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The second class of facts to which we have alluded has reference to the question whether or not the motion of the earth in space can be made perceptible in terrestrial experiments. We have already remarked in Section 5 that all attempts of this nature led to a negative result. Before the theory of relativity was put forward, it was difficult to become reconciled to this negative result, for reasons now to be discussed. The inherited prejudices about time and space did not allow any doubt to arise as to the prime importance of the Galileian transformation for changing over from one body of reference to another.

If now, as we find from experience, the acceleration is to be independent of the nature and the condition of the body and always the same for a given gravitational field, then the ratio of the gravitational to the inertial mass must likewise be the same for all bodies. By a suitable choice of units we can thus make this ratio equal to unity. We then have the following law: The gravitational mass of a body is equal to its inertial law.

It is true that this important law had hitherto been recorded in mechanics, but it had not been interpreted. A satisfactory interpretation can be obtained only if we recognise the following fact : The same quality of a body manifests itself according to circumstances as "inertia" or as "weight" (lit. "heaviness"). In the following section we shall show to what extent this is actually the case, and how this question is connected with the general postulate of relativity.