I was driving back from the woods yesterday and listening to the two way radio. It was snowing, and accidents were being reported. Nothing serious, but it still got me thinking about the irrefutable facts of nature. Things like gravity, velocity, mass. We humans play fast and loose with these facts all the time, but winter is less forgiving.
The latest novel I read (Timeline by Michael Crichton) deals with some mind-boggling quantum physics, which I don’t pretend to understand, but they do give credibility to the notion of travel between multiple universes. Regular old Newtonian physics are simple and comforting by comparison. For example, Newton’s first law states that a body at rest or in motion will stay at rest or in motion unless an external force acts upon it. So a car hurtling down the highway will keep going unless the driver uses the brakes or smacks into a snowbank (external forces). The second law says that if a body is acted on by an external force, the change in velocity is in the direction of the force and is proportional to its magnitude. So if our car is slowed by brakes, the rate of slowing depends on how hard and rapidly the brakes are applied. The third law is the one about for every action there is a reaction equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. This is how to steer out of a skid–turn the steering wheel away from the direction of the skid. My favorite of Newton’s laws is the law of gravitation, because fieldwork lets me see it in action all the time. When I step out of the truck onto slippery ice, the earth’s gravitational pull attracts my butt to the ground in a split second (mass + velocity = bruising).
Isaac Newton lived from 1642 to 1727. His laws have been proven over the centuries, yet people still haven’t figured out that they should slow down while driving in snow. I wonder why that is?