copyright 2017 Jennifer Coopersmith
It is sometimes said that science is nothing but a refinement of common sense, but Einstein warns us that we must strive to overcome common sense and prejudice (a generalisation of novelist Evelyn Waugh’s idea that childhood is a trap, and each child must learn to escape from their own particular trap). Rather, we follow the logic of the arguments (the laws of science) even if they take us to counter-intuitive outcomes (for example, Einstein’s Special and General Relativity shows us that time and space are not absolute, not independent of each other, but do depend upon our state of motion, and whether there are large masses nearby).
Eventually, our intuitions change. It now seems obvious that planets in orbit are an example of gravitational attraction – but is this obvious to your dog? As the mathematical physicist, W. R. Hamilton, said: “Do you think that we [actually] see the attraction of the planets? We scarcely see their orbits.”
The physicist, John Wheeler, put it even more strongly than Einstein: a great new law of physics will be counter-intuitive, and will be against common sense; if it was merely a question of common sense, we would know the law already.