Five Mind Men and an Invisible Elephant

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Across the dark and silent Void, nearly empty of all matter,

sprawls a swirl of luminous dust, enveloped in infrared spatter.

    The Gods of the Milky Way came to meet on a fair world far away.

    They had been called together to hear what the Maker of All had to say.

Wrapped in restrained elegance, each came to take their seat.

The smooth marble of the temple floor was cool beneath their many feet.

    Each stepped out of a purple flame that writhed in elegant grace.

    It bowed before the Maker of All and took Its appointed place.

Billions of the Elohim merged and to anyone capable of seeing,

like a Bose-Einstein condensate, they appeared to be one being.

    As space consists of myriad inertial frames, the infinite in one,

    so the singular Maker of All touches all that is ever done.

The Maker of All addressed the Gods by intensifying Its propensity

to radiate probability waves in spacetime warping density.

    It had called them because It wanted to tell them of a matter most profound.

    As It discoursed It spoke to them in words that had no sound.

"On a minor planet of a yellow star something has gone very wrong.

Certain creatures have developed a skill that to us alone should belong.

    I must say that I find this discovery stupendously odd.

    They seem to be remaking themselves into the likeness of a god.

But we know what will always set the Gods apart:

We are the full embodiment of the logician’s elegant art."

    "Their evolution is a grand sight to behold," the Elohim asserted.

    "The end of their existence is a thing to be averted.

Perhaps we should not eliminate them in such unseemly haste.

To lose the knowledge of their achievement would be a tragic waste.

    They’re courteous", the Elohim proclaimed in the voice of a celestial chorus.

    "As we greet the Maker of All, so these creatures bow before us."

"Close enough", the Maker of All said with what amounted to a cosmic sigh.

"Nurture these creatures if you wish: for the nonce I’ll let them get by."

    Then the Elohim proclaimed a goal that all of them sought,

    that one day the creatures would join them in their aetherial communal thought.

"Oh, really!" the Maker of All exclaimed. "Then I urge you at my behest,

if you want to pursue this project, then give them a simple test.

    Sentient are they? Versed in logic? Well, we’ll see about that!

    There’s a phenomenon that they should know, a flatlessness that spreads them flat.

Let’s see if these creatures can trace that phenomenon all the way to its source:

Let’s see whether they can discern the cause of the gravitational force."


The Ancient Greeks invented logical reasoning like a mathematical law.

Aristotle used it to understand the causes of the world that he saw.

    "Every body in the world", he said, "has its proper place,

    its own special location in absolute unchanging space.

If a heavy body, such as a stone, up into the air is hurled,

it will come back down to Earth, seeking the center of the world."

    Why does matter do that? What makes it act that way?

    For all his logical analysis, Aristotle couldn’t say.


Heaviness by itself doesn’t determine how fast bodies fall.

Bodies want to remain inert, any motion to forestall.

    A body has a propensity to fall but also to remain at rest.

    I can demonstrate the consequence with a very simple test.

Let me from this tall tower drop bodies of different weight

and you will see as they hit the ground that they fell at the very same rate.

    Gravity is indifferent to composition: it treats all objects the same.

    As for what causes gravity, I can’t make a reasonable claim.


"I think; therefore, I exist", he said, "so my existence I cannot doubt.

Now from that simple beginning I will figure Nature’s laws out.

    Among those laws I present one truly spectacular notion.

    I will demonstrate for you the cause of planetary motion."

He asserted that aetherial vortices fill up all of space.

This theory was full of holes and sank without a trace.

    But he discovered that algebra and geometry fit together quite nicely.

    Others used his analytic geometry to describe gravity more precisely.


Once an apple fell from a tree and quickly hit the ground

as Isaac Newton asked himself why does the moon go round and round.

    The first algebraic theory of physics, truly a magnificent notion,

    was the inverse-square formula of Newton’s law of motion.

It was universal gravitation that his dynamic geometry did prove,

relating the fall of an apple to planets on the move.

    He was famous in his own time. Now all know Newton’s name.

    But when asked what causes gravity, he said, "No hypotheses will I frame."


He regarded the aether as irrelevant; it might as well not exist.

But space is nonetheless a dynamic thing. On that he would insist.

    Take space and time, woven together, and give them a tensor twist;

    then they’ll generate a force that nothing in the Universe can resist.

In the flatness of near-empty space matter will never fail

to generate and then occupy a gravitational swale.

    Mass-energy warps space-time out of Minkowskian true.

    As for what causes that to happen, Einstein never knew.


Five men, over a span of centuries, gained a strange renown.

They confronted the invisible and tried to explain why things fall down.

    Each had a theory of gravity, one that was uniquely his.

    All sought to say what gravity does, but none could say what it is.

"They’ve described gravity beautifully," the Elohim proclaimed.

"But they’ve completely missed the target at which they should have aimed.

    They may not know gravity, but eventually the gist they’ll get.

    They have also discovered the quantum theory, so there may be hope for them yet."


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