Three-Part Invention

Michael Munowitz

in Knowing

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195167375
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787104 | DOI:
Three-Part Invention

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The Moon — caught in an exact balance of attractive and repulsive forces — orbits the Earth with flawless regularity, never faltering. A ball rolls predictably down a slope of a certain grade, always passing the same landmarks in the same sequence of times. There are no surprises in the macroscopic world of classical mechanics, a world where to know the present is to predict the future and retrace the past. Observations may differ superficially according to individual frames of reference, but there is always agreement on the larger issues. Energy is conserved. Momentum is conserved. Differences in coordinates and velocities, along with perceptions of motion and rest, are all reconciled, and Newton’s deterministic equations of motion are the law of the land.

Keywords: classical mechanics; Newtonian mechanics; energy conservation; momentum conservation; determinism; energy; equation of motion

Chapter.  9465 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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