Physics 4 Thought header

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

The “Trojan Horse” must have been a site to behold, something beautiful.

It was not the horse that destroyed the Trojans, it was not even what was inside that destroyed the Trojans. What destroyed the Trojans was how they decided to use that beautiful horse. The Trojans had at least four options of how they could have used the Greek gift. First they could have burned it down, second they could have left it where it was, third they could have rolled it over a cliff into the sea, and fourth they could bring it into the city. It was how they chose to use the gift that brought about their destruction.

The Greeks left us a gift. That gift was the mathematics of geometry. Geometry is beautiful, a mathematical site to behold. How have we used this Greek gift?

The Greeks believed there was something sacred about geometry and made the principles of geometry part of their secret societies.

We owe a lot to the Greeks. They helped systematized early astronomy, made the first laws or rule relating to gravity, and devised geometry.

But the Greeks led us down a couple of false paths. Aristotle conducted several experiments from which he concluded that Gravity is an acceleration. Then Aristotle performed a “thought” experiment and concluded that heavier objects fell faster than lighter objects. These ideas relating to gravity prevailed for almost 2000 years. Aristotle concept that heavier object fell faster than lite one lasted until Galileo. In 1590 Galileo conducted experiments using small wagons and inclined plains to determine that not only is gravity an acceleration but that it accelerates all objects the same amount regardless of weight.

The Greeks also gave us the concept of geocentric universe which lasted until Copernicus, Keepler, and Galileo. Even then the beauty of geometry still held sway with the concept of the “Harmony of the Spheres” and other concepts based on the geometric spacing of the planets and geometric figures to describe the solar system.

Newton started to break the grip of geometry with his equation for gravity.

Newton’s equation for gravity was latter found to also be applicable for electromagnetism. Then as magnets and electricity experiments continued the two forces were discovered to be intimately intertwined. The various electric and magnetic laws ultimately lead to Maxwell developing his famous field equations.

Subsequently to Maxwell developing his famous field equations for electromagnetism. Heaviside in the1890's developed field equations for gravity that paralleled Maxwell’s field equations.

Approximately 20 years later Einstein used general relativity to tie gravity back to geometry. Einstein used “thought” experiments rather than real experiments’ to develop his equations. Einstein spent the rest of career right to the end trying to make electromagnetism fit a geometric pattern just the same as he had placed gravity back into a geometric pattern. Gravity could fit this pattern because it has a single pole, but electric and magnet fields each have two poles plus neutral and five poles will not fit nicely into a three dimensional geometric shape. The Greeks failed again.

Aristotle performed “thought” experiments, Galileo performed “thought” experiments, Einstein performed “thought” experiments. We will return to“thought” experiments further into this text.