This is the third in the series of posts of introducing poetry of physicist John Archibald Wheeler.
Isaac Newton, in his great Principia, first formalized our understanding of gravity as a force that acts at a distance through space, drawing any two masses together. It is often thought that Einstein’s geometric theory of gravity proved Newton’s concept of gravity to be wrong. But Einstein never spoke of anything more often or more forcefully than his admiration for the courage and the judgment of Newton.
Oh great thinkers of the past,
You identified and solved
Many a mystery of motion
Where others could see no mystery.
The faraway and strange
You linked to the near and clear-
Fall of apple to orbit of Moon,
Inertia here to influence of mass there,
Speed of light to pattern of spacetime.
Thanks to your hard-won insights,
The whole great story of gravity
Now comes to us
In a single simple sentence:
Spacetime grips mass,
Telling it how to move;
And mass grips spacetime,
Telling it how to curve.
By your own childlike spirit of inquiry
Remind us that we, children all,
Only little by little are seeing with new eyes
This strange and beautiful universe,