Coming of Age in the Milky Way, by Timothy Ferris. 1989 Anchor Books, New York. Part one, ch.

“Relativity nonetheless cast its net wide, embracing the study not only of light and space and time, but of matter as well. The theory derives its catholic impact from the fact that electromagnetism is implicated not only in the propagation of light but also in the architecture of matter: Electromagnetism is the force that holds eletrons in their orbits around nuclear particles to make atoms, binds atoms together to form molecules, and ties molecules together to form objects. Every tangible thing, from stars and planets to this page and the eye that reads it, carries electromagnetism in the fiber of its being. To alter one’s concept of electromagnetism is, therefore, to reconsider the very nature of matter. Einstein caught sight of this connection only three months after the first account of special relativity had appeared, and published a paper titled, “Does the Inertia Content of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?” The answer was yes, and ours has been a sadder and wise world every since.”

Posted February 9, 2003

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