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Space, Time and Gravitation An Outline of the General Relativity Theory   By: (1882-1944)

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C. Davidson Frontispiece See page 107 eclipse instruments at sobral SPACE TIME AND GRAVITATION AN OUTLINE OF THE GENERAL RELATIVITY THEORY BY A. S. EDDINGTON, M.A., M.Sc., F.R.S. PLUMIAN PROFESSOR OF ASTRONOMY AND EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY, CAMBRIDGE CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1920 Perhaps to move His laughter at their quaint opinions wide Hereafter, when they come to model heaven And calculate the stars: how they will wield The mighty frame: how build, unbuild, contrive To save appearances. Paradise Lost. PREFACE By his theory of relativity Albert Einstein has provoked a revolution of thought in physical science. The achievement consists essentially in this:Einstein has succeeded in separating far more completely than hitherto the share of the observer and the share of external nature in the things we see happen. The perception of an object by an observer depends on his own situation and circumstances; for example, distance will make it appear smaller and dimmer. We make allowance for this almost unconsciously in interpreting what we see. But it now appears that the allowance made for the motion of the observer has hitherto been too crudea fact overlooked because in practice all observers share nearly the same motion, that of the earth. Physical space and time are found to be closely bound up with this motion of the observer; and only an amorphous combination of the two is left inherent in the external world. When space and time are relegated to their proper sourcethe observerthe world of nature which remains appears strangely unfamiliar; but it is in reality simpli ed, and the underlying unity of the principal phenomena is now clearly revealed. The deductions from this new outlook have, with one doubtful exception, been con rmed when tested by experiment. It is my aim to give an account of this work without introducing anything very technical in the way of mathematics, physics, or philosophy. The new view of space and time, so opposed to our habits of thought, must in any case demand unusual mental exercise. The results appear strange; and the incongruity is not without a humorous side. For the rst nine chapters the task is one of interpreting a clear cut theory, accepted in all its essentials by a large and growing school of physicistsalthough perhaps not everyone would accept the author's views of its meaning. Chapters x and xi deal with very recent advances, with regard to which opinion is more uid. As for the last chapter, containing the author's speculations on the meaning of nature, since it touches on the rudiments of a philosophical system, it is perhaps too sanguine to hope that it can viii PREFACE ever be other than controversial. A non mathematical presentation has necessary limitations; and the reader who wishes to learn how certain exact results follow from Einstein's, or even Newton's, law of gravitation is bound to seek the reasons in a mathematical treatise. But this limitation of range is perhaps less serious than the limitation of intrinsic truth. There is a relativity of truth, as there is a relativity of space. \For is and is not though with Rule and Line And up and down without, I could de ne." Alas! It is not so simple. We abstract from the phenomena that which is peculiar to the position and motion of the observer; but can we abstract that which is peculiar to the limited imagination of the human brain? We think we can, but only in the symbolism of mathematics. As the language of a poet rings with a truth that eludes the clumsy explanations of his commentators, so the geometry of relativity in its perfect harmony expresses a truth of form and type in nature, which my bowdlerised version misses. But the mind is not content to leave scienti c Truth in a dry husk of mathematical symbols, and demands that it shall be alloyed with familiar images. The mathematician, who handles x so lightly, may fairly be asked to state, not indeed the inscrutable meaning of x in nature, but the meaning which x conveys to him... Continue reading book >>

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