Weighty Matters

Throw a ball up into the air, and you will observe that it travels in a familiar curved (parabolic) trajectory: first up, up, up, leveling off, then down, down, down. Common sense tells us that the force of gravity pulls the ball back to Earth.

Newton's brilliance was in postulating not only that there is a force, gravity, that pulls the ball (or apple) back to the earth, but that such a force applies to everything in the universe that has mass. The gravitational force due to the mass of the earth also pulls on the moon, holding in its orbit, and pulls on each of us, keeping us in contact with the ground. Finally there was an answer to those who thought the earth could not be spinning and orbiting the sun. What was there to keep us firmly footed on the earth? Newton had the answer: the force of gravity.

Sir Isaac Newton. (Image from arttoday.com)

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