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Why does the apple fall?

“I am able to see this Universe in such a clear perspective because; I am standing
on the shoulders of gaints like Galileo” -- Isaac Newton
If a body is dropped from a height, it falls to the earth. This motion of the
falling bodies attracted the attention of Philosophers and Scientists since
ancient times.
Aristotle’s Universe:
According to the Greek Philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) whenever the
objects are given freedom they will try to reach their natural (native) places.
That is why, a fruit falling from a tree reaches the earth as it belongs to the
earth. A flame rises up as fire belongs to the Sun. Rain from clouds pours down to
the earth as water in the clouds once belonged to the earth. He observed a fruit
and a leaf dropping from a tree and the fruit reaching the Earth earlier than the
leaf and immediately concluded that a body having greater mass (fruit) will reach
the earth earlier than the body with a lesser mass (leaf) .Thus Aristotle
propounded not only why the bodies are falling from a height towards the earth but
also how. This theory appeared quite appealing to everyone as it is nearer to the
If Aristotle would have done a small experiment of making the leaf as a
small pellet and left the fruit and the pellet from a height at the same time they
would have reached the earth simultaneously. But the Greeks did not normally do
experiments. Because for doing experiments one had to use his hands. Greeks
thought that those who cannot use their brains only will use their hands.
Galileo’s Universe:
Humanity has to wait nearly 2000 years to show that Aristotle’s theories of
falling bodies are wrong. Galileo (1564 – 1642), an Italian Astronomer, proved
from his experiment, conducted from the learning tower of Pisa, that all bodies,
irrespective of their mass and size, when dropped simultaneously from a height
will reach the ground simultaneously, in the absence of air resistance. The cause
for the fruit and leaf to reach the ground at different timings is due to air
resistance on the leaf being not negligible.
Thus Gelileo told how the bodies are falling and not why? For expanding how
the bodies are falling only he was in trouble as he was against the Aristotle’s
theories which were recorded already in religious books.
Newton’s Universe:
Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) was born in the same year and month of Galileo’s death.
Newton when he was a boy observed an apple falling from a tree onto the earth. The
eternal question ‘Why is the apple falling towards the earth?’ occurred to Newton
is a turning point in human thought and the answer to this question paved the way
to a new branch of science called Physics.
Newton theorized that the earth has a property called “Gravity” (Gravity is
not in the earth, but in the heroic mind of Newton) which is applying a force on
the apple called ‘force of gravity’ which makes the apple fall to the earth with
an acceleration called ‘acceleration due to gravity’ which is denoted as g. The
average value of g for earth is 9.8ms-2, for moon g=1.6 ms-2, for Sun g=27.4ms-2.
Newton further argued that just as an apple is a freely falling body towards
the Earth, the Moon is also freely falling body towards the earth and the earth
along with the moon is freely falling towards the sun and also other planets are
revolving round the sun because of the force of gravity. Kepler explained how the
planets are revolving around the sun but not why? It is left to the genius of
Newton further generalized the theory by stating that any two bodies in the
Universe separated by certain distance will experience a force of attraction. This
was evolved as the famous law called Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation.
Between a body and the body it is gravity and between any two bodies it is
gravitation. Force of gravity is greater than that of gravitation. Gravitational
force is keeping the Universe intact. It is a weak force but extended throughout
the Universe with a long range.
Newton’s Style:
Even today it is a mystery what made Newton to propose the Force of
attraction between two bodies is inversely proportional to the square of the
distance between them. While developing different branches of Physics like
Magnetism, Electronics, Sound, Light etc. Scientists were eagerly waiting for the
emergence of Inverse Square Law ; otherwise they used to feel that they were
moving in a wrong direction. If different branches of Physics are Pearls, the
string that connect all of them is inverse Square Law. Thus Newton has given a
‘Scientific Style’ to Physics.
Basing on this law, the mass of the earth, the sun are determined. The formulae
arrived through this Law for Escape Velocity and Orbital Velocity made space
travel a reality. Newton’s Universal Law of gravitation is really Universal.