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On my desk the book is open to page nine, where it says, “I stand at the window of a railway carriage which is traveling uniformly, and drop a stone on the embankment, without throwing it.” Einstein is speaking here, addressing laymen in the 1920 translation of his handy primer Relativity: The Special and General Theory. To him on the train, the stone falls in a straight line, while a pedestrian outside sees it trace a parabola. This simple act shows that motion is relative to the position of the viewer. So begins the presentation of the greatest breakthrough in modern physics,...

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