Archive for the ‘Newton’ Category

From food production to Aristotle, Newton, and Einstein

February 4, 2008

“By enabling farmers to generate food surpluses, food production permitted farming societies to support full-time craft specialists who did not grow their own food and who developed technologies.” [Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond]
Thus food production enabled humankind to explore art and philosophy and science.  Without the ability to generate a food surplus there would have been no Aristotle, Newton, or Einstein.

Searching for that deeper meaning to life? The key to the universe has been found!

January 1, 2008

Throughout history, prominent thinkers have been convinced that the everyday world observed through our senses represents only the surface manifestation of a deeper hidden reality, where the answers to the great questions of existence should be sought.

So compelling has been this belief that entire societies have been shaped by it.  Truth seekers have practiced complex rituals and rites, used drugs and meditation to enter trancelike states, and consulted shamans, mystics and priests in an attempt to lift the veil on a shadowy world that lies beneath the one we perceive.

Attempts to gain useful information about the world through magic, mysticism, and secret mathematical codes mostly led nowhere.  But about 350 years ago, the greatest magician who ever lived finally stumbled on the key to the universe — a cosmic code that would open the floodgates of knowledge.  This was Isaac Newton — mystic, theologian, and alchemist — and in spite of his mystical leanings, he did more than anyone to change the age of magic into the age of science.

The word science is derived from the Latin scientia, simply meaning “knowledge.”  Originally it was just one of many arcane methods used to probe beyond the limitations of our senses in the hope of accessing unseen reality. The particular brand of “magic” employed by the early scientists involved hitherto unfamiliar and specialized procedures, such as manipulating mathematical symbols on pieces of paper and coaxing matter to behave in strange ways.  Today we take such practices for granted and call them scientific theory and experiment.

We really are in possession of the key to the universe.  The ancients were right: beneath the surface complexity of nature lies a hidden subtext, written in a subtle mathematical code.  This cosmic code contains the secret rules on which the universe runs.  Newton, Galileo, and other early scientists treated their investigations as a religious quest.  They thought that by exposing the patterns woven into the processes of nature they truly were glimpsing the mind of God.

Cosmic Jackpot by Paul Davies

The last thing to be discovered in any science is what the science is really about

November 27, 2007

Mathematician studied for centuries the abstract problem of drawing tangents to curves before Newton finally discovered what the subject really is about — rate of change.

It is a well-founded historical generalization that the last thing to be discovered in any science is what the science is really about.

Men go on groping for centuries, guided merely by a dim instinct and a puzzled curiosity, till at last some great truth is loosened.

An Introduction to Mathematics by Alfred North Whitehead

Joint Discoveries Are Common

November 19, 2007

Joint discoveries are quite common in science.

Discoveries are not in general made before they have been led up to by the previous trend of thought, and by that time many minds are in hot pursuit of the important idea.

Examples of joint discoveries:

  • Law of natural selection: Darwin and Wallace
  • Discovery of Neptune: Adams and Leverrier
  • Creation of differential calculus: Newton and Leibniz

An Introduction to Mathematics by Alfred North Whitehead