Greene, Brian. "The Fabric of the Cosmos". New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004

When I was growing up, I used to play a game with my father as we walked down the streets of Manhattan. One of us would look around, secretly fix on something that was happening -- a bus rushing by, a pigeon landing on a windowsill, a man accidentally dropping a coin -- and describe how it would look from an unusual perspective such as the wheel of the bus, the pigeon in flight, or the quarter falling earthward. The challange was to take an unfamiliar description like"I'm walking on a dark, cylindrical surface surrounded by low, textured walls, and an unruly bunch of thick white tendrils is descending from the sky," and figure out that it was the view of an ant walking on a hot dog that a street vendor was garnishing with sauerkraut. Although we stopped playing years before I took my first physics course, the game is at least partly to blame for my having a fair amount of distress when I encountered Newton's laws.

--Brian Greene, "The Fabric of the Cosmos," page 31

of course to fully understand how distressing newton's laws were, and have been for four hundred plus years, you need to have a basic understanding of relative motion as newton applied it to a spinning bucket, full of water, and tied to the ceiling by a string. newton observed that as the bucket began to spin, the water remained motionless, until some time passed and it began to become concave. newton was puzzled, as are scientist to this day, why the water doesn't begin to move at the moment the bucket moves. even more troubling is the fact that there is a point when the bucket temporarily stops moving, and the water continues to spin, prior to the bucket starting up again in the opposite direction. what newton wanted to know was if the bucket is moving in relation to the room, what was the water moving in relation to? ultimately newton answered this with a vague concept of "absolute space," which would undergo some heavey fire by a man named mach*. the above quote ties into this all as an introduction to mach and how difficult it can be for one to imagine a perspective that could be useful in solving physical problems. certainly if this is of any interest pick up the book. its a simple read and makes my writing seem like the london fog in comparison.

nonetheless, i think that this is the type of game i will play with my children. sounds fun and surely develops some strong mental muscles. otss.

* philosopher leibniz also objected to newton's idea of "absolute space," instead believing that things can only exist in relation to something else.


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