Einstein’s Relativity Rails
“Right now, I feel you’re a bit off the reality rails.”
“Marriage, its sorrow and woe, its fragile joys.”
Patrick O’Brian, ‘The Far Side of the World’
Einstein proposed a thought experiment about a traveler on a train whizzing along the rails of time and space. The experiment, of necessity, included an observer watching all this. The proposed reality centered around a theory that the observer of that person riding the rails is subject to issues of time dilation and space contraction. Apparently, what is true for the observer is also true for the person on the train. In other words, the person on that train sees time and space differently than does the person watching him.
There is certainly nothing more fundamental in the world of a traveler than space and time. And there is nothing new about each of us seeing the world entirely differently than even our life partner or child or best friend. Given that Einstein was himself an observer subject to this difference, is it possible he got things turned around? A 65 year old rail traveler certainly does not observe that time is dilating. Perhaps Andrew Marvel, the (Meta)physics poet, had a better theoretical understanding: “But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near; and yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity.” For that particular microcosmic traveler, those heard sounds are everything and time is, relatively, contracting at the light speed of Einstein’s train. Additionally, the Space of his life rather distinctly appears to be expanding in its infinite desirability just as that unearthly speed hurtles him through it hell bent for eternity.
We have subsequently learned that an observer changes the very nature of what is seen by the act of observing. Perhaps that is why the older the rider the more the route, the observable diminishment of the equipment, the obsession with time, the internal Engineer who may be altogether asleep at the switch, all bespeak this difference in perceptible dilation and contraction. Perhaps the interplay of two Universal Constants like that existing between space and time bespeaks differences in the observed and the observer’s relative sense of what constitutes being on or off the rails.
The Universal Jokester has declared one Constant that has been described in the macrocosm as the great loneliness of Space. While we may see tremendous, apparent differences between the Galaxies around us and the Quarks and Quirks of the subatomic world within us, we can retain some faith in the veracity of the old adage: what is true in the macrocosm is true in the microcosm. In the microcosm of human life the route and the reasoning, the observed universe, are certainly influenced by this Constant, so an observer from the platform of relationship might well wonder why the very rails themselves do not seem to be under the train at all times or may seem laid, however laboriously, in an altogether strange and incomprehensible direction; ostensibly toward that Jokester’s other Constant, best summarized as the physics of marriage.
The poor sap on the train really doesn’t know any thing else. His direction in the observable world may trouble him in a vague, unobservable way but he is no more capable of reversing dilation or contraction than Einstein was in believing that God plays dice with the universe. Thus the thought experiment must turn upon the interplay between those rails being ridden through the space of the time continuum and the light speed traveler seeking to change trains and tracks from one Universal Constant to the other; not to mention the influence of the Jokester’s ultimate Constant, Chance.
In real world terms terms, the rails are simply each individual’s route toward a Unified Theory of the Universe. They are laid as a route and timetable through daily relativity. Apparently, Einstein’s dream of finding such a Unified Theory remained and remains unattained. Any surprise then that we mere mortals may go off the rails occasionally in search of something more physically tangible that is said to reside in that alternative Constant, especially before the rider has entered the final station on his space time route?
There is a Meta to physics wherein the very rails upon which the rider hurtles along through that great loneliness of space and time are said to be constructed anew each morning of life. How elaborately, and often unconsciously, do we construct a route for ourselves through the burden of each long day’s journey into night. Certainly the labors of previous days inform, and at times dictate, direction, commitment, energy, and perspective, but curvatures in that space and time traveler’s universal attempt to transfer to that other Constant can be profound and unimaginable to an observer standing on the platform of relationship.
The observable world of those careening through the constraints and curvatures of such space time Constants can so easily appear to be off the reality rails. Expressed another way by Samuel Johnson upon watching a friend go to the alter for his second marriage: “There goes the triumph of Hope over Experience.” Those subject to the one Constant are riding through the space time continuum of Hope, however dilated it may be, however woeful, sorrowful, and fragile the alternative Constant.
Continued . . .