SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

been called the general theory of relativity. We shall now speak briefly concerning the foundations underlying the latter.
Already in the restricted theory time and space had become essentially blended so that we could no longer speak of a three-dimensional space as separate and apart from the one dimension of time. A sort of combination of the two came into our conception and we began to realize that they can not be disentangled by the measurements of physics. We are forced to consider a four-dimensional continuum of space and time. It is with this space-time extension of four-dimensions that the general theory of relativity has essentially to do; and its problems are intimately connected with the relations of two systems of reference of the generalized sort which this makes necessary. The jLorentz transformation was a great psychological (and even logical) aid in the formation of the new theory.
Let us consider a four-dimensional extension in which space and time are intimately connected and blended so that each point P in these four dimensions represents a definite place A at a definite time t at which A is to be considered. In the course of time a material particle is represented by a succession of these points P. All these points for a given material particle lie on what is called the "world-line" of that particle; and this world-line represents the state of motion (or eventually the state of rest) of the material particle. If two objects come into coincidence at an instant their world-lines have a corresponding intersection. The things which the physicist deals with ultimately are these intersections of world-lines.
In order to deal with them he finds it necessary to introduce certain reference numbers which we may call the coordinates. These numbers change in such a way that their variation along any world-line is continuous and that no two points ever have the same ordered set of four numbers assigned to them. This gives us a very general set of coordinates. It is clear that coordinates can be set up in an immense variety of ways so as to have these few very general properties. One of the first problems in the general theory of relativity is that of the character of the transformation by means of which we can pass from a given choiceof coordinates to a second one 1, 2, $3, 4. It is clear that we must have relations of the form
where the functionsof the variablesare rather general functions
of these four arguments and are indeed to a large extent arbitrary. Now suppose that the laws of nature are expressed in terms of the coordinates x and also in terms of the coordinates ; the question arises as to what relation one ought to expect between these two forms of the law. Now there are no coordinates in nature. These have been inserted by us for our convenience. What is more natural, then, than the demand that we shall formulate our statements of these laws so that they shall have the same form in these two systems of reference, and indeed in all possible systems of reference? This is precisely one of the fundamental basic requirements upon which Einstein insists. The corresponding