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.

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