Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:
THE THEORY OF INVARIANCE
Albert Einstein made many important contributions to science, but one of his most controversial was the theory of relativity. Not that it was controversial among scientists. Proof of relativity came fairly rapidly after its initial publication, and experiment after experiment have continued confirming its validity ever since. No, the controversy was among the general public, some of whom perceived, for some reason, that relativity in physics led to relativity in morality.
This confusion upset Einstein so much that, later in life, he pushed to have his theory renamed “the theory of invariance.” Where the term relativity applied to the relative frames of reference of different observers, the term invariance refers to the invariant speed of light, which is just as essential to the theory as the relativity part. It would also reassure people that no, morality is not relative.
However, by that time the name relativity had already been around for several decades. The names of scientific principles are not easily changed once they’re established, so for better or worse, the theory of relativity is here to stay.
So what do you think? Do you like relativity, or do you think we should have renamed it invariance as Einstein suggested?