Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity has played a key role in Physics throughout the twentieth century. This has led many to treat it as a final and definitive description of how the world works. There is an alternative view which does not accept this, but considers that the quirks and oddities it shows are an indication of some unwise, ill-chosen, or unjustified assumptions along the way. Encouragement to pursue this possibility is given by recalling from Scientific History a series of developments in the theory of Celestial Movements.
Here, the starting-point is Ancient Greece round about 400 B.C. The Greeks observed that the stellar constellations were unchanging in configuration and in location one to another, and that they moved in unison across the sky. Using their experience on earth they concluded that there must be a framework holding the stars in their places, but being invisible would have the qualities of totally transparent crystal. After some misconceptions about the shape of the earth and the vault of the sky, they settled on a spherical earth surrounded by a spherical crystal sphere with stars imbedded in it. Further independent spheres for the Sun and Moon completed the scheme, giving a very acceptable and reasonable-sounding description of how the World was put together. Except for the wandering stars (the Planets) which defied all their efforts to give each Planet its own sphere and each sphere its proper motion. This last was abandoned as insoluble for many centuries.
Coming forward in time to the nineteenth century, physicists had made great progress on the firm foundation of Newtonian Dynamics. Towards the end of this century they came across their equivalent of the wandering Planets — the anomalous behaviour of Electromagnetic Waves in that these failed to conform to Newton's Law of the Composition of Velocities. These two situations, so far apart in time, each found its genius, both pragmatists, Ptolemy of Alexandria for the Planets, and Einstein for the Electromagnetic Radiation. They did not address the reasons for the anomalies, they accepted them as facts and devised the necessary mathematics to make the numbers come out correctly. This was so successfully done by both, that their solutions, although as bizarre as the original anomalies, were accepted as a true description of how the world works. From the time of Ptolemy it took more than a thousand years until Copernicus rediscovered an idea that the early Greeks had considered and rejected — that the Earth spins about its polar axis and travels in orbit round the Sun. The challenge today is to make a similar fundamental reappraisal of Special Relativity.