Page:The theory of relativity and its influence on scientific thought.djvu/18
This page has been validated.
THE THEORY OF
We must try another plan. I do not think we can ever eliminate altogether the human element in our conception of nature; but we can eliminate a particular human element, namely, this framework of space and time. If our thought must be anthropocentric, it need not be geocentric. Nor are we permanently better off if we merely substitute the space-time frame of some other star or standard of motion. We must leave the frame entirely indeterminate. When we do that, we find that the world common to all observers—in which each observer traces a different space-time frame according to his own outlook—is a world of four dimensions. When we look at any object, say a chair, the impression on our eyes is a two-dimensional picture depending on the position from which we are looking; but we have no difficulty in conceiving of the chair as a solid object, not to be identified with any one of our two-dimensional pictures of it, but giving rise to them all as the position of the observer is varied. We must now realize that this solid chair in three dimensions is itself only an appearance, which changes according to the motion of the observer, and that there is a super-object in four-dimensions, not to be identified with the three-dimensional chair in Ptolemy's scheme, or the same chair in Copernicus's scheme, but giving rise to both these appearances. The synthesis of a three-dimensional chair from a number of flat pictures is easy to us because we are accustomed to assume different positions in rapid succession; indeed our two eyes give us slightly different points of view simultaneously. By sheer necessity our brains have been forced to construct the conception of the solid chair to combine these changing appearances. But we do not vary our motion to any appreciable extent and our brains have not hitherto been called upon to combine the appearances for different motions; thus the effort