From the Author
In this new project as a writer of Popular Science, my objective is to reach the mass reader, that non-scientific person with the curiosity of understanding the Universe in which we live, who has the habit of reading and thinking and the respect for her/his own capacity of logical analysis and comprehension, and who is conscious of the relevance Science carries in current society, and the essential role it plays as a modeler of our destiny as a biological species.
Around my 14 years of age I avidly read a little book on Relativity Theory without understanding a thing. However, I was perplexed, because the three concepts about which the author elaborated upon over and over were precisely those which every 14-year kid had to be already intimately familiarized with, by the sheer fact of growing up: time, distance, and speed. What did I learn from that frustrating juvenile experience? That the author expected me to employ what every one of us (even adults) understands by time, distance, and speed to reach conclusions which only could be considered untrue and preposterous precisely because, had we considered them credible and sensible, we would have been compelled to throw away our millenary understanding of those three cherished concepts. What a peculiar approach, I said to myself: if the conclusion is going to destroy our deepest convictions, why not start analyzing those convictions, attempting to grasp the experiences, basic principles, and hypotheses that made us erroneously though vehemently believe in them for thousands of years?
What the non-scientific reader needs (as well as the scientist) is a book giving more importance to the intuitive physical meaning of the words than to the unmeasured erudition an author can display with them. My objective thus is not to turn the reader into an expert in Relativity; on the contrary: that would require a much bigger effort than simply reading this book. My purpose is to show that the Theory of Relativity, experimentally confirmed in the last hundred years, regardless of how strange and opposed to our prejudices (disguised in the mask of 'common sense') may seem to be, is rational, consistent, and intelligible for the layperson -- if, and only if, s/he has the audacity of accepting the unfounded nature of those preconceptions.
It is my desire and the honor of stimulating in the non-specialized person such a necessary intellectual boldness that have motivated me to write this book. These intellectual strength and courage have nothing to do with our academic or professional credentials; even more: had I believed they are strictly necessary to seize a concrete and positive message out of this book, I would have not gone through the trouble of writing it.
I thus dream for the reader finishing this book with the sensation that it is possible to achieve an acceptable understanding of the Theory of Relativity based on the objective truth and free of folklore (popular as well as scientific). And... if, after some time, the reader feels the urge to read my book again so as to strengthen his/her understanding, my ephemeral stay in Plato's cave will have had the sense and transcendence that all of us seek for our existence.