Monday, January 4, 2010

An apple for Sir Issac

Today's google doodle featured an apple branch laden with fruit. One fell down, and reminded me that Sir Issac Newton was born today!

Legend has it that Newton was sitting under an apple tree thinking of his next meal when an apple fell on his head, and made him come up with the Theory of Gravitation. A story that has been told and retold so often, nobody even pauses to think how anyone could have derived those equations with nothing more to go on than a solitary fruit making a short journey to the earth.

A purist will tell you that it was by observing the motion of the planets around the sun that Newton derived the laws of gravitation. And they would be right.

But like the bear that Teddy Rosevelt could not bring himself to shoot, the apple that fell on Newton's head has assumed gigantic propotions. Whether it is true or not, it is perceived to be so. And as long as seeing the apple makes people think of gravitation, if only for a moment, why not?

After all, wouldn't we rather say that we see through our eyes, than get into a long and convoluted story about images being formed on the retina, being carried as nerve impulses to the brain, and the brain cells registering the impression of 'sight'.
I am all for exactness, but sometimes being colourful is more fun than being merely exact.

And Happy Birthday Sir Issac. We see the world much better because you found giants who allowed you to climb onto their backs.



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4 comments:

Jan Morrison said...

how bizarre Rayna! I started a book this morning, as I lay in bed, called Quicksilver. It is the first book in the Barouque Cycle by Neal Stephenson and it features Isaac Newton! I love serendipity.

ladyfi said...

Great tribute to Sir Isaac!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Here's to Sir Isaac! I admire anyone with that brilliant a mathematical and scientific brain. How magical it must have been to make that kind of impact on the world.

Elspeth

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Jan - a coincidence indeed! Who can figure out how the world is wired?

@ Fiona - thanks

@ Elspeth - could not agree with you more. People like him have shaken hands with Greatness.

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