In Defense of Science
"Now, little children and reverend theologians, gather about and let us consider the situation. Do you realize what is really meant by Einstein's Idea?"
Great is Science, and great is Man, the only animal that ever solved a quadratic equation. Mr. Ferrero, and the other backward-looking persons who look to religion, or common sense, or the like indefinite vapors, for the salvation of the world, are merely registering their inability to comprehend the signs of the times. They would never deny so cavalierly the civilizing power of Science, did they for a moment imagine the tremendous possibilities which it is my intention to set forth in this paper.
I refer, of course—as who does not?—to the Theory of Relativity. Everyone has read three or four popular explanations of this fascinating theory, and so is no doubt thoroughly familiar with its fundamental formula; for the sake of historical background, however, I will give a brief but rigidly scientific résumé of the five principal points.
A. Axiom: As we fly through the ether, the wind must blow in our face.
B. Einstein's Idea: There is no way of finding out how the wind is blowing.
From these it follows that,—
C. All bodies are shortened in the direction of their motion.
D. The time of day depends on our direction and speed.
E. The distance from here to there depends on the wind.
(NOTE. As everyone knows who ever studied mathematics, the expression 'it follows' means 'if you don't, you flunk.')
And now, little children and reverend theologians, gather about and let us consider the situation. Do you realize what is really meant by Einstein's Idea? Why, bless your orthodox hearts, this is no less than a scientific Doctrine of Free Will! If we can't tell which way the wind is blowing, why, what prevents our having it blow any way it listeth us to suggest? Nothing, says Mr. Einstein, and you may have three wishes, C, D, and E, above mentioned. Glorious thought! The Inexorable law, holding us forever in unbending clamps of steel, is relaxed at last; mind has assumed its dominion over matter; Man has come into his kingdom.
Here is no vague yearning of finite hearts after the infinite, no vain appeal to the Will to Believe in face of a senseless universe. This is no glittering Dogma to divide once again the already seven-times-confounded mind of man. This is Truth, which, the further you chase, becomes the more shiningly true; till at the last, down a tremendous vista of unutterable space, we see it sitting cross-legged upon Infinity itself, like the Pythoness on the three-legged stool, and discoursing formula unto the universe at large. A noble vision, fit to rouse the imagination to the high pitch of prophecy.
This evening I sat at my window looking off at the sunset in the direction dy/dx=Q; and in my vision I saw a wonderful new-made world. What now can daunt the master, Man,
Blowing the feather of his thought Beyond the uttermost stars?
Does the time seem out of joint? Let us but solve the equation M_B = _(x), and it will be whatever time we wish. Does the land of our dreams seem hopelessly far off? Then blow, ye ethereal winds, on the axis of x; and behold the far-off land is just across the way.
Enter on the scene of my vision Ebsworthy, the chauffeur.
'Please, sir, I'm sorry to trouble you, but the car ain't running right. You see, sir, the road to town is in the line z = xp, and with the prevailing velocity, sir, you see, it makes the wheels so elliptic I can hardly drive, sir.'
'All right,' I reply; 'you just let me know when Miss Anne is going to town, and I'll shift the helm to z = q.'
The maid enters, to ask if I can reduce our velocity for a couple of hours, as the dining-room table has been shortened so it won't do for our expected guests this evening. Her request granted, she goes away satisfied.
Next comes the gardener, with wood for the fireplace. He is enthusiastic.
'O sir, I can never thank you enough for telling the doctor about my brother. Poor Bill was nearly desperate, for Molly had told him for the last time that she'd never, never marry a man as fat as him. Then the doctor came, and he gave Bill the formula p = d2y/dx2. He had Bill rotate about this as an ax, and in less than an hour Bill was sneaking through the back streets to buy a suit of clothes he could keep from falling out of. Now they're engaged, and Bill's the happiest man in seven counties. The doctor showed me how to use the same formula for chopping wood: I roll the sticks around the line p and then turn them suddenly across it, and the strain splits them all to pieces.'
He goes out, but comes back a moment later.
'Beg pardon, sir, but about that round flower-bed. Do you want it to be circular by daylight—saving or railroad time, and at what velocity?'
This being settled, he leaves me to my meditations. How dependent and respectful are these servants! Yes, a well-ordered world, under the benevolent control of an intellectual aristocracy, who can manipulate the slippery elliptic function and the prickly differential. Do Bolsheviki attempt to agitate a peaceful community? Let our velocity be -dv(An), and presto! these uncomfortable characters won't have been born for a century and a half yet; and we may confidently leave their treatment to posterity. Do some of our enthusiastic officials suppress certain of the rights of man? Let us apply the formula Xdp = Y_, and whoof! they find themselves in the seventeenth century, where they may hunt the fearsome witch and wily Quaker to their hearts' content. Does my revered wife's uncle read aloud items from the Daily Transcript? Q = Pz, and lo! it's four o'clock, and the paper has n't yet arrived.
Poor Hatter, and poor March Hare! Had they lived a few decades later, what a different tea—party it would have been! No insolent unmannerly Time to thwart their culinary plans; but a Time well disciplined, brought to heel, and mindful of his p's and q's.
Hello! what's this? Midnight? No, Mr. Ingersoll, you are mistaken. I find that we are headed at tremendous speed toward the star Nemo Domi; and so long as I face E.S.E. and by E. it is only ten-thirty. Blessings on you, Mr. Einstein.