Page:The theory of relativity and its influence on scientific thought.djvu/28
THE THEORY OF
geometry; that device has long been in use. Experimental geometry and mechanics actually relate to the same subject-matter; and the young student who discovers experimental laws with ruler and compasses and cardboard figures, and later goes on to pendulums and spring-balances, is developing a single subject which cannot be divided any more than the subject of magnetism can be divided from electricity.
It is through this unification of geometry and mechanics that I should like to approach the problem of gravitation, showing that a field of force is a manifestation of the geometry of space and time. But I fear that that would be too technical; so we will approach it from a different angle.We have shown that the contemplation of the world from the standpoint of a single observer is liable to distort its simplicity, and we have tried to obtain a juster idea by taking into account and combining other points of view. The more standpoints the better. Let us now consider another point of view, which we have not previously thought about—the point of view of an observer who has tumbled out of an aeroplane and is falling headlong. In many respects his is an ideal situation—temporarily. Unfortunately on terra firma we are continually subjected to a very disturbing influence; we undergo a terrific bombardment by the molecules of the ground, which are hammering on the soles of our boots with a total force of some ten stone weight pressing us upwards. Now our bodies are the scientific appliances which we use to make our common observations of the world. I am sure that no physicist would permit any one to enter his laboratory and hammer on his clocks and galvanometers whilst he was observing with them; at any rate he would think it necessary to apply some corrections for the effect of the disturbance. Let us then