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copyright 2006 Benjamin Crowell

rev. August 16, 2017

This book is licensed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution-ShareAlike license, version 3.0,, except
for those photographs and drawings of which I am not
the author, as listed in the photo credits. If you agree
to the license, it grants you certain privileges that you
would not otherwise have, such as the right to copy the
book, or download the digital version free of charge from At your option, you may also
copy this book under the GNU Free Documentation
License version 1.2,,
with no invariant sections, no front-cover texts, and no
back-cover texts.


Page 92

92 Chapter 4 Relativity

Page 93

Chapter 5


Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two
has the grander view? Victor Hugo

His father died during his mother’s pregnancy. Rejected by her
as a boy, he was packed off to boarding school when she remarried.
He himself never married, but in middle age he formed an intense
relationship with a much younger man, a relationship that he ter-
minated when he underwent a psychotic break. Following his early
scientific successes, he spent the rest of his professional life mostly
in frustration over his inability to unlock the secrets of alchemy.

The man being described is Isaac Newton, but not the triumphant
Newton of the standard textbook hagiography. Why dwell on the
sad side of his life? To the modern science educator, Newton’s life-
long obsession with alchemy may seem an embarrassment, a distrac-
tion from his main achievement, the creation the modern science of
mechanics. To Newton, however, his alchemical researches were nat-
urally related to his investigations of force and motion. What was
radical about Newton’s analysis of motion was its universality: it
succeeded in describing both the heavens and the earth with the
same equations, whereas previously it had been assumed that the
sun, moon, stars, and planets were fundamentally different from
earthly objects. But Newton realized that if science was to describe
all of nature in a unified way, it was not enough to unite the human
scale with the scale of the universe: he would not be satisfied until


Page 184

compared to kinetic energy, 45
conservation of, 40
relativistic, 85

distance to, 143
gravitational field experienced by, 27
orbit, 51

periodic, 162

nano- (metric prefix), 11
Neanderthals, 67
neutral (electrically), 97
newton (unit), 47
Newton, Isaac, 93, 151

apple myth, 27
law of gravity, 25
third law, 47

Noether’s theorem, 8
for angular momentum, 67
for energy, 27
for momentum, 43

Noether, Emmy, 8
nuclear energy, 23

Oersted, Hans Christian, 115
ohm (unit), 105
Ohm’s law, 105

defined, 105
open circuit, 101
Optics, 27
Orion Nebula, 23

parabola, 50
parallax, 142
parallel circuit

defined, 108
particle model of light, 136

defined, 162
Principia Mathematica, 27
principle of superposition, 164
projectile motion, 50

defined, 164
Pythagoras, 132

ray diagrams, 138

ray model of light, 136

diffuse, 136
specular, 138

and magnetism, 116

resistance, 104
retina, 150
reversibility, 144
RHIC accelerator, 83
Roemer, 133
rotational symmetry, 15

schematics, 107
scientific notation, 12
sea-of-arrows representation, 114
series circuit

defined, 108
short circuit

defined, 107
sinks in fields, 114
Sokal, Alan, 31
sound, 168

energy, 22
speed of, 167

sources of fields, 114
spring constant, 163
sunspots, 121
symmetry, 7

rotational, 15
time, 27
translation, 38

Système International, 11

time reversal, 144
time symmetry, 27

defined, 64
transformer, 124

units, conversion of, 13

addition of, 19

vision, 132
volt (unit)

defined, 102
voltage, 101


184 Index

Page 185

electromagnetic, 126
wave model of light, 136
wavelength, 126
work, 57
Wu, Chien-Shiung, 8

Index 185

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