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 experience. 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. 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.

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