Would Newton recognize
his 2nd Law?
Abraham Tamir, Department
of Chemical Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva,
Fax: +972-7-647-2916. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was Cheng-Dau Lee, Nobel laureate in
physics, who expressed the following idea about the close interaction
between art & science. He said: "Both, science and art are the
presentation of the creature of the human being. They are not separated
from each other. There is even a similarity between them as they help
us observe nature. With the help of science we can find out routines of
nature. On the other hand, by means of art we can describe the emotions
In the Art & Science page to be presented in each issue of our journal,
the above interaction will be demonstrated in the following way: art will
be used as a means to illustrate science, and science will be shown as
instrumental in creating art. In this way, visual form will be given to
scientific ideas, or as I define it - "demonstrate science through
the 'eye' of art".
The present art & science page demonstrates how art can be instrumental
in demonstrating one of the most important Laws of nature - the Newton's
2nd Law of Motion. What is a law? A law is something already existing
which merely lies hidden until the discoverer disclosed it. This explains
why God gave the world the Ten Commandments 2448 years after the creation,
but has been waiting 5403 years for Newton to discover his laws.
Sir Isaac Newton, 1643-1727, born in UK, a mathematician and physicist,
one of the foremost scientific intellects of all time. He was a premature
infant not expected to live who showed no particular promise in his early
years. He had a very unhappy childhood, which explains why he showed signs
all through his life of a persecution mania. Surprisingly, Newton was
highly productive only for eighteen years, 1669-1687, while a breakdown
at an age of 51 ended his scientific work. He then became a highly paid
government official in London with little further interest in mathematical
research. Newton never married, but was at his happiest in the role of
patron to younger scientists while from 1703 he served as a tyrannical
president of the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1705.
Newton's contributions to science included modern laws of optics, the
development of calculus, the Newtonian telescope and his law of cooling.
However, the most important discoveries were his three laws of motion
and the universal law of gravitation which sufficed to regulate the cosmos,
but only, as Newton believed, with the help of God. Legend has it that
seeing an apple dropping from a tree gave Newton the idea that the same
force that keeps us bound to the Earth also controls the motion of planets
and stars. Newton's theories for determining the motion of bodies traveling
at ordinary speeds created among scientists a peaceful and optimistic
climate for about 250 years. However, when Einstein in 1905 proposed the
theory of relativity-where mass, length and time were no more unchangeable
magnitudes but depend on their speed, as an alternative to Newton's theory,
the world was shocked!
Looking at Newton's equations F = ma and F = m1m2/r2 reveals how aesthetic
they are. And indeed, many scientists expressed themselves about aesthetics
in science (Rieser, 1972). Einstein said that "Beauty is the first
test and threre is no place in the world for ugly mathematics" while
according to Dirac "Beauty in equations is more important than their
agreement with experiments."
We focus now our attention on Newton's 2nd Law. The law is demonstrated
on the back cover of the journal for a body attracted solely by gravity
force, namely, F = mg. However, a deeper analysis of each of the three
pictures comprising the law is also very interesting, as follows.
Force F, a push or pull exerted on an object, is demonstrated by "Sisyphus"
pushing a heavy boulder. It was painted by Franz von Stuck (1863-1928),
born in Lower Bavaria and talented with a sensuous power to communicate
through colors and forms and whose work was sometimes decorative and sometimes
sculptural. The mythological figure of Sisyphus is one of the best well-known
penitents of the underworld. The Gods' punishment for his hubris is the
task of pushing a heavy boulder up a mountain down which it always rolls
back after reaching the summit. Observing Sisyphus trying to push the
boulder gives the beholder a strong impression that the boulder is hardly
moving. In other words, the acceleration a = F/m approaches zero, since
according to the visual demonstration the forcce F>0 as well mass m>>0.
Mass m, a measure of how much material is in an object, is demonstrated
by Rafi Carasso in his astounding sculpture "Lady with Basket".
Carasso is a doctor of medicine, a practicing psychologist and sculptor
born in Israel in 1945. Although the upper part of the lady looks normal,
it is hers lower part which gives the observer a strong sensation of a
high mass. The standing lady demonstrates also Newton's third law where
the force exerted by the lady on the floor is balanced by an identical
force exerted on the sole of her foot by the floor.
And finally, the gravity acceleration g is beautifully demonstrated by
Fernando Botero in his painting "Woman Falling from a Balcony".
Botero, a painter and sculptor, was born in 1932 in Medellin, Columbia.
Botero, one of today's preeminent artists, is marked by unique qualities
and a distinct figurative style which includes a wide repertoire of themes
such as self-portraits, nudes, lovers, bullfights, nuns, prostitutes and
saints. Influenced by the monumental quality of the figures of Giotto,
Ingres and Rivera, Botero strives to create sensuality through form. A
closer examination of his picture brings to the conclusion that it represents
Newton's 2nd law for free fall under force of gravity, i.e. a = g.
We return to the question posed in the title, would Newton recognize his
2nd Law by applying "science through the 'eye' of art"? The
answer is, probably, yes, bearing in mind his fascinating taste for aesthetics,
an important cornerstone of art, which is manifested in his beautiful
equations, in addition to his genius brain.
Thanks for reproduction permission are due
to Benedikt Taschen Verlag Publication - for "Sisyphus", Marlborough
Gallery, New York - for "Woman Falling from a Balcony", and Professor
Carasso for "Lady with Basket".
Rieser, D., "Art and Science", Van Nostrand Reinhold Publishing
Company, New York, NY (1972).