding space and as relativeto the observer not time measurements there was nothing absolute as Newton defined them incompatible between the Principle of Relativityand tions the laws of dynamics so modified. Newton's definifounded on conception. Einstein's were recognition isbased on of the relativityf space and time o observation. Equation (i ) shows that the geometry of the World-Frame referred to an inertial system is semiEuclidean (hyperbolic), that space and time and are measurements relative to the observer's inertial The equation shows that the reference system. has a certain geometrical character World-Frame which we distinguishas four-dimensional "flatness." It is everywhere alike (homaloidal). flatcharIts acter is shown by the straight line nature of the a separation-interval nd of the system to which it is most simply referred. Thus we have found tv/o absolute features in the World- Frame (i) Its geometrical character ^'flatness"; The separation-Interval ^which can (2) be expressed in term.s of measurable variablescalled being dependen thispartitioning space and time partitions, on the observer's motion. in a position to explore the WorldWe are now

"

" "

"

"

NEW

CONCEPTS

FOR

OLD

257

that, studied under inertial Worldi of conditions (free force),tagrees with the Frame.

Fabric. Already

we

see

The

World-Fabric

of relativity is largely investigation of the Worldconcerned with the to be disturbed. Fabric. Consider the World-Frame We may regard this disturbance, which manifests

The

General

Theory

as itselfin physical phenomena, energy, or more correctly "action." flow, force When energy is thwarted In Itsnatural is manifested, with which are associated non-uniform This motions such as accelerations and rotations. distinguishas the Worldwe disturbed World-Frame Fabric. It Is found to have various non-Euclidean "flat" character characters differingfrom the simple turbanc according to the degree of disof the World-Frame in (action) the region. Disturbance gives

"curvature"; the fabric a geometrical character of the greater the the more considerablethe disturbance, Thus an empty region (not containing curvature. has less curvature energy, but under Its Influence)'

than a region In which free energy abounds. Our problem, after showing the relativityf force o Is '(especially gravitational force), to determine the law underlying the fabric'sgeometrical character; to Is related to ascertain how the degree of curvature a ture the energy Influencing region, and how the curvaequations of one region Is linked by differential Such a law will be to that of neighboring regions. to be the law of gravitation. seen

17

P )

258

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

study the World-Fabric by considering tracks on progress; which material particles and light-pulses find such tracks regulated and defined by the we Fabric's curvature, and not, as hitherto supposed, As a track by attractive force inherent in matter. is measurable by summing the separation-intervals between near-by point-events on it, all observers will agree which is the unique track between two distant point-events. Einstein postulates that freely progressing bodies will follow unique tracks,

We

which

therefore called natural tracks (geodesies)'. If material bodies are prevented from following natural tracks by contact with matter or other causes, force is manifested the phenomenon of gravitational Whenever the natural flow of relative to them. energy is interrupted force is born. For example, or when the piston interrupts the flow of steam, golf ball flow of club,force results the interruption is mutual, and the force relativeto both. Likewise when the earth interrupts the natural track of a g particle (or observer)ravitational force is manifested to both. relative So long as a body moves freely no force is api precia by it. A fallingaviator (neglecting air

are

"

appreciate any gravitational force. He follows a natural track, thereby freeing himself from the force experienced in contact with He acquires an acceleratingmotion with matter. By acquiring a parrespect to an inertial system. ticular

will resistance)'

not

acceleratingmotion an observer can annul any force experienced in any small region where the field force can be considered constant. of Thus Einstein,nterpreting i the equality graviof

NEW

CONCEPTS

FOR

OLD

259

tatlonal anH inertialmass, showed tKat the same according to circumstances as quahty manifests itself "weight" or as inertia, and that all force is purely (an relativeand may be treated as one phenomenon interruption in energy flow). This "Principle of Equivalence" shows that small portions of the World-Fabric, observed from a freely moving particle tions (free force),ould be treated as small porc of of the World-Frame.* we If such observations were could practicable, by referring pointdetermine the Fabric curvature We cannot to equation (i ) measurements event observe from unique tracks but we can observe them from our restrained situation. Their importance a is now apparent, because, by tracing them over are tracing something absolute in the region, we Fabric its geometrical character. We study this on by exploring separation-intervals the curvature tracks of freely moving bodies, relatingthese separation-i in terms of to actual measurements depending on the observer space and time components reference system. The law of curvature must be the law of gravitation. To illustrate lineson the Worldwhich Einstein proceeded to survey the Fabric from the earth we will consider a similarbut' more the survey of the sea-surface simple problem from an airship. We study thiscurvature curvature by exploring small distances on the tracks of ships (whichwe must suppose can only move uniformly

.

"

"

be imitated or gravitational force in a small region can the disturbing influence there remains motion, accelerating annulled in the fabric already referred to and expressed of gravitational matter or tracks run, It is this that defines how rather, unique curvature. Author. how bodies progress.

"Although

by

"

26o

on

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

relating unique tracks arcs of great circles), in terms such distances to actual measurements of lengtli and breadth components depending on the observer' This two-dimensional reference system. sional surface problem can be extended to the four-dimenFabric one. We consider the surfaceto be covered by two arbitrarily drawn intersectingseries of curves: in one seriesnot intersecting curves each other, vide figure. This Gaussian system of co-ordinates is

"

sidered appropriate only when the smaller the surface conclidean the more nearly it approximates to Euconditions. It admits of defining any point

the surface by two numbers indicatingthe curves intersectingat that point. P is defined by Xi, Xa. Pi '(very near P) is defined by Xi + dxj, Xz + dxz. The equation for the minute distance s between two points in such a system is given by the adjacent general formula

on

s^

+ giidxi^'

+ gi2dxidxf. g22dx2%

NEW

CONCEPTS

FOR

OLD

261

functions of Xj, Xz. the observer'sreference system and o?t the geometrical character of the surface being arbitrary, the The curves observed. formula is appropriate for any reference system, or if the observer does not know exactly what his even reference system is. (The Fabric observer does not know what his space and time partitioning actually I is because he is in a gravitational field.)t is the g's which disclose the geometry of an observer' partitions,and their values also contain a reflectionof the character of the region observed. We find s by direct exploration with a moving is ship (Jl found by direct exploration with a freely ; dxi, dxg are the observed length moving particle) differenceswhich we have and breadth measurement By making sufficientobservations to relate to s. in a small area and referring them to the general formula we can find the values of the g's for the Different observer's particular reference system. values for g's will be found if the observer changes his reference system, but there is a limitation to the values so obtainable owing to the part played by the surface itself, zvhich is diffidently expressingits intrinsic geometrical character in the g's in each

or

observation.

Einstein's Results

approach the absolute character of the of the observer's surface through the relativenature There is a relationship common reference system. to the same to all values of the g's that belong

we

Thus

262

curvature.

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ferenti This relationshipIs expressed by a difequation. It is this equation of curvature find. Einstein's that the airship's observer must concerned with similar, but he was problem was four dimensions, which entailed a general formula with ten g's, and he had to find a set of differential equations of the second order to determine the law He divided the Fabric Into of Fabric curvature. beyond Influence of regions: I. World-Frame II. Empty energy. region free of energy, but under its Influence. III. Region containing free curvature. energy only. Each region has a characteristic By means culus calof an absolute differential

"

"

erected wonderful mathematical scaffolding by RIemann, Chrlstoffeland others Involving the he succeeded In finding such a theory of tensors, kept the following points In set of equations. He view: (i) The equations must not only give the character of region 11, but must satisfythe special case of region I; (2) They must be Independent of any partitioningsystem, because the General Theory Relativity demands that a law of nature be in or a form appropriate for all observers whatever their They must be concerned position and motion; (3)' with energy which is conserved, not mass which the Special Theory showed dependent on velociL\^ This set of differential equations which shows how the curvature of the Fabric at any point links to the curvature at neighboring points Is the law of gravitation, law which has been severely tested by the a practicalobservation of the solar eclipse already referred to. At a first approximation these equations

"

"

At

second

NEW

CONCEPTS

FOR

OLD

263

for the motion of the perihelion of Mercury, which had hitherto baffled All the laws of mechanics are deastronomers. ducible from this law of World-Fabric curvature, i.e.conservation of energy (which includes conservation

approximation they

account

as of mass since we re-define mass energy)' by (re-defined a and conservation of momentum It relativist). must be noted that this law and the General Theory show that the velocity of light is but, like everything else, a not absolutely constant, light-pulseis affected by the Fabric curvature in a gravitational field. In conclusion we will contrast some conspicuous differences in the old world view

mechanics and the new of classical view presented by Einstein. A three-dimensional ether medium with vari1. ously conceived properties which communicated the in some supposed inherent attractiveforce in matter unexplained way, and transmitted electromagnetic has been replaced by a four-dimensional exwaves, ternal World-Fabric, the geometrical character of (energy) and which controls the motion of matter for all mechanical laws. accounts 2. After separating the observer's subjective share In the things dein definitions from nature's share fined, space, time, and force, hitherto regarded as absolute, have been shown to be purely relativeand dependent on the observer's track. Mass has also proved to be relativeto velocityunless re-defined as As classical energy. mechanics bases all definitions on space, time, and mass o units,the relativityf such defined quantitiesIs now apparent. 3. Newton's laws of motion, his law of gravita-

264

RELATIVITY

ANO

GRAVITATION

tion, and the laws of conservation,hitherto regarded as synthesised in a basic law unrelated, are now of mechanics. Einstein has not disturbed the electric theory of matter, and both the old and new physics have in common the "Principle of Least Action." We obtain a glimpse of this principle in the unique tracks be pursued by freely moving bodies, which may regarded as tracks of least effort,force only being ment manifested as an expression of the Fabric's resentwhen bodies depart from these natural tracks. Einstein has approached nearer to the truth in regard to the laws underlying nature, and, as always,

His theory, which ensimplification. tails a of readjustment such fundamental conceptions as space to and time, opens up fresh fields scientific investigation and to philosophic thought. It reveals a bridge uniting the domains of physics and philosophy, It heralds a new in the history of era and science. this means

a

XV

THE

NEW

WORLD

Takes Geometry That Curvature and Force

HEMENS,

Universe Place of

Which Physics,

in

the

OF

BY

GEORGE

FREDERICK

M.C,

B.SC,

LONDON

TT

"*"

as

is familiarknowledge that the line,the surface and ordinary Euclidean space are to be regarded two spaces of one, and three dimensions respectively

are aware that a and readers of this journal hypothetical space of four dimensions has been closelyinvestigated. The most convenient space to study Isthe surface or two-space, since we can regard in a three-space. If a surface is it as embedded curved it Is generally Impossible to draw a straight line on It, for as we see clearly,the "stralghtest'* line Is changing its direction at every point. To describe this property accurately it is necessary to

ascribe to each point a magnitude which expresses what happens to the direction of a short line in the region when displaced a short distance parallel to Itself. This Is called the direction-defining magnitude. Different sets of values of this magnitude relate to surfaces of different curvatures. A second fundamental property has recently been There is Inherent In every part of a pointed out. of length peculiar to that particular space a measure

266

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

region and which in general varies from region to region. To describe this variation accurately it is necessary to ascribe to each point another magnitude magnitude, which expresses called the length-defining the change from each point to the next of the unit of length. These two magnitudes define the surface completely. Similarly, space of any number of dimensions is a defined completely by a similar pair of magnitudes. A space is the "field" of such a magnitude-pair and sions the nature of these magnitudes defines the dimenof the space. The four-spaceusually described isthe Euchdean member of an infinity four-spaces. of When we look into a mirror we see a space differing from ordinary space in that right and left are interchanged and thisisdescribed mathematically by saying that if we locate points as usual by specifying distances ^i, X2, X3 of the point from three three mutually perpendicular planes, then a point Xi, Xzf Xs, in actual space corresponds with a point Xi, X2, X3 in the mirrored space : in other words the mirrored space is derived from the real space by i. If we were multiplying the X3 coordinates by to i instead of i we multiply by V should derive a differentspace; in this case, however, we have no mirror to show us what it looks like. Such a space is said to have one negative dimension and it has the peculiar property that in the figure derived from the right triangle of ordinary

"

"

"

"

"

the square of the "hypotenuse" equals the difference and not the sum of the squares of the other two sides, so that the length of a line may sometimes have to be represented by the squarespace

THE

NEW

WORLD

267

negative number, a "complex" number. In considering what at firstsight may appear to be fantasticstatements made by this theory, It must be borne in mind that all our knowledge of the external

root

of

sense-impressions, and our most confident statements about external inferences from things are really of the nature of being Inferences,liable these sense-impressions and, So that if the theory says that a stone to be wrong. lying on the ground is not a simple tKree-dlmensIonal and object, that Its substance is not the same as Its before, the matter is one for substance a moment due consideration and not immediate disbelief. The idea that the universe extends in time as well In space is not new, have faas miliar and fiction-writers us with wonderful machines in which I travellersjourneyn time and are present at various stages of the world's history. This conception of "space-time" Is usuthe universe, to which the name ally theory and asapplied, Is adopted by the new signed

universe

comes

through

our

the

status

of

physical reality.

Geometry

The

World

fundamental creed of the new theory Is that sional a the space-time universe constitutes true four-dimension space of one negative dimension, this dimenbeing time. The variations from point to point of the direction-defining tudes and length-definingmagniture, generate the geometrical properties of curvaetc., and these are cognised by the human mind our as sense-impressions are physical phenomena: less than perceptions of the nor nothing more

The

268

geometry

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

fourspace. So Instead of Inferring from our sense-impressions the existenceof matter, motion and the Hke as we are accustomed to do, wc infer the existence of a should with equal justice geometrical fourspace. Thus it becomes necessary to prepare a dictionary In which the familiar things with those geometrical of our world are identified properties of the four-space which really constitute edge them, and in so doing parts of our geometrical knowlassume the guise of new physical knowledge. Through the fourspace our consciousness travels, cognising a changing three-dimensional section of it as itgoes and thus giving rise to time. It becomes folded aware that the fourspace Is pleated or direction, along linesall running roughly In the same and possibly because this is the easiest direction to follow. It travels along the lines. The direction of this motion Is the negative dimension. Thus consciousn Is always aware of the nearly constant forms of the cross-sections the pleats along which of it travels. These unvarying forms constitutematter: Is the form of a section through a uniform matter a three-dimensional aspect pleat of the fourspace so that In acof a four-dimensional curvature; curacy strict Is the shape or we should say that a stone form of a changing section of a four-dimensional being a long fold In the the object, complete object fourspace. The physical Interpretation of this conservation of form of the cross-section Is that Is conserved. It Is thus seen that the conmatter scious by following these pleats, has so determined mind, time that the law of the conservation of matter hold. The mathematical treatment must of the

of

"

THE

NEW

WORLD

269

itclear that practically cal allother physilaws similarly follow as a direct result of this choice of time. The type of order prevailing in the

makes subject

physical universe, the laws of gravitation, heat, imposed by some motion and the rest are not directly external power, but are apparently chosen by mind itself. In the neighborhood of these pleats the fourspace is still curved, but to a smaller degree. This we cognise as energy or as a field force. Thus energy of is seen to be the same kind of thing as matter and be expected to have weight. This would therefore was experimentally demonstrated in 19 19 when light in effectactually weighed. Conversely, matter was consistsof energy; and it is calculated that one liter energy to develop a milof water contains sufficient lion horsepower for about four years. It is now lieved beintegra that the sun's energy is derived from the disof the matter of which it Is made. The method of establishingthese identifications will be clear from the following: We already knew that matter is made up of electrons and that radiant energy Is electromagnetic and before the advent of thistheory itwas regarded as certain that practically

except gravitation all observed physical phenomena were manifestations of the electromagnetic field. The new theory has confirmed this belief. It is found that the gravitationaland electromagneticconditlons of the universe are completely defined if to each point of space-time a gravitationaland an electric These are magnitudes potential are ascribed. as nature the direction-defining of the same and length-defining be magnitudes which must necessarily

270

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

is associated with every point of space-time if it a true "space," and they are therefore identified with these. By performing ordinary mathematical operations on these magnitudes statements of fact clothed in mathematical form are obtained, which are to be interpretedon the one hand as physicallaws and on the other as geometrical properties of the fourspace. Nearly all our physical laws are derivable mathematically tion in thisway, so that an extensive identificais effectedwhich has been fruitfulof results. It has been mentioned that a slight curvature is sometimes cognised as force and as this identification terest appeared originallyas a postulate its history is in-

The

Genesis

of

the

Theory

An experiment by Michelson and Morley (1887), on which the whole theory is based, made it appear measures the velocity at which light that if a man passes him he will get the same result whether he is stationary, or rushing to meet the light, moving in direction as the light. The solution was the same provided by Einstein in 1905. He suggested that since we know the results of these determinations ought not to agree, something must have happened to the clocks and measuring-rods used in measuring the velocityso that the standards of length and time in the three cases, the alterations were not the same being exactly such as to make the velocity of light This solution is universally accepted as constant. true and is the fundamental postulate. Thus the length of a stick and the rate at which time passes

THE

NEW

WORLD

27

will change

the velocity of the person observing these things changes. If a man measured the length of an aeroplane going past him at 161,000 miles per served only half the length obsecond It would measure when stationary. If the aeroplane were going with the velocity of light,Its length would be unaltered vanish though itsbreadth and height would if Similarly, of two twin brothers one were

as

continuallymoving with reference to the other their ages would gradually diverge, for time would go at If one moved with the differentrates for the two. velocity of light, time would stand stillfor him To while for the other it would go on as usual. get actually younger it would be necessary to move quicker than lightwhich isbelieved to be Impossible. light Is assumed to be the greatest "The velocityof velocity occurring In nature. Evidently then if the distance in space and the

interval in time separating two given events, such as the firing of a gun and the bursting of the shell, are measured by two observers in uniform relative Consider motion, their estimates will not agree. now the simple problem of measuring the distance between two points on an ordinary drawing-board. If we draw two perpendicular axes, we can define this distance by specifying the lengths of the projecti line joining two axes on the the of the axes the projecpoints. If we choose two different tions be the same but will define the same will not length. Similarly,in a Euclidean four-space the distancebetween two points will be defined by the four axes, but if these axes be on projections the but the will rotated slightly, projectionsbe different,

272

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

length. Now, returning to the will define the same two noticed by observers just mentioned, it was Minkowski in 1908 that if the space measurements between the two events are splitinto the usual three are cc^Tiponents, and if the time measurements plied multibetween the two sets by V I, the difference is exactly the same as would of measurements have occurred had these two events been points in fourspace, and two differentobservaEuchdean a tions made of their distance apart using two sets of axes inclinedto each other. The velocityof light is made equal to i in this calculationby a suitable choice of units. This discovery threw a vivid light on the problem of space-time, showing that it is probably a true four-spaceof one negative dimension, a simple derivative of the much-discussed and now familiar Euclidean four-space. Although this discovery gave a tremendous impetus to the progress of the theory, itisprobable that it holds a deeper significance not yet revealed. It is probably a statement of the "stuff" of which the four-space is made, and perhaps also of how it is made ; but the problem remains unsolved. It thus becomes plain that our two observers are thing from different merely looking at the same viewpoints. Each has just much right as the other to as regard himself as being at rest in ordinary space is (this the postulate of the relativity uniform of and to regard his time directionas a straight motion) line in the four-space. The differenceis merely that inclinedto each other. If, are the two time axes however, one were moving with an acceleration with referenceto the other his path in the four-space

"

THE

NEW

WORLD

273

will appear curved to the other, though he himself, assume since he regards it as his time axis,will still it to be straight. If there is a body moving in what one observer sees to be a straight line, the other in general see it as curved, and will, of course, following the usual custom, since this body, without deviates from the straight path, apparent reason, force acting on it. Thus will say there must be some the curvature of his time axis,due to his accelerated motion, makes it appear that there is round him a freely moving bodies to fieldof force, which causes deviate from the straight path. Now if space-time is itselfInherently curved it is not generally possible for any line in it to be straight any more than it is possible for any line on the surface of a sphere to be straight. Hence, all axes be curved, and must

all observers, whatever their states of motion, must experience fields of force which are of the same force as those due to motion only. The extra nature experienced when a liftbegins to riseIs an example of force due to pure motion: gravitation Is the similar force due to an Inherent curvature of the four-space, and itwas the postulate that these forces were similar that made possible EInstein*ssolution of the general problem of gravitation.

The

Time

Diagram

The correlationof time with Itsgeometrical analogue Is of absorbing Interest. Representing velocity by the common method of plotting a curve showing distances positions at various times and marking horizontally and times vertically, the velocity of

18

274

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

MM' and NN' will both represent thisvelocity. Since this is assumed to be the greatest ties velocity occurring in nature, allother possible velocilight being

i,

represented by linesfallingwithin the upper this diagram correctly represents and lower Vs. Now dimensions of Minkowski's Euclidean two four-space so, transmuting to real but flatfour-space

are

by multiplying times by V i, it Is seen that there be propagated is a region outside which no effect can from O since that would Involve the existence of a velocity greater than that of light. This region represents the future of O. Similarly,O can only be affectedby events within the region derived from

"

the downward-opening V, which therefore represents The region between the two repthe past of O. resents be either simultaneous events which may

THE

NEW

WORLD

275

with O

according to the velocity of the observer in this theory an event dictated at O. Thus by free-will, could affect points in its"future" region, but not in any other, which agrees with experience

or

not,

and shows that the theory is not essentially "deterIf "free-will" is really free, the future is minist." be in not yet determined, and the fourspace must some way formed by the will as time progresses. The trains of thought inspiredby Einstein'spostulates have already carried us to a edge knowlpinnacle of In the history of man. On unprecedented every hand, as we look out upon the universe from our new and lofty standpoint, unexpected and enthrall before us, and we find vistas open up

ourselves confronting nature with an insight such has ever before dared aspire to. as no man It Is completely unthinkable that this theory can be swept aside. Apart from experimental ever ficatio veriin point of fact,lend It the strongest which, support, no one could work through the theory without feeling that here. In truth, the inner workings of laid bare before him. The harmony the universe were with nature is far too complete for any doubt to arise of itstruth.

XVI

THE

QUEST

OF

THE

ABSOLUTE

BY

DR. FRANCIS

D.

MURNAGHAN,

JOHNS

HOPKINS BALTIMORE

UNIVERSITY

"f][7"E shalldiscussthe

^^

more

important aspects of

the theory popularly known as the "Einstein Theory of Gravitation" and shalltry to show clearly that this theory is a natural outcome of ideas long in held by physicists general. These ideas are : (a) The impossibilityof "action at a distance;"

in other words we find an instinctive to repugnance from admit that one body can affectanother, remote it,instantaneously and without the existenceof an

interveningmedium. (b) The independence of natural,i.e., physical, laws of their mathematical mode of expression. Thus, when an equation is written down as the expressi no of a physical law it must be satisfied, matter what units we choose in order to measure the quantities occurring in the equation. As our physics teacher used to say "the expression of the law must have in every term the same dimensions."

THE

QUEST

OF

THE

ABSOLUTE

277

than this the choice of the quantities used to if there be a choice open must express the law As we were have no effect on itscorrectness. told "all physical laws are capable of expression as relations between vectors between or else as relations dimensions." We shallhope magnitudes of the same to make this clearer in itsproper place in the essay, its obvious generalization is Einstein's cardinal as

"

"

More

"

principleof relativity.

which an experimental physicist are makes always the expression of a coincidence time. of two points in space at the same If we ask such an experimenter by what he means a point in space he tellsus that, for him, the term has no meaning until he has a material body with urements; reference to which he can locate the point by measin general it requires three measurements and he expresses this by saying that space has three dimensions. He measures his distance, as a rule, parallel to three mutually perpendicular linesfixedin a Cartesian the material body reference-frame socalled. So that a "point In space" Is equivalent to a

measurements

"

Xhe

given material reference-frame and three numbers or we coordinates. If, for any reason, prefer to use a new material reference-frame the coordinates or measurements will change and, If we know the relative two positions of "the material reference-frames, there Is a definite relationbetween the two sets of three coordinateswhich Is termed a transformation of coordinates. But which particularmaterial reference-fra The first shallwe use? choice would, we think,be that attached to the earth. But, even yet, in doubt as there are numberless Cartesian are we

278

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

frameworks attached to the earth (asto any material is here that our idea (b) begins to body) and it function. We be immaterial which of say it must In each frame a use. these Cartesian frames we has three components vector and when we change from one frame to another the components change in such a way that if two vectors have their three framework they will be components equal in one equal in any other attached to the same material So our idea (b), system. cal which says that our physibe vector equations, is equivalent equations must to saying that the choice of the framework attached to any given material body can have no effect on

natural law. idea (b) to answer we our carry over the next question: "To which material body shall we To this question Newton attach our framework?" answer gave one and Einstein another. We shall firstconsider Newton's position and then we may hope to see clearly where the new theory diverges from the classicalor Newtonian mechanics. Newton's the mode Shall

of expression of

that there Is a particular material frame with reference to which the laws of mechanics have a remarkably simple form commonly known laws of motion" and so itispreferable as "Newton's to use this framework which is called an absolute frame. What is the essentialpeculiarityof an absolute frame? Newton was essentiallyan empiricist of Bacon's school and he observed the following facts. Let us suppose we have a framework of reference ter attached to the ea?-th. Then a small particleof matunder the gravitationalinfluenceof surrounding

answer was

THE

QUEST

OF

THE

ABSOLUTE

279

bodies, including the earth, takes on a certain acceleration Ai. Now bodies suppose the surrounding we the earth we shall removed (since cannot remove have to view the experiment as an and abstraction), introduced; the particle,being again at another set its original position, will begin to move with an acceleration Ao. If both sets of surrounding bodies are present simultaneously the particle begins to move with an acceleration which is approximately but not quite the sum of Ai and A2. Newton postulated there there is a certain absolute reference frame in which the approximation would be an equality; and so the acceleration, relative to the material frame, furnishes a convenient measure of bodies which effect the effect of the surrounding we call their gravitational force. Notice that if the effectof the surrounding bodies is small the acceleration is small and so we obtain as a limiting case, Newton's law of inertia which says that a body subject forces has no acceleration;a law to no which, be as Polncaire justly can never observed, subjected The natural questions to experimental justification. then arise: which is the absolute and privileged referencehow must Jaws be the simple and modified when we use a frame more convenient for us one attached to the earth let us say? The absolute frame is one attached to the fixed stars; and to the absolute or real force defined as above, we must

"

"

add certain terms, usually called centrifugal forces. These are referred to as fictitious forces because, as it Is explained, they are due to the motion of the reference-frame with respect to the absolute frame and In no way depend on the distributionof the

280

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

fugal surrounding bodies. Gravitational force and centriforces hav^e in common the remarkable property that they depend in no way on the material of its chemical state; they on the attracted body nor from act on all matter and are in this way different

such as magnetic other forces met with in nature, found that he or electricforces. Further Newton could predict the facts of observation accurately on the hypothesis that two small particlesof matter attracted each other, In the direction of the line joining them, with a force varying Inversely as the This law is square of the distance between them. "action at a distance" law and so is opposed to an the idea (a)". We have tacitly supposed that the space in whIcK Is that made familiarto we make our measurements us by the study of Euclid's elements. The characteristic Is that stated by the property of this space theorem of Pythagoras that the distance between two points Is found by extractingthe square root of the sum of the squares of the differencesof the Cartesian coordinates of the two points. Mathematicians have long recognized the possibility of Einstein has followed their other types of space and lead. He abandons the empiricistmethod and when by a point In space repliesthat asked what he means to him a point in space is equivalentto four numbers how obtained it is unnecessary to know a priori; in certain specialcases they may be the three Cartesian coordinates of the experimenter (measured with reference to a definitematerial framework)" together with the time. Accordingly he says his four dimensions^ Between any two space is

of

THE

QUEST

OF

THE

ABSOLUTE

28

sets

"points"

we

may

Inserta sequence

of

of four

numbers, varying continuously from the firstset to the second, thus forming what we calla curve joining the two points. Now we define the "length" of this in a manner curve which involves all the points on it

and stipulatethat this length has a physical reality, i. e., according to our idea (b) its value is independent of the particular choice of coordinates we make in describing the space. Among all the joining curves there will be one with the property of having the smallest length; this Is called a geodesic and corresponds to the straight line In Euclidean space. for lack of an a priori description of We must now, the actual significance of our coordinates, extend Idea of vector so the that we may speak of the components of a vector no matter nates what our coordiIn this way are introduced may actually signify. what are known as tensors; If two tensors are equal, i. e., have all their components equal, in any one set of coordinates they are equal in any other and the fundamental demand of the new physics is that all physical equations which are not merely the expression of equality of magnitudes must state the In this way no one system of equality of tensors. coordinates Is privileged above any other and the laws of physics are expressed In a form Independent of the actual coordinates chosen; they are written,as we may say, In an absolute form.

The

Gravitational

Hypothesis

Einstein flatlydenies Newton's hypothesis that Indeed, many others thereis an absolute system (and.

82

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

before him had found It difficulto admit that so t insignificant part of the universe as our fixed star a system should have such a privileged position as that Mechanics). In accorded to it in the Newtonian to distinguish any system, he says, we have no reason between the so-calledreal gravitational force and the centrifugal forces If we wish so so-calledfictitious f to express it gravitational force Is fictitious orce.* A particlemoving In the neighborhood of material bodies moves cal according to a law of inertia a physilaw expressible, therefore. In a manner quite independent of the choice of coordinates. The law to moves along of inertiaIs that a particleleft itself the geodesies or shortest lines in the space. If the from other bodies the space has particle Is remote the EucHdean character and we have Newton's law of Inertia; otherwise the particle is In a space of a

" "

non-Euclidean character (thespace being always the four-dlmenslonal and the path of the particle space) is along a geodesic in that space. Einstein,in order

to

certain nature of the gravitationalspace which stipulationIs expressed, as are all physical laws, by means of a tensor equation and this is sometimes called his law of gravitation. Perhaps It will be well, In exempFification,to explain why light rays, which pass close to the sun, theory. It is should be bent according to the new assumed that light rays travel along certain geodesies known as minimal geodesies. The sun has an intense it or, as we now say, the gravitationalfield near

makes

" "

make

more

concrete,

"Not

of

of

liy a proper be transformed, away all gravitational fields may choice is independent If this were nature so, the space, whose coordinates. be Euclidean. any always choice of coordinates, would ^Author.

"

THE

QUEST

OF

THE

ABSOLUTE

283

departure of the four-dlmenslonal space from the Euclidean is very marked for points near the sun but for points so remote as the earth this departure

"

is so

small as to be negligible. Hence the form of from that near the geodesies near the sun isdifferent the earth. // the space surrounding the sun were Euclidean the actual paths of the light rays would appear different from geodesies or straight-lines. Hence Einstein speaks of the curvature of the light rays due to the gravitationalfieldof the sun; but we must not be misled by a phrase. Light always travels along geodesies (or straightlines the only definition have of a straight line is that it is a we ; geodesic)but, owing to the "distortion" of the space they traverse, due to the sun, these geodesies reach us with a direction differentfrom that they would have ifthey did not pass through the markedly

"

the sun. non-Euclidean space near The considerationof the fundamental four-dimensional is space as being non-Euclidean where matter

present gives a possibility of

an

answer or old question: Is space finite eternal or finite? The fascinating possibility arises that the space may be like the two-dimensional surface of a sphere which to a limited experience seems infinite n extent i and flator Euclidean In character. A new Columbus now asks us to consider other in possibilities which we should have a finite universe finite but as to not only as to space measurement

"

to

be such that all of the four coordinates of its points are bounded in magnitude) However, although Einstein speaks of the possibility finite do not, personally,think his we of a universe, time

space may

.

(for the

284 argument

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

convincing. Points on a sphere may be located by the Cartesian coordinates of their stereoon graphic projectionsthe equatorial plane and these coordinates, which might well be those actuallymeasured, are not bounded.

The

Special

Relativity

Theory

In our account of the Einstein theory we have not followed itshistorical order of development for two Firstly, the earlier Special Relativity reasons. Theory properly belongs to a school of thought diametrically opposed to that furnishing the "General Theory of Relativity" and, secondly, the latter be obtained from the former by the process cannot stein, Einof generalization as commonly understood. when proposing the earliertheory, adopted the position of the empiricistso that to him the phrase, a point in space, had no meaning without a material framework of reference in which to measure space he came is distances. When to investigate what by time and when he asked the question "what meant is meant by the statement events that two remote are simultaneous?" it became evident that some mode of communication between the two places Is that by means necessary; the mode adopted was of light-signals.The fundamental hypothesis was then made that the velocity of such signals is independent (some hypothesis is of the velocity of their source the time associated necessary if we wish to compare with events, when one material reference-system is used, and the corresponding time when another in It develops is to motion relative the first

adopted)

.

THE

QUEST

OF

THE

ABSOLUTE

285

Inextricably are that time and space measurements interwoven; there is no such thing as the length of a body or the duration of an event but rather these are duced relative to the reference-system.* Minkowski introthe idea of the space of events of four but this space was dimensions supposed Euclidean like the three-dimensional space of his predecessors. To Einstein belongs the credit of taking from this representation a purely formal mathematical character "real" space insisting that the and of whose distances have a physical significance is the fourdimensional space. But we cannot insist too strongly on the fact that In the gravitational space of the general theory there is no postulate of the constancy of velocity of a light-signaland accordingly no

"

"

"

"

method of assigning a time to events corresponding In this latter to that adopted in the specialtheory. theory attention was confined to material systems moving with uniform velocity with respect to each other and itdeveloped that the velocityof lightwas the ultimate velocity faster than which no system a result surprisingand a priori rather could move repugnant. It ismerely a consequence of our mode of other method comparing times of events; If some ^were possible the thought transference,let us say velocityof thiswould be the "limitingvelocity." In conclusion we tulated should remark that the posgal" equivalence of "gravitational"and "centrifuforces demands that anything possessed of field inertiawillbe acted upon by a gravitational and

"

"

"

"Thus

when

not

"

or it is said that a body contracts that a clock runs slow when is implied. The ment judgit is put in anotion no actual (physical change one to the body and one at rest with respect of different observers are different. Author,

"

"

286

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

this leads to a possible identification matter and of idea (a) will prompt Further our guiding energy. in his to say, following the example of Faraday us

tational r electrical esearches, that the geodesies of a gravihave a physical existence as distinct space The four-dimensional from a mere mathematical one. call the ether, and so restore this bearer of physical forces to the position it lost when, as a three-dimensional idea in the Special RelativityTheory, it had to bear an identicalrelation

space

we

may

multitude of relativelymoving material The reason for our seemingly paradoxical systems. for an essay on Relativity will be clear when it title is remembered that in the new theory we consider

to

those space-time properties which are absolute or devoid of reference to any particularmaterial reference-fram Nevertheless, although the general characteristics the theory are thus described,withof out to experiment, when the theory is to be reference tested it is necessary to state what the four coordinates discussed actually are how they are mined deterby measurement. It is our opinion that much remains to be done to place this portion of the subject basis. For example, in the on a satisfactory derivation of the nature of the gravitationalspace,

"

single attracting body, most of the Cartesian coordinates as ifthe space use accounts Euclidean and step froni theSe to were nates polar coordiby the formula familiar in Euclidean geometry. But these detailsare, perhaps, like matters of if we shall be allowed to give Einstein's elegance, quotation from Boltzmann, to be left to the "tailor and the cobbler."

surrounding

a

XVII

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

The

Immediate Theories

Contacts

and

WILLIAM

H.

BY

professor harvard

PICKERING

COLLEGE

OBSERVATORY,

MANDEVILLE,

JAMAICA

'T^HE

-*-

Theory

from the physical side, leaving the three astronomical tests to which ithas been put to be discussed later. There is one astronomical fact however that be mentioned in this connection, must and this is the discovery of the aberration of light by Bradley in It is found that every star in the heavens 1726. apparently describes a small annual ellipse,whose major axis is 41'' in length. This Bradley showed to be due to a combination of the velocity of the earth in itsorbit, and the velocity of light;and itis so explained in all the elementary text-books on It Implies a stationary astronomy. ether through The importance which the earth is moving. this

of

statement

The

subject

supposing

288

man

RELATIVITY

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go out In a rainstorm carrying a vertical tube. If the rain is falling vertically, and the man t stands still, he sides of the tube will not be wet, by an occasional drop, but if the tube is save moved,

to

then be inchned forward in order to keep The angle of inclination, which corresponds to aberration, depend on the relativevelocityof will the tube, corresponding to the earth, and the rain drops which correspond to the waves of light If three linesare dropped upon a point in space, each linebeing perpendicular to the plane containing the other two, we have what is known as a system of coordinates. Einstein's original theory of tivity, relahe now designates as the "special which theory," depends on two principles. The firstis that "Every law of nature which holds good with respect to a coordinate system K must also hold good for any other system K', provided that K and K' in uniform movement are of translation." The has a second principle is that "Light in a vacuum definite and constant velocity, independent of the velocity of itssource." These two sentences may be considered as authoritative, being quoted in Einstein'sown words.^ The first these principlesneed not of greatly surprise us. The second is not well expressed, because it is " ambiguous. He does not say how the first velocity" is measured, whether relatively to the ether or to relatively the observer. In fact this is the very gist of the whole matter, as we shall presently see. In the case of sound the velocity is constant with to the medium, in the case of light the air, regard it is supposed to be constant with regard to the

it must it dry.

THE

PHYSICAL

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289

observer.

no

matter

constant

velocity,

In order to understand this statement clearly let On a us consider the appended tabular diagram. calm day imagine a source of sound at S in line a. This may be either a gun or a bell. Imagine an feet distant,located at O. The velocobserver i,ioo ity feet per second. This in air is i,ioo of sound velocity we will take as unity, as indicated in the

third column, and the Velocity with which the sound reaches the observer is also i, as shown in the fourth. It will reach him in a unit interval of i second, as shown in the fifth. If the bell is struck, it will give its normal pitch or frequency, which we will also call unity, in the sixth column. Now imagine case b where the observer is on a he is i,ioo feet train advancing toward S. When distant,the gun is fired,but as he is advancing toward it, hears itat O in rather lessthan a second, he as shown in the fifthcolumn. The velocity of the than unity, sound with regard to him is rather more If the bell is as shown in the fourth column. sounded, the pitch, that is the frequency, is raised, because he receives more per second sound waves before. than In case c the observer is stationary, but the source feet of sound is receding. At a distance of i,ioo the gun is fired,and the observer hears it after an intervalof just one second, as in case a. The velocities

with regard to the observer and through the are medium also unity. If the bell is struck the pitch is lowered, sincehe receivesfewer sound waves per second, the reverse of case b.

19

290

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

In

1,100

case

When

waves

d imagine the source and the observer feet apart, and advancing on the same train. the gun is fired,the velocity of the sound

will be greater with regard to the observer, and he will hear the sound in less than a second, as in case b. When the bell is struck it will have the a. as in case normal pitch,the same We find therefore that for sound the velocitywith is always unity, while the regard to the medium velocitywith regard to the observer, and the interval elapsed, depend only on the motion of the observer himself, and are independent of the motion of the The frequency of the vibrations, on the source. other hand, depends only on the relativemotion of but is independent of the observer and the source, their common motion in any direction. Further, it makes no difference whether the source and the

observer are moving on a train,or whether they are stationary,and a uniform wind Is blowing past them. In the case of light waves we shall find a very quency different state of affairs, although the rules for frefor sound. In case are as they are the same 4 we have the normal conditions, where both the

THE

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SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

29

B observers are stationary. In case have a representation of the Michelson-Morley we experiment as supplemented by that of Majorana,^ is stationary and the observer adwhere the source vances UnHke interval the case of sound, the the elapsed, as shown by the experiment, is now in case A, and since the distance to the same as observer is less, the velocity of light with respect to the ether must also be less than unity. Since the observer is advancing against the light, this will permit the velocity of light with regard to the observer to remain unity, in conformity with the second b for principle of relativity. Compare with case expresses it,"The velocityof light sound. As Jeans in all directionsis the same, whatever the motion of the observer."^ That is to say it appears to be the to him, however he moves. same Case C represents Einstein's statement, as confirmed by Majorana'sexperiment. It does not differfrom case c for sound. Case D is more complex, but accepting the statement above that the velocity is constant with regard to the observer, we

source

and

that the velocity through the medium must be less,and that the interval elapsed will be constant, B. Could we use the brighter stars and as in case planets as sources of light,several of these cases could be further tested. This brings us at once to statements that contradict For instance, our common sense. Jeansays "no matter what the velocityof the observer is,the light surface, as observed by that observer, is invariably a sphere having that That is observer as center."^ to say the lightsurface, front,is a contractor wave

see

292

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ing, not

expanding, sphere. This, if confirmed, would go a long way toward making our universe a phenomenon. subjective rather than an objective flash of light,such as an explosion, Again imagine a to occur when an observer is in a given position. It makes no difference how the observer may move while the light is approaching him, whether several miles forward or backward, the light will reach him in exactly the same time, as is shown by Michelson's experiment. Or if two observers are at the same ward, forspot when the explosion occurs, and one moves and the other backward, they willboth see the instant. explosion at exactly the same This sounds ridiculous,but not only is it what Jeans says, but it is the logical interpretation of by Einstein's second principle,if Einstein means velocity,velocity with regard to the observer. If he means velocity with regard to the medium, then as that of sound in air, the case is exactly the same and Michelson's experiment as well as the MaxwellLorentz theory of light are contradicted. This theory is now universally accepted, and Michelson's server experiment has been carefullyrepeated by other oband fully confirmed. This is the very heart

an

question. of the relativity itcomes to this. If we state the matter objectively The velocity of light with regard to the ether is a variable quantity, depending merely on where the As Eddington well says, observer chooses to go. on "these relationsto the ether have no effect the and can be disregarded a step which phenomena of appears to divest the ether of the last remnants

"

substantiality."*

THE

PHYSICAL

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OF

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293

only way of avoiding this apparent absurdity to be to consider that the ether moves seems with Michelson's result would then be fully the earth. thiscan only be true for a few explained. Of course miles above the earth's surface. Beyond that the ether must either be stationary or move with the The velocity of hght with regard to the ether sun. as just the velocity of would then be a constant, sound is constant with regard to the air. This would contradict Einstein's second principle as it is The trouble with this suggenerally understood. gestion is that it fails to account for aberration,

The

which, as already explained, appears to require that the earth should be moving through the ether. To meet this emergency would Involve some tion modificaof the undulatory theory of light, which apparent would not be impossible, but has not yet been made. In 19 1 5 Einstein brought out an extension of his firstprinciple. This he calls the "general theory of relativity." It states that in our choice of coordina "should not be limited In any systems we way so far as their state of motion is concerned."^ This leads to the three astronomical consequences mentioned later In this paper, two of which have been more lessconfirmed, and the third practically or are contradicted as far as quantitative measures

concerned.^ As is well known the kinetic energy of a moving body may be expressed as ^ yimv', but If the body Is charged electrically, the fraction becomes y2{m-{where m Is a quantity dependent on w^')'u^ the square of the electrical charge. That is to say,

=

294

we

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

have the normal mass of the body, and also what If when in this we may call its electricalmass. is electrical, the condition a portion of the mass question at once occurs to us, why may not the whole in be electrical, other words, a form of energy? mass Although this has not been satisfactorilyproved hitherto,yet such is the general belief among physicists. As Einstein puts it "inert mass is nothing else The same idea is sometimes than latent energy."^ is due expressed as "the mass of ordinary matter to the electromagnetic energy of Its ultimate particles, and electromagnetic energy wherever found inertia."^ If that is so, since i.e., must possess mass, a ray of light on the undulatory theory is a form of electromagnetic energy, it too must possess mass. Since allmass with which we are familiar is subject to the attractionof it that gravitation, seemed likely In a ray of light would be bent out of Its course the sun, and this as we have seen was passing near proved to be true at the recent solar eclipse. That portion of the mass of a body due to its electricalharge can be readily shown experimentally c Einstein has to vary with the velocity of the body. as to be true of the normal mass, shown the same i is illustrated n the advance of the perihelionof the He has also pointed out that orbit of Mercury. gravitation, Inertia and centrifugal force are all closelyrelated,and obey similar laws. Thus If we rise from the earth with accelerated velocity,we ity apparently increase our weight. Again If the velocof rotation of the earth on its axis should be increased,our weight would be diminished. These

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

295

to consider the suggestive when we come of gravitation. ultimate cause Another fact which must be rather startlingto the is no is older school of scientists that momentum longer simply mv, mass times velocity, but that the

are

facts

m

For ordinary velocitiesthis correction is extremely small, but it has been shown to be necessary, both theoreticallyand experimentally, when dealing with familiar. the high velocitieswith which we are now is The theory of relativity so widespread in its applicationthat several other theories have become less intimately combined with it,for which or more Einstein is in no way responsible. One of these is

known

theory, that all in the direction bodies are to subject a contraction first suggested of their motions through space. This was in order to explain the Michelson-Morley experiment, but has proved inadequate to do so, particularlywhen the observer is receding from the This contraction is expressed by the same source.

as

the Fitzgerald-Lorentz

factor used in the denominator of the revised expressi Again the for momentum, given above. for large bodies that even quantity c is so enormous,

to planetary velocitiesthe contraction amounts very little. Thus the earth moving at a speed of flattened eighteen miles per second in its orbit, is only 1/200,000,000, or 2.5 inches. On the other at

296

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

hand for high velocities many thousand miles per of second, such as we have become familiar with in the case of the radioactive substances, the flatteningis a very considerable fraction of the diameter of the moving body, one-half or more, and in the case of the corpuscles of light, if that theory were ameter adopted, this flatteningbecomes equal to the diand theirthickness is reduced to zero. When we view Einstein'stheories from the astronomical tivity standpoint, the earliestfact bearing on relathat we the discovery of need consider was aberration, by Bradley, in 1726, as seen above. In 1872 Airy observed the star Y Draconis through a Since the velocity of telescope filledwith water. light is lessin water than In air,we should naturally expect to find the aberration appreciably Increased. It was found, on the other hand, however, to be

'

unaffected. In 1887 the results of the famous MichelsonMorley experiment were published.^ In this experime in the velocity of light was measured various directionswith regard to the motion of the earth In Its orbit. If the ether were stationary,and the earth moving through it, different velocities should be obtained In differentdirections. Such was however, and the experiment indicated not the case that the ether moved with the earth. It thus flatly contradicted the conclusions founded on aberration. Einstein'sSpecial Theory of Relativity, of 1905, have seen, resolves this as we contradiction. But as we shall presently see, It is the General Theory, of 191 5, that leads to astronomical applications of broad scope. It Indicates, for Instance, that there is

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

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297

no

tia. essential differencebetween gravitation and InerThis idea may be crudely illustratedby our feelings of Increased weight when an elevator starts A man rapidly upwards. while falling freely in

space

ceases

feel the pull of gravitation. But we must not as yet concelv^e of the theory of as relativity a universally accepted and unquestioned truth of science. Eddington is its leading English as Jeans, exponent, and he is supported by such men Larmor, On the other hand, the and Jeffreys. by theory has been severely criticised Lodge, Fowler, Few American Sllberstein, scientists and Sampson. have expressed any opinions in print on the

to

subject,

which and the recent shall refer later, are to be repeated with more suitable Instruments for verification in 1922, in the hope of accurate obtaining more and accordant results.^ An appurtenance of the Einstein theories which bears much the same relation to them as does the Lorentz-FItzgerald contraction, mentioned above, is the Idea, first clearly stated by Minkowski, that time fourth dimension. This the is a kind of space a diflUcult reader will doubtless find to be the most portion of the theory to picture in his own mind. It is entirelyunsupported by experiment or observation, necessarily so, and is based wholly on mathematical tween and philosophical conceptions. Our distinctionbeto be that the direction space and time seems in which we progress without effortistime; the other directions, which we have to make an exertion to in move are ourselves, or in which we carried, are How dimensions empty space. many space may have, we really have no means of knowing, because

we

"

eclipseobservations, to

298

we

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

neither see nor feel It. Matter we know has three, length, breadth, and thickness, also that it from us in three corresponding direclies remote tions. These facts may have given us the erroneous impression that space too has only three dimensions. Now it is claimed that time is a fourth, and that

can

there are also others. In order to illustrate this,Eddington asks us to imagine a movie film taken of a man or of any moving object.Let the separate pictures be cut apart and piled on one another. This would form a sort of pictorial history of the individual for a in brief intervalin his life, the form of a cube. If we attempt to pick it up, it falls apart, thus clearly showing the differencebetween time and space. But suppose it now all glued together in one solid cube, so that itis no easier to cut a section in one direction than in another. That is Minkowski's idea of space and time, and further, that the direction in which we should cut it depends merely on the velocitywith which we are moving through space. I should cut it parallel to the films, but a man on a rapidly moving in order to separate it into space and time, star, direction. That is a thing would cut itin an inclined which may be true, but it is one which we believe no

can mortal man clearlypictureto himself. On the other hand Turner has recently made a sion very interesting point," namely, that the fourth dimenas actually treated by the methematicians is not but time multiplied by a constant time itself, the light." Without affecting the astronomivelocityof cal

"

proofs

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

299

than any more time and space cannot be identical, a yard can be identical with a quart. On what is known to physicists as the centimeter-gram-second by m^ and system, distance is represented by /, mass time by t. Velocity is then distance divided by time, feet l/t, or as we say in English units, so many be exper second, and the fourth dimension may presse I. as time multiplied by velocity,t X l/t That is to say, it is simply distance, just like the To say that time Is the other three dimensions. fourth dimension from this point of view, appears to us just as ridiculous as It would be to attempt to measure the velocityof a train In quarts. It is quite however, although unusual, to speak of a correct,

=

given train as moving at a speed of 10 quarts per l/t. This would be square Inch per second, l^/Pt equivalent to a velocity of 33 miles per hour. If I wish to give a complete dimensional description

=

of myself In my four dimensions, I must give ever my length, my breadth, and my thickness, since I came Into being, and also the course I have traversed through space since that time. This latter distance will be expressed In terms of a unit whose length Is 186,000 miles, the distance traversed by In one second. The distance which I travel iight through space annually Is enormous, and very complex as to direction. It Involves not merely my own or take a train or the room, motions as I cross but also those due to the rotation of the steamer, earth on Its axis, Its revolution round the sun, and the motion of the latter through the heavens. In general I travel, or In other words Increase my length In the fourth dimension, by over 4,000 units

300

a

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

fourth dimension accordingly, if this view is accepted, is simply a distance like the other three, and perfectly easy to understand. to the three actual tests by which We now come the theory has been tried. The planets as is well known revolve about the sun in ellipses,with the in one of the foci. That is to say, the sun is sun on one not in the center, but a little side of it. The nearest end of the ellipsewhere the planet comes to the sun iscalledthe perihelion, and here the planet is moving most rapidly. The other end is called the aphelion, and here the motion is slowest. According to Newton's theory of gravitation,if a spherical sun possesses a single planet or companion. Itsorbit will be permanently fixed in space unless perturbed by If a second planet exist,it will some other body. cause the perihelion of the first slowly to advance. According to Einstein the mass of a planet depends in part on Its velocity. It will therefore be less at aphelion where ItIs moving slowly than at perihelion In addition where It Is moving rapidly, consequently have another one to the Newtonian attraction we The effect which increases as we approach the sun. the perihelion of the orbit of this will be to cause to advance, whether there Is a second planet or not. Among the larger planets Mercury has the most most rapidly, so eccentric orbit, and It also moves that it is particularly tivity well adapted to test the relaitsperiheltheory. The observed advance of ion is 574" per century. Instead of the theoretical figure 532", due to the other planets a difference This has long been a puzzling discrepancy of 42"." between observation and the law of gravitation.

year.

The

"

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

3OI

Prior to Einstein, attempts were made to eliminate it by assuming a certain oblateness of the solar disk. If the equatorial diameter exceeded the polar by only o".5 the whole advance would be accountea for, but not only has this ellipticity failed of detection, but if it existed,itshould produce a very noticeable and inadmissible change in the incHnation of Mercury's orbit, amounting to about 3" per century, has been demonstrated by both Herzer as and Newcomb/^ Einstein from computations alone, without introducing hypotheses whatever, or constants any new be accepted, that showed, if the theory of relativity the

sun

should produce an acceleration of 43" per century, thus entirely accounting for the observed discrepancy, far within the limits of accuracy of the observations. The only other planet whose orbit has a large eccentricity, vesti and that is suitable for inis the planet Mars. Here the discrepancy between observation and theory is very slight, only 4", and a portion of that may be due to the attraction of the asteroids. This deviation is so slight that it may well be due entirely to accidental errors be, of observation, but however that may Einstein'stheory reduces it to i" .'j. This all seems very satisfactory and complete, but the trouble with it is that the coincidence for Mercury is rather too good. It is based on the assumption that the sun is a perfect sphere, and that the density of itssurface isuniform from the equator to the poles. This would doubtless be true if the did not revolve on its axis. In point of fact it sun does revolve, in a period in general of about 26

302

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

days.

Consequently

an

on object

its equator

must

of centrifugal force. experience a certain amount Therefore if itssurface were of uniform density the shape of the sun would be an oblate spheroid. It can be readily shown that the theoreticalexcess the polar diameter, due to of the equatorial over

to only o".04, the centrifugal force, should amount an amount servat which could hardly be detected by oband might readily be concealed by a slight excess able of equatorial over polar density. Any reasonexcess of density at the center would diminish this resultbut slightly. The molecular weight of the is probably about 2. This computed central materiaP is one-twelfth of the amount equatorial excess

the observed advance, and should an therefore cause advance of the perihelion of tween about 3".5 per century, reducing the differencebethe observed advance and that caused by vance gravitation to 38".5. According to Einstein the addue to relativityshould be, as we saw, 43", discrepancy of 4". 5 per century, or 10 per cent. a has Jeffreys remarked that any discrepancy such as "would be fatal to a theory such as Einstein's, 10" which contains no arbitrary constituentcapable of "^* It must be to suit empirical facts. adjustment pointed out here however, that so far as known, this helion small correction to the motion of Mercury's perihas not previously been suggested, so that cism there has been no opportunity hitherto for Itscritiby others. It was due largely to the success with Mercury decided to put the relativity theory to that it was another test. According to the Newtonian theory,

necessary

to cause

One

The

arrows

have serted inbeen to the star-images pointing by hand; have had themselves and the star-images in order to make to be materially them strengthened show

in the engraving

submitted

by

courtesy

at

all.

by

Dr. of the Alexander McAdic, Royal Observatory,

Photograph

Harvard Greenwich.

University,

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

303

himself, corpuscles as well as stated by Newton planets have mass, and must therefore be attracted According to Einstein, owing to their by the sun. high velocity,this attraction must be twice as great as itwould be according to the theory of gravitation. If the ray of light proceeding from a star were to limb it should be pass nearly tangent to the sun's deflectedo".87 according to Newton. According to it the theory of relativity should be deflected i".7S. Stars of course cannot the usually be observed near It is therefore necessary to take advantage of sun. a total solar eclipse, when the sun is completely hidden by the moon, in order to secure these observations.

as

Two expeditions,one to Africa, and one to South America, observed successfullythe total eclipse of The former was located on the May 29, 19 19. Island of Principe in the Gulf of Guinea. The latter located at Sobral, Brazil. Their equipment and was results are shown in the following table, where the successivecolumns give the location,the aperture in Inches of the telescopes employed, their focus in feet, the number of plates secured, the number of deduced deflectionfrom stars measured, their mean their true positionsby the attractionof the sun, and In the deviations from the theoreticalresults.^^ the first and last line of the table shown herewith, this

Location

Principe SAral

Aperture

13 13

Focus

11

Plates

2 19

Stars

5

13 7

Defl.

l".60

"

Dev.

0".15

11 19

0 1 .93

.9"

(+0 +0

.06)

.23

value of

304

I ".75.

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

In the second line the difference shown Is from the v"ilue required by the Newtonian theory, o".87. The resultsobtained with thistelescope were however, although they were much the most rejected because itwas found that for some numerous, reason, supposed to be the heating of the mirror by the before the eclipse,the star images were sun slightly focus, and were out of therefore considered unreliable. The resultswith the two other telescopes were not very accordant, but the 4-"inchhad the longer focus, secured the greater number of plates, and The results showed the greater number of stars. obtained with it therefore appear to have been the more reliable. They differ from Einstein's prediction by 13 per cent. In future expeditions to test this question, the mirror in front of the telescope will be

eliminated.

the final test which has been applied to Einstein's theory. Einstein showed that in the intense gravitational field of the sun, the theory of relativity required that allof the spectrum lines should be shifted shghtly toward the red end. The shifthowever is exceedingly small, and can only be detected and measured with the most powerful instruments. Moreover only certain lines modern be used, because owing to varying pressure in can lines, as the solar atmosphere, which affectsmany well as to rapid motion in the line of sight, which larger displacements are may affectallof them, still liable to occur. According to the theory of relativity ment the displaceof the linesshould be + 0.0080 A. St.John at Mt. Wilson found a displacement for the cyanogen

We

now

come

to

THE

PHYSICAL

SIDE

OF

RELATIVITY

305

linesof only + 0.0018 A/* Evershed at Kodaikanal found + 0.0060 at the north pole of the sun, and + 0.0080 at the south pole. These latter values however were only for the stronger lines. The as do those of weaker lines give much smaller shifts, According to Einstein all calcium and magnesium."

lines should give nearly the same shift,an amount length. It therefore appears proportional to the wave that we must conclude by saying that Einstein's but not comhas been partially, theory of relativity pletely,

verified.

do with the to in the above text have nothing The reference numbers the work to acknowledge in other parts this volume of of numbers used follows: as they refer to Dr. Pickering's sources, the various contestants; Uourn. Brit. Astron. Asso., 1919, 30, 76. 167, 71. 165. 424, and Rendus, ^Comptcs Notices R. A. S.. 1919, 80, 104. monthly 77, 879. R. A. S.. 1917, Notices *Monthly Journ. Brit. Astro. Asso., 1920, '^Astro-Physical Journal, 1917, 46. 249.

30, 276.

monthly Notices, R. A. S., 1917, 77, 377. ''Amer. Journ. Sci.. 34, 333. Notices, R. A. S., 1920, 80, 628. "Monthly Note Book. Oxford From an 1920, April. ^The Observatory 80, 121, Sitter, 1919, 78, 3 De R. A. S., 1917, Notices, "'"Monthly 80, 145 Jeffreys. Jeans, " , Royal Principle ""Gravitation the of Relativity," Eddington. and Institution of Great Britain. 1918. Assoc. 1920, 30, 125. Brit. Astron. ^Uourn. Scientia, 1918, 23, 15. ""The Interior of a Star," Eddjngton. Notices, R. A. S., 1919, 80, 138. ^monthly ^ Journ. Brit. Astron. Asso., Notices, R. A. S., 1920, 80. 415. "Monthly

^ ,

,.

"

1919,

SO,

f(l.

46. 249.

1920,

30, 276.

20

XVIII

THE

Best Discussion All the Among

BY professor PRINCETON henry of

The

the NORRIS

RUSSELL,

university

small child catch a baseball moving sixty miles an hour without getting hurt? We should "No" probably answer ^but suppose that the boy side by side in an express and his father were sitting to tossed lightly from one train, and the ball was the other. Then there would be no trouble about

CAN

"

or it,whether the train was standing still, going at fullspeed. Only the relative motion of ball and boy would count. This every-day experience is a good illustration of the much discussed Principle of Relativity, in its no the jolting, motion simplest form. If there were

speed, would straight ahead at a uniform of the train, have no at effect all upon the relative motions of inside it,nor on the forces required to produce objects or change these motions. Indeed, the motion is free from all jar, of the earth in its orbit,which but a thousand times faster,does not influenceeven

the

most

We

know

are

PRACTICAL

SIGNIFICANCE

OF

RELATIVITY

307

moving, If we could not see other bodies outside it. This sort of relativity has been recognized for more than two centuries and lies at the bottom of all our ordinary dynamical reasoning, upon which both science and engineering are based. But there arc other things in nature besides moving bodies, above all,light,which is intimately related to electricity and magnetism, and can travel through It moves at the empty space, between the stars.

was

"

speed of 186,000 miles per second, and behaves exactly like a seriesof vibrations or "waves." We naturally think of it as travellingthrough some medium, and call this thing, which carries the light, the "ether." Can we tellwhether we are moving through this though all parts of our apparatus move ether, even together, and at the same rate? Suppose that we

M

enormous

H-^

mirrors, M and N, at equal distances,d, a point O, but in directions at right angles to one another, and send out a flash of light from O. flasheswill eviIf everything is at rest, the reflected dently back to O at the same instant,and the come

have from

two

308

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

if c is the velocity elapsed time will be 2d/c seconds of light. But suppose that O, M, and N are fastened to a rigid frame work, and all moving in the direction O M, with velocityV. The light which goes from O toward M, at the speed c, will overtake it with

v, taking d/(c the differenceof their speeds, c v) On the way back, O will be to reach M. seconds and the return trip will occupy advancing to meet it, d/(cH-v) seconds. The elapsed time for the round out trip comes 2cd/(c" v") seconds, which is longer than when the system was at rest the loss of "stern time in the chase" exceeding the saving on the return.

" "

"

"

from N has a different The lightwhich is reflected it starts, O and N have certain history. When positions in the ether, d and Ni. By the time it reaches the mirror, thisis at Ng, and O is at O2, and O3. The distances for when it returns, itfindsO at are the outward and inward journeys now equal, but (as is obvious from the figure), each of them is greater than d, or Oo N2, and the time for the round trip will be correspondingly increased. A simple v'. shows that ItIs 2d/Vc' calculation The Increaseabove the time required when the system was at rest islessin thiscase than the preceding. Hence, Ifthe apparatus Ismoving through the ether, the flashesreflectedfrom M and N will not return instant. at the same

"

"

For such velocities are attainable -even the 18 as ferenc difmiles per second of the earth in its orbit the is less than a hundred-millionth of the

"

PRACTICAL

SIGNIFICANCE

OF

RELATIVITY

3O9

elapsed time. Nevertheless, MIchelson and Morley tried to detect it in their famous experiment. A beam of lightwas allowed to fallobliquely upon a clear glass mirror at (placed O in the diagram) which reflected part of it toward the mirror, M, By and let the rest pass through to the mirror N. reuniting the beams after their round trips,it was had gained upon the possible to tell whether one a small fraction tion other by even of the time of vibraThe apparatus was so of a single light wave. sensitive that the predicted difference, though amounting to less than a millionth part of a billionth of a second, could easily have been measured; but

at they actually found no difference all though the earth is certainlyin motion. intricate,and Other optical experiments, more delicate, even more were attempted, with the same o objectf detecting the motion of the earth through the ether; and they all failed.

"

The

Special

Theory

and

Its Surprising

Consequences these facts that Einstein based his sumed original, or "special" theory of Relativity. He asboldly that the universe is so constituted that uniformstraight-ahead motion of an observer and all his apparatus zvillnot produce any diferenee whatever in the result of any physical process or experiment of any kind. Granting this,It follows In that If allobjects the visible moving universe were how uniformly together In any direction,no matter fast,we could not find this out at all. We cannot It

was

upon

3IO

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

determine whether the universe, as a whole, is at as rest or in motion, and may well make one guess as another. Only the relative motions of its parts be detected or studied. can This seems simple and easy enough to understand. But the consequences which follow from it are extraord firstacquaintance seem and at almost absurd. In the firstplace, if an observer measures the he result, velocity of light, must always get the same how fast he and his apparatus are moving, no matter in what direction (so long as the motion is unior form This and rectilinear). sounds harmless; but let us go back to the Michelson-Morley experiment back in exactly the same time where the light came from the two mirrors. If the observer supposes himself to be at rest, he will say that the distances O M and O N were equal. But if he fancies that the whole universe is moving in the directionO M, he will conclude that M is nearer to O than N is for if they were equidistant,the round-trip would have proved. If case, as we take longer in the first he fancies that the universe is moving once more in the direction O N, he will conclude that N is is. His answer nearer to the question to O than M 0 N, is the distances, 0 M two or ^which of the depend on his assumption greater will

"

as a whole. about the Similar complications arise in the measurement of time. Suppose that we have two observers, A and B, provided with clocks which run with perfect uniformity

light signals to one and mirrors to reflect another. At noon exactly by his clock, A sends a

PRACTICAL

SIGNIFICANCE

OF

RELATIVITY

I I

flashof lighttowards B. B sees it come in at 12 :oi by his dock. The flash reflected from B's mirror by A's clock. They communireaches A at 12:02 cate

these observations to one another. If A and B regard themselves as being at rest, they will agree that the light took as long to go out back, and therefore that it reached as itdid to come B at just :oi by A's clock,and that the two clocks 12 are synchronized. But they may, if they please, are that they (and the whole universe) suppose moving in the directionfrom A towards B, with half the speed of light. They will then say that the light had a "stern chase" to reach B, and took three times back. This means as long to go out as to come that it got to B at i"^ minutes past noon by A's clock, and that B's clock is slow compared with A's. If they should assume that they were moving with the same speed in the opposite direction, they would conclude that B's clock is half a minute fast. Hence their answer to the question whether two at different events tim^, places happen at the same or at different times, will depend on their assumption

about the motion of the universe as a whole. Once more, let us suppose that A and B, with

their clocks and mirrors, are In relative motion, with half the speed of light,and pass one another at by A's clock, he by both clocks. At 12:02 noon sends a flash of light,which reaches B at 12:04 by his clock, is reflected, and gets back to A's clock at 12:06. They signal these resultsto each other, and sitdown to work them out. A thinks that he is at He therefore concludes that rest, and B moving. distance to go out as to rethe light had the same

312

turn

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

him and took two seconds each way, reaching B at 12:04 by A's clock, and that the two clocks, are running which agreed then, as well as at noon, at the same rate. B, on the contrary, thinks that he is at rest and A in motion. He then concludes that A was much he sent out the flashthan when he got nearer when it back, and that the hght had three times as far This means to travel on the return that it journey. was 12:03 by A's clock at the instant when the light reached B and B's clock read 12:04. Hence A's clock is running slow, compared with B's. Hence the answer terval into the question whether two time, measured by observers who are in

to

of

motion

or relative to one another, are of the same durations, depends upon their assumptions of different about the motion of the universe as a whole. Now we must that one assumption remember

about the motion of the universe as a whole is axbad or as another. No possible actly as good Hence distinguish between them. experiment can on the Principle of Relativity,we have left no absolute measurement of time or space. Whether two directionsare to be called equal distancesin different

"

"

whether two events in differentplaces are depends on our to be called simultaneous or not arbitrary choice of such an assumption, or "frame ment of reference." All the various schemes of measurecorresponding to these assumptions will,w^hen applied to any imaginable experiment, predict exactly But, in certain important the same phenomena. cases, these predictionsdifferfrom those of the old familiar theory, and, every time that such experior

not

"

"

PRACTICAL

SIGNIFICANCE

OF

RELATIVITY

313

have been tried,the result has agreed with the new theory, and not with the old. We are therefore driven to accept the theory of "true s relativity,trange as itis,as being more nearly to nature" than our older ideas. Fortunately, the difference between the results of the two become important only when we assume that the whole visible universe is moving together much faster than any of itsparts are moving relatively one another. Unless to

ments

we

unwarranted assumption, the genio indifferencesare so small that it takes the most and precise experiments to reveal them.

make

such

an

The

Not

content

Generalization

with all this,Einstein proceeded, a few years ago, to develop a "general" theory of relativity,hich includes the effectsof gravitation. w To make this idea clear, let us imagine two observer each, with his measuring instruments, in a large and perfectly impervious box, which forms

his "closed system." The firstobserver, with his box and its contents, alone In space. Is entirely at rest. The second observer, with his box and its contents, Is,It may be imagined, near the earth or the ence or some sun star, and fallingfreely under the influ-

of its gravitation. This second box and its contents, Including the observer, will then fallunder the gravitationalforce, that is, get up an ever-increasingspeed, but at exactly rate, so that there will be no tendency the same for theirrelativepositionsto be altered.

314

RELATIVITY

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principles,this will make not the slightest difference in the motions of the tracti comprising the system or their atphysical objects one on ment another, so that no dynamical experidistinguish between the condition of the can freely falling observer in the second box and the observer at rest in the first. But once more the question arises: What could be done by an optical experiment? Einstein assumed that the principle of relativity imposstill applied in this case, so that it would be sible to distinguish between the conditions of the observers in the two boxes by any opticalexperiment. It can easily be seen that It follows from this new that light cannot travel in generalized relativity a straight line in a gravitational field. Imagine that the first observer sets up three slits, all in a straight line. A ray of light which passes actly through the firstand second will obviously pass exthrough the third. Suppose the observer in the freely fallingsystem P, attempts the same experiment, having his slits Q, R, equally spaced, and placing them at right When angles to the directionin which he is falling.

According

to

Newton's

will be in certhe light passes through P, the slits tain Pi Qi Ri (Figure). By the time position

PRACTICAL

SIGNIFICANCE

OF

RELATIVITY

315

it reaches Q, they will have fallen to a lower level. P2 Q2 R2, and when it reaches R, they will be still lower, P3 Q3 R3. The times which the light takes from P to Q and Q to R will be the same : to move but, since the system Is fallingever faster and faster the distance R. R3 will be greater than Qi QaHence, if the light which has passed through P and in a straight line, it will strike above R, Q moves is illustratedby the straight line in the figure. as But, on Einstein's assumption, the light must go as through the third slit, it would do in the system

in a curved line, move and must therefore like the curved line in the figure, and bend down' ward in the direction of the gravitationalforce.

at

rest,

The

Tests

or the moon planets would be too small to detect. But for a ray which had passed near the sun, the deflection comes mer astronoout 1.7",which the modern regards as a large quantity, easy to measure. be made only at a Observations to test this can

can total eclipse,when we photograph stars near the sun, on a nearly dark sky. A very fine chance in May, 19 19, and two English expeditions came These were sent to Brazil and the African coast. care, and photographs were measured with extreme they show that the stars actually appear to be shifted, In almost exactly the way predicted by Einstein's

theory. Is Another consequence of "general relativity" that Newton's law of gravitation needs a minute

31 6

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

correction. This is so small that there is but a single case in which it can be tested. On Newton's the theory, the line joining sun to the nearest point upon a planet's orbit (its should remain perihelion) fixed in direction, (barring tracti certain effectsof the atof the other planets, which can be allowed for). On Einstein's theory it should move slowly It has been known for years that the forward. perihelion of Mercury was actuallymoving forward, and all explanations had failed. But Einstein's theory not only predicts the direction of the motion, but exactly the observed amount. Einstein also predicts that the lines of any element in the solar spectrum should be slightlyshifted towards the red, as compared with those produced in laboratories. Different observers have investigated our this,and so far they disagree. The trouble is that there are several other influences which may phere, shift the lines,such as pressure in the sun's atmosmotion of currents on the sun's surface, etc., and itis very hard to disentangle this Gordian knot. At present, the results of these observations can neither be counted for or against the theory, while those in the other two cases are decisivelyfavorable. The mathematical expression of this general relativity is intricate and difficult.Mathematicians who are used to conceptions which are unfamiliar, if

"

incomprehensible, to most of us find that these the trained student) expressions maybe described (to in terms of space of four dimensions and of the We therefore hear such non-Euclidean geometry. phrases as "time as a sort of fourth dimension," "curvature of space" and others. But these are

not

"

PRACTICAL

SIGNIFICANCE

OF

RELATIVITY

3I7

"

simply attempts not altogether successful to put mathematical relationships into ordinary language, instead of algebraic equations. More important to the general reader are the theory, and these are physical bearings of the new far easier to understand. Various assumptions which we may make about the motion of the universe as a whole, though they do not influence the observed facts of nature, will lead us to differentways of interpreting our observations

"

of space and tim^e. Theoretically, one of these assumptions is as good as any other. Hence we no longer believe in absolute space and time. This is of great interest it philosophically. Practically, is unimportant, for,

measurements

as

unless our choice of an assumption is very wild, our conclusions and measurements will agree substantia familiar. with those which are already Finally,the "general" relativity tation shows that gravi"

(including and electro-magneticphenomena do light) not form two independent sides of nature, once as we another supposed, but influence one

(thoughslightly) and

are

parts of

one

greater whole.

XIX

A Simple

Explanation

of

OF

His

Postulates

and

Their

by kodaikanal

Consequences

t.

royds, india

observatory,

resent seeks to reprelativity to us as it really is instead of the world of appearances which may be deceiving us. When I was in town lastweek to buy 5 yards of calico I watched the draper very carefully as he measured Yet exnot cheated. the cloth to make sure I was perime demonstrate, and Einstein's theory can can explain, that the draper's yardstick became longer or shorter according to the direction in which it was held. The length of the yardstick did not appear to me to change simply because everything else in direction,the store, the draper, the cloth, the same the retina of my eye, changed length in the same ratio. Einstein's theory points out not only this, but every case where appearances are deceptive, and

triesto show us the world of reality. Einstein's theory is based on the principle of and before we try to follow his reasoning relativity we must time in understanding what he spend a little

EINSTEIN'S

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

319

by ^'relativity" and in grasping how the idea my motion as I arises. Suppose I wish to define I may be moving travel along in an automobile. hour relative to at the rate of 25 miles an objects senger fixed on the roadside, but relative to a fellow-pasmeans

moving at all; relative to the sun I am moving with a speed of 18^ miles per second in an elliptical rbit, and again relative to the stars o I am moving in the direction of the star Vega at a speed of 12 miles per second. Thus motion can

am

not

or only be defined relative to some object point of this is not satisfactory to the reference. Now ing, are not content exact scientist. Scientists with knowfor example, that the temperature of boiling C, relative to the temperature Is + 100" water of determine to freezing; they have set out solute abtemperatures and have found that water Why C. above absolute zero. boils at 373" determine the absolute should I not, therefore, its motion relative to motion of the automobile, not the road, earth, sun or stars, but relative to absolute rest? in their famous Michelson and Morley set out the absolute velocity of their experiment to measure fixed on the earth. laboratory, which was, of course, The rays of experiment consisted of timing two two light over equal tracks at right angles to each one track was situated in the direction other. When to get the same of the earth's motion they expected are scullers of equal prowess result as when two down the stream and racing in a river, one up and be the the other acrross and back; the winner will

320

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

the stream, as working out an scullerrowing across example will convince. Even if the earth had been stationary at the time of one experiment, the earth's motion round the sun would have been reversed 6 months later and would then have given double the effect.They found, however, that the two rays of light arrived always an exact dead heat. All experimen who have tried since have arrived at the same resultand found itimpossible to detect absolute motion. The principleof relativity has its foundation in fact on these failures detect absolute motion. This to can ever principle states that the only motion we know about is relative motion. If we devise an experime ture which ought to reveal absolute motion, nawill enter into a conspiracy to defeat us. In the Michelson and Morley experiment the conspiracy was that the track in the directionof the earth's absolute its length by just so motion should contract much as would allow the ray of light along it to arrive up to time. We see, therefore,that according to the principle motion must always remain a relative of relativity tal, term, in much the same way as vertical and horizonhaving only right and left,are relativeterms meaning when referred to some observer. We do not expect to find an absolute verticaland are wise enough not to attempt it:in seeking to find absolute were not so wise and only found motion physicists themselves baffled. The principle that all motion Is relativenow requires to be worked out to all its consequences, as

EINSTEIN^S

THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

32

has been done by Einstein,and we have his theory of relativity. Einstein conceives a world of four dimensions built up of the three dimensions of wards, space, namely up and down, backwards and forsion. right and left, with time as the fourth dimenThis is an unusual conception to most of us, let us simplify it into something which we so can more easily picture but which will still allow us to grasp Einstein'sideas. Let us confineourselves for the present to events which happen on this sheet of to paper, i,e., space of two dimensions only and take time as our third dimension at right angles to the We have thus builtup a three plane of the paper. dimensional world of space-time which Is every bit as useful to us as a four dimensional representation long as we only need study so moving over

objects

the sheet of paper. Suppose a flyis crawling over this sheet of paper and let us make a movie record of it. If we cut up the strip of movie film into the individual pictures and cement them together one above another in their proper order, we shallbuild up a solid block of film which will be a model of our simplifiedworld of space-time and in which there will be a series of dots representing the motion of the fly over the Justas I can state the exact position of an paper. in by defining itsheight above the object my room tance floor,its distance from the north wall and its disfrom the east wall, so we can reduce the positions by of the dots to figuresfor use in calculations secting measuring their distancesfrom the three faces inter-

21

OY,

and

OT,

where

322

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

OXAYTBCD

the block of film. The lines OX, OY, mathematician would call the three Measuring all the dots in OT the coordinate axes. thisway we shallobtain the motion of the flyrelative If we add a OX, OY, OT. to the coordinate axes block OTDYEFGH of plain film we can us EX,

represents

EH,

and again obtain the axes; or we motion of the flyrelativeto these new

as

EF

coordinate

axes

to keep the axes add block after block so as We can conceive of other changes of moving. The operator making the movie record might axes. have taken the fly for the hero of the piece and flymore about so as to keep the moved the camera by turning ; or lesscentralin the picture or he might, fast and then slow and by moving the handle first have made the fly appear to be doing the camera, Moving the camera stunts. would change the axes speeds pf x and y, and turning the handle at different

can

Einstein's

theory

of

relativity

323

we

might change the axes by pushing the block out of shape or by distorting it into a state of strain. Whatever we change of axes make, any dot in the block of film will signify a coincidence of the flywith a certain point of the paper at a certain time, and the series of dots will, in every case, be a representation of the motion of the fly. Maybe the representation will be a distorted one, but who is to say which Is The the absolutely undistorted representation? laid down before principle of relativitywhich we one set of coordinates will give the says that no set Is as absolute motion of the fly, so that one good as another. The principle that all motion is how we therefore, that no matter relative means, change our coordinates of space-time, the laws of for all motion which we deduce must be the same speare analogy, the sculptured head of Shakehave hollow on to table may my appear cheelcswhen I admit light from the east window only, or to have sunken eyes with light from the skylight in the roof, but the true shape of the In all lights. head remains the same

an

changes. To use

Hence, if with reference to two consecutive dots In our block of film a mathematical quantity can how we be found which will not change no matter

changes our axes of coordinates, that quantity must be an expression of the true law of motion of the fly between the two points of the paper and the two times represented by these two dots. Einstein has worked out such a quantity remaining constant

324

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

sional for all changes of coordinates of the four dimenworld of space-time. In passing we may notice a feature of Einstein's shall doubtless find world of space-time which we it difficulto conceive, namely, that there is no est sentia difference between a time and a distance in Since one set of coordinates is as good as space. another, we can transform time into space and space For axes. into time according as we choose our change OX, OT, the axes of x and example if we time in Fig. 2, into OX', OT' by a simple rotation, the new time represented by OT' consistspartly of OA in the old time and partly of OB in the old x block of movie film direction. Referring to our that although I might separate the again, it means block into space and time by slicing It Into the as originalpictures,I can just readily sliceit in any direction I choose and still get individual pictures representing the motion of the flybut with, of course, new timiCand space. So whilstI may be believe that a liner has travelled 3,000 miles In 4 days, an server obknows nothing of mxy particular on a star who in space-time may say, with equal truth, that it axes 2,000 went miles in 7 days. Thus, time and space I are not two separate Identitiesn Einstein'sview; there only existsa world of four dimensions which can we splitup into time and space as we choose. how Einstein explainsgravitation. Let us see now When a body Is not acted on by any forces (except the gravitation) quantity which remains constant for all changes of coordinates implies that the body willfollow that path in the space of an outside

EINSTEIN

S THEORY

OF

RELATIVITY

325

observer which takes the least time. It is an observed fact that one body attracts another by gravitation; is,the path of one body is bent from Its that by the presence of another. Now course can we bend the path of the flyIn our block of film by straining the block in some Suppose, therefore, that way. I strain the world so as to bend the path of a body exactly as the gravitation due to some other body bends it; /. e., by a change of coordinates I have obtained the same effectas that produced by gravitation. Einstein's theory, therefore, explains gravitation as a distortion of the world of space-time due to the presence of matter. Suppose first that a body Is moving with no other bodies near; according to Einstein it will take the path in space which requires the least time, i. e., a straight line as agrees with our the world be strained by the experience. If now presence of another body or by a change of coordinates it will still pursue the path of least time, but distorted from the straight line,just thispath Is now as In a similar way the path on a globe requiring the least time to travel follows a great circle. So, on Einstein's view of gravitation,the earth moves in an path around the sun not because a force elliptical is acting on it,but because the world of space-time Is so distorted by the presence of the sun that the path path of leasttime through space is the elliptical observed. There Is,therefore,no need to introduce any Idea of "force" of gravitation. Einstein'stheory that he has explains gravitation only in the sense explained It away as a force of nature and makes it

a

property of space-time,namely,

distortion not

326

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

different from an appropriate change of coordinates. He does not, however, explain how or why a body distortspace-time. It is noteworthy that whilst can the law of gravitationand the law of uniform motion In a straightline when no force Is acting were rate sepaand Independent laws under Newton, Einstein finds one explanation for both under the principle of relativity.*

balance of Dr. Royds' essay is given to a discussion of the phenomena the deflection of light under perihelia! advance, of Mercury's field of the sun. the Eiavitational nection and the shift in spectral lines, in conEinstein's theory makes are alone predictions which with which those science to be of value with of Newtonian sufficiently at variance In the interest of space conin checking the theory up servation observationally. Dr. Pickering's very in the presence discussioa of complete and Editor. we omit Dr. Royds' etatement. of these matters *The

"

XX

EINSTEIN'S

THEORY

OF

GRAVITATION

The

Discussion Its Most

General Theory Important Application, Essay by FROM the

of

the

and

BY

PROF.

W.

F. G. SWANN,

UNIVERSITY

OF

MINNESOTA

MINNEAPOLIS

that

these could all be summed ment: up in the following stateconsider any planet in its relation to all particles in the universe. Write down, for the planet, in i the line joiningt to any particle,an acceleration proportional to the mass of the particle and to the inverse square of itsdistance from the planet. Then bining calculatethe planet's resultant acceleration by comall the accelerationsthus obtained. We have here purposely avoided the use of the word "force," for Newton's law is complete as a of fact without it; and this word practicalstatement adds nothing to the law by way of enhancing its Nevertheless, the fact that the power In actual use. of non-interfering accelerationis made up as Itwere contributions from each particle In the line joining

It to

the planet strongly suggests to the mind something for which the an elastic pull of the nature of

328

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

particle is responsible, and to which the planet's departure from a straight-hne motion is due. The ever mind likes to think of the elastic; since the time of Newton people have sought to devise some anism mechby which these pulls might be visualized as in the same way as responsible for the phenomena

pictures an elastic thread as controlling the motion of a stone which swings around at itsend. This search has been always without success; and Einstein has found a rather differentlaw which now fitsthe facts better than Newton's law. It is of such a type that it does not lend itselfconveniently to expression in terms of force; the mind would gain nothing by trying to picture such forces as are for this, however, in It compensates necessary. being capable of visualization in terms of what is

one

a ultimately much simpler concept. volve In order to appreciate the fundamental ideas inthat gravitation could suppose for a moment be annihilated,completely, and suppose I find myself upon this earth in empty space. You shall be point in space and shall watch my seated at some in the condition of mind of the doings. If I am

VIII, I shall people of the reign of King Henry If I let go a believe that the earth does not rotate. stone, there being no gravity, I shall find that it flies away from me with an acceleration. You will in a know, however, that the stone really moves

velocity,and that the straight line with constant apparent acceleration which I perceive is due to the earth's rotation. If I have argued that acceleration is due to force, I shall say that the earth repels the stone, and shalltry to findthe law governing the

Einstein's

theory

of

gravitation

329

go variation of this force with distance. I may for the farther, and try to imagine some reason force, some pushing action transmitted from the

through a surrounding medium; for all this waste labor, and and, you will pity me particularlyfor my attempt to find a mechanism to for the force, since you know that if I account all would would only accept your measurements appear so simple. farther,however, Let us probe this matter a little from the stand-point of myself. I must believe in the reality of the force, since I have to be tied to my I chair to prevent my departure from the earth. of might wonder how thisfield force would affectthe forth. propagation of light,chemical action and so For, even though I had discovered that, by using I could transform away the apparent your measures, far as concerned of of effects my field force as itspower to hurl stones about, I could still regard believe that the thisas a mathematical accident,and I might suspect force was really there. Although transformation of view-point that that the same effectas regards the stones would annul the field's light, etc., I would also annul its effectas regards be; and my as should not be sure of this, you would do more than conscience would hardly allow me to earth

stone

to

the

look upon the assumption of complete equivalence between the apparent field and a change in the a hypothesis. I should as system of measurement ever. be strongly tempted to make the hypothesis, howthe question raisedby Einstein Iswhether the force of gravity, which we experience as a very

Now

330

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

be put upon a footing which is in some way analagous to that of the obviously fictitious centrifugal force cited above : whether gravitation be regarded as a figment of our imagination may things. engendered by the way in which we measure He found that it could be so regarded. He went farther, and in his Principle Equivalence, he still real thing,may

of

postulated that the apparent effectsof gravitation in all phenomena could be attributed to the same measurements that change in the system of our for the ordinary phenomena would account of gravitation. On the basis of this hypothesis he was able to deduce for subsequent experimental verification, the effectsof gravitation on light. He did not limit himself to such simple changes in our measurements

as

to sufficient serve the purpose of the problem of centrifugalforce cited above; but, emboldened by the assumptions, in the older theory of relativity, of change in standards of length and time on account farther than this,and conof motion, he went even sidered measures the possibilityof change of our due to mere proximity to matter. His problem amounted to an attempt to find some way in which it was possible to conceive our scales fundamenta to more and clocks as altered, relatively some set, so as to allow of the planetary motions being uniform and rectilinear to with respecf these fundamental measures, although they appear as they do to us. If we imaginations perfect allow our freedom as to how the scales may be altered, we shall not balk at assuming alterations varying in any way we please. Einstein does, however, introwere

Einstein's

theory

of

gravitation

331

duce restrictionsfor reasons will now which we discern. imagine our whole universe, with its obIf we servers thing planetary orbits, instruments, and everyin a jelly, then distort the and else,embedded jelly contents in any way, the numbers at which and our planetary orbits (or rather their telescopic over, i images)ntersect our scaleswillbe unaltered. Morewe the times at could vary, in any manner, (including clock hands)octhe cupied which all objects hand of their distorted positions, and the some clock near the point where the planetary image crossed the scale would record for this occurrence dial reading as before. An inhabitant of the same this distorted universe would be absolutely unconscious Theory Now the General of the change. of Relativity which expresses itselfin slightly varied forms, amounts to satisfyinga certain philosophical craving of the mind, by asserting that the laws of nature which control our universe ought to be such tants that another universe like the above, whose inhabiwould be unconscious of their change, would point also satisfythese laws, not merely from the standbut also from the inhabitants, of its own In other words, standpoint of our measurements. this second universe ought to appear possible to us to its inhabitants. as well as Einstein decides to make his theory conform to this philosophical desire,and this greatly limits the modifications of clocks and scaleswhich he permits himself for the purpose of representing gravitation. ures Further, if we express the alterationsof the measto matter, as functions of proximity velocity

332

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

and so forth, our expressionsfor these alterations will include,as a particular case, that where matter is absent, although the scales and observer may still Our alteration of the scales and clocks remain. with velocity must thus revert, for this case, to that in corresponding to the older theory of relativity, order to avoid predicting that two observers, in uniform motion relative to each other in empty different space, will measure values for the velocity of light. In this way, the velocity of light comes to play a part in expressing the alterationsof the

measures.

Even with these restrictions, Einstein was able to do the equivalent finding an alteration of of scales and clocks in the presence of matter which for our finding that the planetary would account motions take place very nearly in accordance with Newton's law. The new law has accounted with gularit surprising accuracy for certain astronomical Irrefor which Newton's law failedto account, and has predicted at least one previously unknown phenomenon which was Immediately verified. In conclusion,It may be of Interestto state how law describes the motion of a particle in the new the vicinityof a body like the earth. The law to stating that, If we tance, measure a amounts short disradially as regards the earth'scenter, we must allow for the peculiarityof our units by dividing by

"

2mG

where

center,

EINSTEIN

THEORY

OF

GRAVITATION

333

the mass of the earth, c the velocity of light,and G Tangential the Newtonian gravitational constant. measurements require no correction, but intervalsof be multiplied, time as measured by our clocks must for each,particularplace, by the above factor. Then, so in terms obtained, the of the corrected measures line with particlewill be found to describe a straight constant of our actual velocity although, in terms it appears to fallwith an acceleration. measures,

XXI

THE

EQUIVALENCE

HYPOTHESIS

The

AND

Discussion of This, With Its Difficulties Einstein Has in Which Manner THE Essay by the Resolved Them, from

E. N.

PROF.

da

C.

ANDRADE,

ORDNANCE

COLLEGE,

WOOLWICH,

ENGLAND

ing shown that,of several systems allmovwith reference to one another with uniform motion, no one is entitledto any preference over the laws for such systems, others, and having deduced the Einstein was confronted with a difficulty which had long been felt. A body rotating, which is a be distingui of an accelerated body, can special case from one at rest, without looking outside it, the existenceof the so-calledcentrifugalforces. by This circumstance, which gives certain bodies an is unpalatable to absolute or preferential m-otion, he the relativist; would like there to be no difference as regards forces* between the case when the earth bodies (the rotates with reference to outside stars) fixed,and the case when the earth is considered as bodies rotate around considered fixed and alloutside be investigated by direct it. This point cannot

AVING

"There only.

"

is,

on

any

view,

no

difference

as

regards

observation

of position

^Author.

THE

EQUIVALENCE

HYPOTHESIS

335

keep if see

experiment;

a

we

top at rest

spin a top but we cannot and spin the world round it,to

can

devise laws all rotatons relative, Einstein which should make tation conceived the briUiant yet simple idea that gravicould be brought into the scheme as an acceleration both ordinary accelerational effect, since forces and gravitational forces are proportional to of how

to

bility impossiof separating the two kinds of effect can be easilyseen by considering the startingof an elevator. When the elevator is quickly accelerated upwards feel a downward we as pull,just if the gravitational pull had been increased, and if the accelerationcontinued be uniform, bodies tested with a spring to balance would all weigh more in the elevator than they did on firm ground. In a similarway the whole of the gravitationalpull may be considered to be an being to devise accelerational effect,the difficulty laws of motion which will give the effectsthat we find by actual observation. by ordinary But it is obvious that we cannot, mechanics, consider the earth as being accelerated in all directions,which we should have to do, apparent for the fact that the gravitato account tional [Itis obvious pull is always toward the center. that we cannot ing explain gravitation by assumthat the earth's surface is continually moving So stein outward with an accelerated velocity.]"^ Einfound that, as long as we treat the problem by

the

same

thing, the

mass

of

body.

The

Euclid's geometry,

we

cannot

336

space made

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

special be attributed a peculiar geometry, the theory, may nature from Euclidea of which departs more and more as we geometry approach a gravitational body, and the net result of which is to malce possible t^!3 universal correspondence of gravitation and accelera

This

up of the three ordinary dimensions of space, together with the time-dimension which we have already mentioned in discussing the

modification of the geometry of space is often spoken of as the "curvature of space," an expressi which is puzzHng, especially as the space which is "curved" is four-dimensional time-space. But we can get an idea of what is meant by considering figures,triangles say, drawn on the surface of a sphere. These triangles,although drawn on a surface, will not have the same properties as triangles drawn on flatpaper ^theirthree angles will not together equal right angles. They will be non-Euclidean. This is only a rough analogy, but we can see that the curvature of the surface causes departure from Euclidean geometry a for plane figures,and consequently the departure from Euclidean laws extended to four dimensions may be referred to as caused by "curvature of space." It is difficult Imagine a lump to of matter affecting the geometry of the space round it. Once more we use a rough illustration. Imagine must a very hot body, and that, knowing nothing of Its properties, have to measure we up the space round Itwith metal to the body, are we measuring-rods. The nearer the longer the rods will become, owing to the expansio

"

of the metal.

When

we

measure

out

THE

EQUIVALENCE

HYPOTHESIS

337

the body than side of which is nearer the opposite side, its angles will not be right angles. If we knew nothing of the laws of heat we should say that the body had made the space round it nonEuclidean. Einstein found, then, that by taking the properties to be modiof space, as given by measurement, fied in the neighborhood he of masses of matter, could devise general laws according to which gravitational effects would be produced, and there would be no absolute rotation. All forces will be the same whether a body rotates with everything outside it fixed,or the body is fixed,and everything rotates round it. All motion isthen relative, and the theory is one of "general relativity."The velocityof light is,however, no longer constant, and itspath is not line, itispassing near gravitatingmatter. if a straight This does not contradict the specialtheory, whicH did not allow for gravitation. Rather, the special theory is a particularcase to which the generalised as theory reduces when there isno matter about, just dynamics is a specialcase of the the Newtonian

square,

one

are

we

small compared

to

22

XXII

THE

Fragments

of

GENERAL

Particular

OF

THEORY

Merit Subject

on

This Phase

THE

BY

VARIOUS

CONTRIBUTORS

WHEN

Dorothy was carried by the cyclone from her home in Kansas to the land of Oz, together dog Toto, she with her uncle's house and her little the hole in neglected to lower the trap door over the floor which formerly led to the cyclone cellar and Toto stepped through. Dorothy rushed to the opening expecting to see him dashed onto the rocks below the floor. below but found him floatingjust She drew him back into the room and closed the

trap.

ventur author of the chronicle of Dorothy's adforce which held up explains that the same the house held up Toto but this explanation is not floatingthrough space Dorothy was now necessary. forces to the same and house and dog were

The

of gravitation which gave them identicalmotions. have pushed the dog down onto the Dorothy must herself have floated floor and in doing so must to the ceilingwhence she might have pushed herself back to the floor. In fact gravitation was apparently in a position to have suspended and Dorothy was tried certain experiments which Einstein has never

subject

THE

GENERAL

THEORY

339

*

was

never

in Dorothy's

* *

unique

^

ii:

4t

Principle of Equivalence, of which Einstein's suspended cage experiment is the usual illustration, and upon which the generalized theory of relativity is built, thus stated by Prof. Eddington: "A is tational gravifield of force is precisely equivalent to an field of force, so that in any small artificial region it is impossible, by any conceivable experiment, to distinguishbetween them. In other words, force is purely relative." This may be otherwise stated by going back to our idea of a four-dimensional world, the points of which represent the positions and times of events. If we mark in such a space-time the successive positions line, or curve, an we a of which object get history of the inasmuch represents the whole object, it shows us the position of the as at object every The imagine that all events time. reader may happen in one plane, so that only two perpendicular dimensions are needed to fixpositions in space, with a third perpendicular dimension for time. He may then conceive, if he may not picture, an analogous for four-dimensional space-time. These process lines,"tracks of through space-time," were objects called by Minkowski "world-lines." We may now tions say that all the events we observe are the intersecwas of world-lines. The temperature at noon that if I plot the world-line of 70". This means

The

the top of the mercury column and the world-line of a certain mark on the glass they Intersectin a certain point of space-time. All that we know are

340

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

intersections these world-lines. Suppose now we of have a large number of them drawn in our fourintersections, dimensional world, satisfying all known and let us suppose the whole imbedded in in distort this jelly any way, We a jelly. may changing our coordinates as we please, but we shall intersectionsof worldcreate neither destroy nor lines. It may be proved that a change from one

system

ferred of reference, to which observations are reto any other system, moving in any way with be pictured as a respect to the firstsystem, may The laws distortion of the four-dimensional jelly. sections of nature, therefore, being laws that describe interbe expressible in a form independent must

of the reference system chosen. From these postulates,Einstein was able to showsuch a formulation possible. His law may be stated

through space-time simply:- All bodies move In the straightest possible tracks. The fact that an easy non-mathematical explanation law Is reached, can not be given, of how this or why the straightest track of Mercury of just through space-time will give us an ellipse In space have split space-time up Into space and after we to time, Is no valid objection the theory. Newton's law that bodies attract with a force proportional

very

"

to

and Inversely proportional to the has one square of the distance is simple, but no how ever given an easy non-mathematical proof of that law requires the path of Mercury to be an of ellipse, ith the sun at a focus,instead some other w their

masses

^"

curve.]

THE

GENERAL

THEORY

341

we of the grave difficulties have in gaining a tions, satisfactory comprehension of Einstein's concepis that they do not readily relate themselves limits to our modes of geometrical thought. Within own we geometry, but it may be may choose our think at the cost of unwieldy complication. If we In terms of Euclidean geometry and with Newton

One

consider the earth as revolving around the sun, the in comparative motions of our solar system can be stated If, on the other hand, we simple terms. Ptolemy would should persist in stating them, as have done, from the earth as a relatively stationary formulas willbecome complicated beyond center, our it is much For this reason ready comprehension. in a simpler in applying the theory of relativity,nd happens in considering and describing what actually the physical universe, to use geometrical conceptions be easily related. to which the actual conditions can We find such an instrument in non-Euclidean geometry, it were wherein space will appear as though from a slightlyconcave mirror. It is in projected that some this sense speak of space as curved. The linger over analogy Is so suggestive it tempts one to it. Unless there were within the material objects be immateri range of the mirror, its conformation would ; the thought of the space which the mirror, it were, as circumscribes, is dependent upon the The linesof light presence of such material objects. will not be quite and of all other movement "straight" from the view-point of Euclidean geometry. A line drawn In a universe of such a nature inevitably therereturn must upon itself. Nothing fore,

can

ever

pass out

342

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

but yet finitecosmos. But even now, since our imaginary mirror is only very slightly concave, it follows that for limited regions like the earth or the solar system, our conception of geometry may well be rectilinearand Euclidean. Newton's law of gravitation will be quite accurate with only a theoretical modification drawn from the theory ]^^ of relativity.

even

******

of space might force is made plainer by an to us a as appear a marble example. Suppose that in a certain room dropped anywhere on the floor always rolled to the pened center thing hapsuppose the same of the room; to a baseball, a biUiard ball, and a tennis ball. These resultscould be explained in two ways; we that a mysterious force of attracmight assume tion floor,which affected existed at the center of the that the allkinds of balls ahke ; or we might assume floor was curved. We naturally prefer the latter explanation. But when we find that in the neighborhood large material body allother bodies move of a manner, toward it in exactly the same regardless

The

way

in which

curvature

of theirnature or their condition,we are accustomed to postulate a force (gravitation) mysterious attractive ; Einstein, on the contrary, adopts the other alternative, that the space curved.]^^^

*******

around

the body

is

In the ordinary "analytical geometry," the position and motion of all the points considered is referre to a rigid "body" or "frame of reference." This usually consistsof an imaginary room of suit-

THE

GENERAL

THEORY

343;

able size. The position of any point is then given by three numbers, i.e.,its distances from one side wall and from the back wall and its height above the floor. These three numbers can only give one point, every other point having at least one number fourth different. In four-dimensional geometry a wall may be vaguely imagined as perpendicular to all three walls, and a fourth number added, giving the distance of the "point" from this wall also. Since "rigid" bodies do not exist in gravitational fieldsthe "frame of reference" must be "non-rigid." The frame of reference in the Gaussian system need be of any shape and moving in not be rigid, It can in fact a kind of jelly. "point" or A any manner, "event" in the four dimensioned world is still given by four numbers but these numbers do not represent distances from anywhere; all that is necessary Is four that no two events shall have exactly the same

numbers

to

events them, and that two which are very close together shall be represented by numbers which differ only slightly from one another. This system assumes little it will be so that to be very seen wide in its scope; although to the more ordinary mind, what is gained in scope seems This does not concern than that lost in concreteness. the mathematician, however, and by using this system he gains his object, proving that the general laws of nature remain the same when expressed In any Gaussian co-ordinate system

represent

whatever.]'"

Einstein enunciates a general principle that It Is possible to find a transformation of co-ordinate axes which is exactly equivalent to any force, and in par-

344

RELATIVITY

AND

GRAVITATION

ticularone which is equivalentto the force of gravitation. That is by concentrating our attention on the transformation which is a purely mathematical can afford to neglect the force comoperation we pletely.

better idea of this principle of equivalence as itis called,letus consider ^ relatively simple example (which actually has nothing to do to make our with gravitaton, but which will serve on the earth unconsci notions clearer.)A person his experiences,i.e., the motions refers all of the objects around him to a set of axes fixed in the earth on w4iich he stands. However, we know that the earth is rotating about Its axis, and his To

get

a

axes

of reference are also rotating with respect to From the point of view of the space about him. It general relativity Is exactly because we do refer motions on the surface of the earth to axes rotating with the earth that we experience the so-called centrifuga force of the earth's rotation, with which everyone Is famihar. If we could find it convenient to transform from moving to fixed axes, axes the force would vanish, since it is exactly equivalent to to the set of axes the transformation from one other. However, we find It unnatural to refer daily

that are not placed where we experiences to axes happen to be, and so we prefer to take the force and rotating axes Instead of no force and fixed axes.]"^

******** seem

direct experience of force In our muscular sensations. By pushing or pulling we It is natural to assume, can set bodies In motion. Nature set that something similar occurs, when bodies in motion. But is thisnot a relic animism? of

to

a

We

have

THE

GENERAL

THEORY

345

The savage and the ancients peopled all the woods and skies with Gods and demons, who carries on bodily efforts. the activities nature by their own of Today have dispossessed the demons, but the we holds the planets in ghost of a muscular pull still

place.]'*' *******

The

general theory is an extension of the special theory which enables the law of gravitation to be deduced. Not in Newton's form, it is true, but in better form, that is, one a for two that accounts important facts otherwise not explained. But it is a far more general theory that indicated above. It is a complete study of the relations between laws expresse by means of any four coordinates (of which

three space and one time is a specialcase),nd the a laws expressed In the four co-ordinates of a same having any motion whatever with respect system to the first By restricting this general study system. in accordance ture with certain postulates about the naof the universe we lineIn,we arrive at a number of conclusions which fitmore closelywith observed facts that the conclusions drawn from Newton's

theory.]

'2^

Butler" Tanner,

Frame and London.

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