Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

For scientists and science groupies such as myself, today is a significant date in history: On January 4, 1643, the man who would be best known for his Universal Laws of Gravitational Motion, Sir Isaac Newton, was born in Woolsthorpe near Grantham in Lincolnshire, England.  I could go on and say something about his personal biography – but I won’t.  There have been a bazillion books and stories written about Newton, and a simple search on Google or Bing will get you about 3.5 million results.  A good history about Newton’s life can be found in this entry from Microsoft Encarta, which is on the Isaac Newton Institute’s website. Instead, I’ll gush on about some of the great contri-butions and a few highlights of the Great Man.

There’s only so much one can put in a blog about Newton. It would be like trying to write about… God.  Then again, today is like Christmas, not just for scientists, but for all of the world. While Newton’s contributions didn’t necessarily save souls, they have helped make this planet a much more hospitable place. Newton’s Laws of Gravitation have been the basis of solid fundamental engineering, resulting in the creation of stronger bridges, sturdier buildings and speedier, more efficient transportation.  The architect Sir Christopher Wren, who was partly responsible for an “urban renaissance” in England, was one of Newton’s contemporaries, and may have sought his assistance on many occasions. Indeed, we see Newton’s famed Laws at work, everywhere we go.

In addition to his famed Laws of Motion, Newton made groundbreaking work into optics, astronomy, heat and mechanics. To facilitate his calculations, he developed that branch of mathematics that would eventually become the nightmare of every first-year college student: differential calculus.  This last bit was tainted by a feud with mathematician Gottfried Leibniz (who formalized integral calculus).  That, and his funky studies on alchemy and the end-of-the-world reveal a idiosyncratic character behind the demigod of Science. Other than that, Newton lived a fairly simple and virtuous life (he never married), dedicated to intellectual pursuits and public service.

Newton often said that he was inspired to further develop his Laws of Motion after watching an apple fall from the tree. Every schoolchild knows the story. What is noteworthy is that he had been on holidays from his schooling at Cambridge. Because of the H1N1 – I mean, the Black Plague (heheh) – classes had been cancelled, so young Newton had plenty of time to cool his heels and muse about scientific ideas at his home in Woolsthorpe. Until then, he was unremarkable as a student. [Sound familiar? In 1905, a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein published four seminal papers in physics – all while waiting two years to be admitted to a graduate program. Contrary to conventional research opinion, revolutionary ideas often result away from the lab, and not in it.  Just something to consider.]

In celebration of the Geomancer of Gravity’s Birthday, I now list Newton’s Law’s of Motion, in as authentic a Middle English accent I could phrase:

Newton’s First Law: An objecte in a staite of reft tendeth to stay at reft, lest a Forthe acteth upon it. If saith objecte is in motionne, then it remaineth in motionne.

Newton’s Second Law: The summe of the Forthe that acteth upon an objecte is equivalente to the objecte’s acthelerationne couplede with its mass.

Newton’s Third Law: For two objectes in directe oppositionne to the other, both objectes exerteth Forthes equalle in strengthe yet opposing directionnes.

Happy 367th Birthday, Sir Isaac Newton!

Copyright Anabasius 2010

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—It has been 39 years since Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) planted the seeds of environmental consciousness in what would now be Earth Day.  There has been a much greater global awareness of ecology since those hea- dy times. However, after all has been said and done and the current global situation is assessed, we are really no closer to achieving the kind of econo- mic and ecological balance necessary to save this planet from ourselves.

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There’s no need to deny it.  After searching information on whether or not air quality in the world has improved, preliminary findings indicate that there are no reliable and easily-understandable figures, anywhere in the world.  This implies one of two things: Either 1) No one really cares enough to take stock of all of this data or 2) No one gives a bloody damn.

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It’s not for lack of trying.  People might care, but can only pay lip service; for the common working man or woman, this is not due to weakness, more to human limitation.  One can only recycle so much, take alternative routes to work, and so forth.  Unfortunately, not everyone in the world (or even Los Angeles) can take that path.  So we look at our politicians next.  Then we can see now, there are only so many conscientious politicians who can draft eco-friendly bills.  Passing muster is one thing, enforcing them is another.  Does that mean all politicians who vote against such drafts are necessarily anti-environmentalist.  No, not necessarily.  What they do is simply look out for their own constituents, who are not always business interests.  With businesses, there are many who are rightly responsible for all this mess.  Once again, not all of them are necessarily evil.  For every shifty-eyed business-owner, there are about a hundred more who are looking to make an honest living, just like any person on the street.  But we’re getting closer.

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The main problem is that our civilization is still deeply entrenched in the Industrial Revolution, the 9-to-5 grind, the incessant need to earn a living and working jobs that require that we all (most of us, anyway) wake up at the same time, hit traffic at the same time, work (or idle) the same hours, eat at the same lunch time, then leave work at the same time.  These are the same rituals we go through every single day. Though it worries us to some degree, it’s often nothing more than an afterthought.  Multiply all that smog in the air, all the energy used up, and everything used up and consumed by… a few hundred, a few thousand, a few million.  Every single day, nonstop, year in and year out.

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You see the picture?