Has Newton had his day? relativity and realism in European restructuring by Riz Mokal and Ignacio Tirado

Isaac Newton had good reason for believing space to be absolute, and absolute space to be essential to the operation of the laws of motion. In a famous example, he noted that water in a rapidly spinning bucket is at rest relative to the bucket, yet has a concave surface.

This, he thought, evidences the water’s being in motion in relation to absolute space. Similarly, according to his first law, in the absence of an applied force, a body stays at rest or, as the case may be, continues in a straight line, in either case again in relation to absolute space. And so on. The notion of absolute space, then, was indispensable to Newton’s monumental contribution to human knowledge. And yet the same concept eventually came to be recognised as a hurdle to scientific progress.