110224 NEWTON If the title of Michael White¶s book Isaac Newton, The Last Sorcerer, isn¶t intriguing enough

, his suggestions that Sir Isaac anticipated the battle between Einstein¶s General Relativity and quantum mechanics is positively jaw-dropping. Furthermore, it was Newton¶s interest in alchemy that influenced many of his ideas about gravity. Newton is, of course, famous for describing gravity as a mathematical equation. According to legend, the idea came to him while watching an apple fall from a tree. Gravitational force, Newton said, is both proportional to the product of the masses of two objects and inversely proportional to square of the distance between them. Maybe. Newton also invented the system of mathematics, calculus that allowed us to describe gravity and the motions of heavenly bodies. It is all quite plainly written in Newton¶s book The Principia Mathematica. Well, plainly written if you know Latin and can decipher calculus. The Principia is widely recognized as a very difficult book to slog through but even so, it remains a cornerstone of meticulous scientific endevour and is widely recognized as having literally changed the world. However, Newton didn¶t want it to be widely read. White says that Newton never intended The Principia to be accessible by every starryeyed, society dim-wit who hadn¶t done the math, so to speak.

. Newton was deeply protective of his work. An older and more seasoned Newton later wrote a series of books meant for a wider audience. it was this very idea that catapulted Einstein to world-wide rock-star status almost exactly 200 years later. Optics was written in English and avoided most of the complicated math. White says. at that point in his life. authoritarian master of the British . as its title suggests represents Newton¶s exploration of light. and by their action bend its rays.. For example. 289).Furthermore. Einstein¶s General Relativity argues that light rays passing near the sun would be bent by its distortion of space-time: (Einstein¶s bowling ball on fabric). Do not bodies act upon light at a distance. They were also some of his most astounding ideas. Optics found a wider audience and had greater influence on future generations. Newton suggested that light acts in some respects like gravity. young country gentleman to distinguished professor of mathematics to the certain. Optics contains ideas which were at the time considered controversial and possibly heretical. These were discussions of some of Newton¶s early explorations ± but not published until much later. almost to the point of paranoia. Optics.strongest at the least distance?´ (White. That objects act on it at a distance: ³Query 1. and is not this action. Presumably.. Of course. White describes Newton¶s meteoric rise from shy sociallyawkward.

White argues. were heavily influenced by his years standing over the alchemist¶s crucible and furnace: ³We shall see that his fascination with alchemy was a major influence in the development of his ideas about gravity´ (White. it was that he failed to find such a unified theory of knowledge. He was also willing to pursue his ideas down any avenue which they might take him. Newton was a gaunt. many of his ideas.mint and president of the British Royal Society of Sciences. and all that. Most alchemists. ego-driven man. It is about more than extended life spans and unimaginable riches. meticulous thinker. He could also be petulent and ruthless in the mastering of his enemies. . This is the sort of magician/scientist who sought the philosopher¶s stone.´ Imaginative though. Nevertheless.. haunted. he was. And he pursued them down the road of alchemy. Newton was also a disciplined. 106). tried to turn lead into gold. If Newton had one regret.. Whether or not Newton was successful at those things is not completely clear (he did live to see old age and was quite wealthy when he died.It is also clear that he was interested in a synthesis of all knowledge and was a devout seeker of some form of unified theory of the principles of the universe´ (IBID). sought immortality. Newton contributed far more to our understanding of our universe than the axiom that ³an apple doesn¶t fall far. we are pretty sure he failed to become immortal). White suggests. ³. White says. obsessive. Nevertheless. however. That¶s alchemy.

White says. however. . the results of laboratory mishaps or the dangerous chemicals they of exposed themselves to. Newton. He possessed a mind and ambition far and away superior to seemed to see and understand things about the universe that most of us could only imagine. having spent what ever pences they might have on expensive chemicals or equipment. we have White¶s book to open a window into Newton¶s world. met their ends at regrettably young ages. an unified theory of everything. White suggests that alchemy was an intellectual expression of the quest for a universal truth. Alchemists often also died poor. remains one of those enigmatic historical figures we only encounter rarely. Fortunately.

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