Observations at the Total Eclipse
Sir Arthur Eddington stands atop a hill on the island of Principe. He holds in his hands photographic plates of the solar eclipse that would subsequently confirm Einstein's Theory of Relativity.
Eddington: The path is uninfluenced by gravitation. Ordinary matter, traversing its displacement along the outer limbs of the sun. Heavy cloud and rain, coelostats, mirrors. The steel tube beginning to expand with heat. The vegetation is succulent. Near totality, the Sun. That part of the coelostat-sector considered most perfect, mounted on a stone pier.
Sir Frank Dyson, Astronomer Royal, approaches Eddington, panting as he scrambles up the hill.
Dyson: Sir, the boat is loaded up and ready for departure.
Eddington: One last look at the eclipse... It's strange, Dyson, that this island possesses a uniform temperature across its entire landmass.
Dyson: Perhaps it's not strange. It could be very ordinary.
Eddington: Pure thought sufficed to show the way forward.
Dyson: A great adventure in thought has at last come to shore.
Eddington: Not yet. We have yet to compute the numbers.
Dyson: The ship has been equipped with the so-called “calculator”: a monstrous machine, designed to fold numbers into its chambers, fill them with air and exotic gases, pressurize them with a piston, pasteurize them, reduce them, the complete celestial array of algebraic operations. It's quite extraordinary, really.
Johnson, the ship's captain, runs up the hill, nearly falling on his face into the hot sand. In his hand is a sheet of paper.
Johnson: Your devilish device has expelled this from its maw, Sirs.
Dyson: Then it must have finished its calculations! Quickly, everyone aboard!
Eddington (taking one last look at the eclipse): We are playing a game against nature.
On the ship, as it roars towards the British Isles at full throttle.
Dyson: The numbers have come out. The effect is real. The gravitational field of the sun does indeed bend the light of distant stars.
Eddington: Do you realize the import of this, Dyson?
Dyson: Have you any doubt about that?
Eddington: A deflection of light takes place in the neighborhood of the sun and it is of the amount demanded by Einstein's generalized theory of relativity, as attributable to the sun's gravitational field. You are familiar, I presume, with the imposing portrait of Sir Isaac Newton that hangs in the Royal Society's main hall?
Eddington: Henceforth Albert Einstein, that devastating Kraut from Ulm, that sparrow perched upon the limbs of time, that speck of luminous divinity, henceforth his portrait shall hang there.
Dyson: My God, how long will it take us to get back?? Perhaps the other expedition from Brazil has already returned...
Eddington: My greater concern is how I will contain this information without self-detonating.
Dyson: Indeed, indeed. Can I hold your hand, Sir?
Eddington: Nonsense, Frank. Do some squares in your head, if you need comfort.
Johnson: Sirs, it seems we'll be delayed a tad, by inclement weather.
Eddington rises to his feet, assuming the majestic height of 9 feet, his cape flowing and eddying in the solar radiation of his genius.
Eddington: Did inclement weather delay Newton, Faraday, Rutherford? Captain, I tell you to go on to the deck and smite this climate with your most powerful artilleries.
Johson: This is a transport vessel, Sir. We haven't got no artilleries.
Eddington: We must be back in London by this afternoon. The Queen shall have tea waiting for us.
Johnson: What's the big idea, anyway?
Dyson: We've just—
Eddington: Your job is to pilot this ship, Mr. Johsnon, not to inquire into the inner workings of the universe.
Johnson: So that's what it is!
Eddington: I'll have you know that we have observed light being bent around a massive body.
Dyson: A great adventure in—
Eddington: I said we have displaced Newton with Einstein. We've proven the theory of relativity.
Johnson: So you've bent light into a relation with Einstein, eh?
Dyson: Thought, proof—
Eddington: We have made observations of the total eclipse. We have played a game against nature, we have labored at the ingenious, we have considered parts of the world, we have given some account of the present undertakings, studies, transacted at the edge of reason...
Johnson: I see...
Dyson: A great adventure in thought!
Eddington: Has at last come to shore.
Dyson: Apart from the lack of agreement with reality it is in any case a superb intellectual performance.
Johnson: Your rejection is weighty... But my own brain still keeps believing in it.