Thursday, May 6, 2010

Like Attracts Like

Here is another insight from Newton, his law of universal gravitation:
Therefore the force of gravity towards any whole planet arises from, and is compounded of, the forces of gravity towards all its parts. Magnetic and electric attractions afford us examples of this; for all attraction towards the whole arises from the attractions towards the several parts. (S. Chandrasekhar, Newton’s Principia for the Common Reader (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), 371.)
So, a force exerted on a mass is met with an attractive force on the opposing mas. We often see the law of attraction in action as the law of gravity.

A basketball, for example, which weighs between 20 and 22 ounces (560 to 625 grams) bouncing on the surface of the earth actually attracts a planet with a mass of 6.0 × 1024 kilograms or 6.0 sextillion metric tons.

Think about that the next time you shoot baskets in your driveway! Every time you bounce that ball on your driveway, it is by comparison an infinitesimal mass, really, attracting a mass of galactic proportions. You are more powerful that you realize.

Another place we observe attraction is in classical field theory, which relates to electromagnetism and gravitation, where, in the theory of electrostatics, like charges repel each other and unlike charges attract. This behavior is explained in Coulomb’s law,  named after the French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, a contemporary of Napoleon. It is actually similar to or another demonstration of the Third Law of Motion.

Just as I have no trouble accepting the law of gravity—a readily observable expression of the law of attraction—I have no trouble accepting the less observed spiritual or law of attraction. Like gravity, I have seen it, felt it, experienced and crashed into it. It is real.

In the law of attraction, we observe that like attracts like. On the surface, this may seem counter to Coulomb’s law where positive and negative electrical charges repel each other, but you can also think about it this way: We know that a gravitational force attracts an opposing force, creating a gravitational attraction. In the case of electrostatics, a positive electrical charge attracts a negative charge. In one respect they are not alike, as one is positive and the other negative. But in another sense they are both alike in that they are both electrical charges. An electrical charge is not attracting wood or a stone or a mineral—it is attracting an opposing electrical charge. So in this significant respect, they are very much alike.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Newton's Third Law of Motion

If you are acquainted with the physical sciences, the Law of Attraction will be a familiar term to you. Among the first to describe this law was Sir Isaac Newton whose Third Law of Motion—the Law of Reciprocal Actions—appeared in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in Latin in 1687. Here is a translation of part of Newton’s Third Law from Principia. I find it fascinating:

To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. Whatever draws or presses another is as much drawn or pressed by that other. If you press a stone with your finger, the finger is also pressed by the stone. If a horse draws a stone tied to a rope, the horse (if I may so say) will be equally drawn back towards the stone; for the distended rope, by the same endeavour to relax or unbend itself, will draw the horse as much towards the stone, as it does the stone towards the horse, and will obstruct the progress of the one as much as it advances that of the other...This law takes place also in attractions...

Though we can’t see the effect of this law easily with the naked eye, nevertheless, if you push on a stone with your finger, the stone pushes back!

In other words, a force placed upon a physical body or entity will always be met with an equal and opposing force. Another way to put this is that a force attracts an opposing force. Likely this is where the concept “opposites attract” comes from.

I think of these opposing actions or forces like these two arrows pointing at each other:
This science, I believe, is at the root of the idea of the law of attraction.

: Newton’s understanding of this law was influenced by the earlier work of Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and others, and is further refined in his own law of universal gravitation (see S. Chandrasekhar, Newton’s Principia for the Common Reader, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995) 370) and the work of later physicists.