I’m told that my grandfather, Cloyd Woolley, once attended a lecture by Albert Einstein about his general theory of relativity. Now my grandfather, though an exceedingly intelligent guy, was a businessman, not a scientist. He was in advertising, as a matter of fact. He’s the one responsible for popularizing whitewall tires, by suggesting to his client, the Gates Rubber Company, that they charge more for whitewalls than for regular tires, even though they cost no more to make, thus positioning them as a luxury item. But I digress.
Possessing an active and inquisitive mind, Cloyd had been reading about relativity and was aware that it was a Very Big Deal. But all this stuff about how gravity bends space and how time slows down when you go really fast was pretty tough for him to wrap his mind around. He was frustrated that he couldn’t make sense out of this theory that was reshaping the universe, and he hoped that hearing Einstein lecture about it in person would finally clear things up for him.
It didn’t. By the end of the lecture, he was more confused than ever. But my grandfather was not one to give up easily. He was so committed to his quest for understanding that he actually paid to have a personal meeting with the Great Man himself.
This did not go any better. Einstein tried valiantly to explain relativity to Cloyd, but finally grew exasperated and said, in effect, “Forget it, you are NEVER going to understand my theory.”
Albert Einstein died the year I was born, so I never got a chance to ask him to explain his theories to me. And my grandfather died the year after that, presumably still disappointed in his inability to grasp how the speed of a beam of light can appear the same to all observers regardless of their frame of reference.