This is one of the most remarkable instances in the history of science of the investigator finding the thing he was looking for instead of starting out to ascertain the truth. In fact, he went so far as to make his friends produce the results he wanted, but of course innocently, and equally innocently Professor Sir J. J. Thomson followed him and fell into the trap.

It is in a footnote to his lecture that Professor Tait gives the whole thing away. He says calmly and unsuspectingly: "In my laboratory experiments, players could not be expected to do full justice to their powers. They had to strike as nearly as possible in the center, a ten inch disc of clay, the ball being teed about six feet in front of it. Besides this preoccupation, there was always more or less concern about the possible consequence of rebound, should the small target be altogether missed."

Aiming for the center of a ten inch disc of clay six feet away from the tee would give us a ball five inches from the earth six feet from the tee!

What kind of a stroke would produce such a shot? Obviously only the downward blow and the low follow-through that produce backspin. We can see clearly that Professor Tait arbitrarily settled the trajectory of the ball. He made the golfer play the ball he was looking for.

Instead of a ten inch disc of clay he should have had a clay bank or have had half the side of his wall covered with clay and have allowed the golfers to play their own natural strokes. Then he would have found something entirely different. Where he made his error was in compelling his assistants to aim at a target so low as five inches at six feet from the tee. He left them no chance to do anything but play the low drive.

Assuming that the tee was half an inch high and allowing that the ball hit the very center of the target it would not have risen more than four inches in six feet. I think that we should expect to find some backspin in such a drive!

Professor Thomson started his lecture by saying: "This problem is in any case a very interesting one, which would be even more interesting if we could accept the explanations of the behavior of the ball given by some contributors to the very voluminous literature which has collected around the game. If this were correct, I should have to bring before you this evening a new dynamics and announce that matter when made up into golf balls obeys laws of an entirely different character from those governing its action when in any other condition."

Notwithstanding this somewhat pompous start Professor Thomson proceeded to explain most of the "problem" on exactly the lines that Newton and I - or should I say I and Newton - had done some few years ago - to be more precise, Newton about 250 years and I, on the result of his knowledge, about seven years ago.

Whenever Professor Thomson was correct he explained everything exactly as I have laid it down in that work on " applied mathematics," Swerve, or the Flight of the Ball; and when he was not in accord with that he was wrong, and hopelessly wrong, too, both theoretically and practically.

If this were a matter of splitting atoms, subdividing elektrons, or discovering new gases I should not dare to raise my voice against Professor Thomson; but I happen to know something about this subject. I believe the Arab proverb says, "He is a wise man who knows that he knows. Follow him." The proverb does not give any short method of finding out whether or not "he" knows, so in this case if my readers want to be "in at the death," they must follow me and chance it.

Professor Thomson says: "... a golf ball, when it leaves the club, is only in rare cases devoid of spin, and it is spin which gives the interest, variety, and vivacity to the flight of the ball; it is spin which accounts for the behavior of a sliced or pulled ball; it is spin which makes the ball soar or 'douk,' or execute those wild flourishes which give the impression that the ball is endowed with an artistic temperament and performs these eccentricities, as an acrobat might throw in an extra somersault or two for the fun of the thing. This view, however, gives an entirely wrong impression of the temperament of a golf ball, which is, in reality, the most prosaic of things, knowing while in the air only one rule of conduct which it obeys with an intelligent conscientiousness, that of always following its nose. This rule is the only key to the behavior of all balls when in the air; whether they are golf balls, baseballs, cricket balls or tennis balls."

Any ordinary unscientific person may well be pardoned for asking what is a ball's nose. If it were a bramble marked ball one might pick out an extra large excrescence and so name it but Professor Thomson does not mean anything so scientific as this. His idea of what constitutes the ball's "nose" is shown by the following quotation: "Let us, before entering into the reasons for this rule, trace out some of its consequences. By the nose of the ball we mean the point on the ball furthest in front."

Professor Thomson does not even state here whether he means farthest in front in the line of flight or in the line to the hole. It is obvious that in the cases of a straight hit to the hole and a pulled drive the spot on each ball representing the nose would be in a different place.

As a matter of fact, however, Professor Thomson means, although he does not say so, "the point on the ball furthest in front" in the line of its flight.

This puts his explanation of swerve out of court at once. I know an English amateur who can pull a ball so that it will sail away out over the rough for thirty or forty yards and then swing in again to the middle of the course. Let us apply Professor Thomson's rule to this ball. If it always "followed its nose" it would never come back on to the fairway. It comes back because its nose is pushed round.

The trouble is that Professor Thomson wants to have the "nose" of the ball both a fixed and a moving point; but he cannot have it both ways. If the "nose" is a fixed point in front of the ball without spin the ball will always, with but slight variation, go straight after that "nose" without any swerve whatever. If the nose is meant to exist in a spinning ball it is obvious that there is not one but millions of noses. It is a new nose every time the revolving ball makes a movement of the decillionth of an inch-more or less.