November 6: Gravity lets you down

Figure 5.


Mr. Faraday continues his lecture on gravity that he began back in May, and I continue to be completely beguiled by the illustrations, as you can see.

It's hard to really form a blistering opinion about gravity -- I think we're all in favor of it, especially those of us who just pile things up on their desks instead of filing them -- so I will note that Faraday uses the word "beautiful" four or five times in the course of this lecture, including these sentences (technically not in the reading):
Hence, we come into this world, we live, and depart from it, without our thoughts being called specifically to consider how all this takes place; and were it not for the exertions of some few inquiring minds, who have looked into these things, and ascertained the very beautiful laws and conditions by which we do live and stand upon the earth, we should hardly be aware that there was any thing wonderful in it.
Here I have what we call a weight [an iron half cwt.]—a thing called a weight because in it the exercise of that power of pressing downward is especially used for the purposes of weighing; and I have also one of these little inflated India-rubber bladders, which are very beautiful although very common (most beautiful things are common), and I am going to put the weight upon it, to give you a sort of illustration of the downward pressure of the iron...
Burnt-out literature professors are a common trope, but are there burnt-out scientists? There must be. But the relatively few science folk I have known (mostly science majors who turned to comedy writing in the vain hope of being cooler) are still geeked on what they study. And maybe that's because for them, as for Faraday, science is an aesthetic pursuit. Only instead of imposing an aesthetic upon the world, they seek to find how the world imposes its principles upon us.

Hey, maybe that's what'll get kids interested in science -- just tell them it's a branch of aesthetic philosophy! Also, a cartoon cat of some sort might be helpful. Like a jaguar or something. Also also, illustrations, like my friend Figure 9 here:

Nuff said!

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