The Mysterious Universe (Cambridge Library Collection - by James Jeans

By James Jeans

Originating from the Rede Lecture added on the college of Cambridge in November 1930, this booklet relies upon the conviction that the lessons and findings of astronomy and actual technological know-how are destined to supply a tremendous switch on our outlook at the universe as an entire, and on perspectives concerning the value of human existence. the writer contends that the questions at factor are eventually one for philosophical dialogue, yet that earlier than philosophers can converse, technological know-how may still current ascertained evidence and provisional hypotheses. The publication is as a result written with those techniques in brain whereas extensively featuring the elemental actual principles and findings appropriate for a much wider philosophical inquiry.

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Extra resources for The Mysterious Universe (Cambridge Library Collection - Physical Sciences)

Sample text

If one motor-car requires 42 MATTER AND RADIATION twice the engine power of another to give us equal control over its motion, we say that it has twice the mass of the latter car. The law of gravitation asserts that the gravitational pulls on two bodies are in exact proportion to their masses, so that if the earth's attraction on two bodies proves to be the same, their "masses" must be the same, whence it follows that the simplest way of measuring the mass of any body is by weighing it. In the course of time, chemistry shewed that the Lucretian "atoms" had no right to their name (a-refiveiv, incapable of being cut).

He wrote: The rays of light that are in our air, in their passage near the angles of bodies, whether transparent or opaque (such as the circular and rectangular edges of coins, or of knives, or broken pieces of stone or glass), are bent or inflected round those bodies, as if they were attracted to them; and those rays which in their passage came nearest to the bodies are the most inflected, as if they were most attracted. Here again Newton was strangely anticipatory of presentday science, his supposed forces being closely analogous to the " quantum forces " of the modern wave-mechanics.

As I see it, we are unlikely to reach any definite conclusions on these questions until we have a better understanding of the true nature of time. The fundamental laws of nature, in so far as we are at present acquainted with them, give no reason why time should flow steadily on: they are equally prepared to consider the possibility of time standing still or flowing backwards. The steady onward flow of time, which is the essence of the cause-effect relation, is something which we superpose on to the ascertained laws of nature out of our own experience; whether or not it is inherent in the nature of time, we simply do not know, although, as we shall see shortly, the theory of relativity goes at any rate some distance towards stigmatising this steady onward flow of time and the cause-effect relation as illusions; it regards time merely as a fourth dimension to be added to the three dimensions of space, so that post hoc ergo propter hoc may be no more true of a sequence of happenings 28 THE NEW WORLD OF MODERN PHYSICS in time than it is of the sequence of telegraph-poles along the Great North Road.

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