Send Them Peace

Send Them Peace

STP Bench Number 4: The Newtonian vs Psi struggle for Truth.

"Hey, Sir Isaac, .... wassup?


It is "de rigeur" today that any work describing Science's efforts to tack down reality and consciousness, must respectfully abandon Newton and his squarish sort of laws and calculus if it seeks success (and ample sales). Currently, success seems to require that one must quickly pour oneself into the still murky waters of quantum particles and their mechanics. And the transition from Newton, through Einstein, to particle and wave physics: will it succeed finally in showing us all, (if interested), effects that are unanticipated, striking, amazing, seemingly incomprehensible and contrary to logic, but also too small, too fast, too large, too far away, to be of importance to us as we head off to work Monday... and therefore, unimportant from a practical point of view?


Or will it instead, now that the curtain has been pulled back on electromagnetic, subatomic and gravitational events that were always there, even if we didn't know they were there ... quite soon and inescapably change our world, our universe, our human existence and consciousness, markedly, broadly, and forever?


But first, before packing away old squarish Newton for good and good riddance, ... was Sir Isaac such a boring guy that he couldn't even begin to imagine, and accept the existence of, phenomenon that "F=m·a" could not explain? Was he into Psi kind of stuff ?


Apparently so.


Now that all of his personal documents (and through these, his life) are available and better studied (the economist John Meynard Keynes bought most of Newton's documents in 1936, at auction at Sotheby's in London), a new image of Newton emerges. A Sir Isaac Newton who is anything but a curmudgeon, who one might imagine shouting from his bedroom window: "If science hasn't proven it, it doesn't exist and never will!" Instead of dogma, one finds Newton constantly involved in experimentation of all sorts, aimed at defining truths acting in the Universe: Truths of all sorts.


Some of what his personal writings reveal about this patriarch of Science, (born in 1642, the same year Galileo died), is that he may in fact have been quite a bit more than simply an "enlightened rationalist" :


  • He predicted the world would end in Armageddon in the year 2060 (even without calculus, one can calculate that's due to arrive in only 44 years).
  • "Truth is the offspring of silence, and unbroken meditation" (Newton, at Cambridge), would be one auto-definition of his work habits. "Booze and loose chicks" seemed to be in vogue at Cambridge in his day, but Newton partook of neither.
  • As he approached and reacted to René Descartes mechanistic view of the universe, Newton's reaction was that such a view must be tested (in a laboratory, for instance).
  • Then the plague struck England, university closed, and Newton returned home to avoid infection and to sit beneath his famous apple tree. He was now convinced that the force making apples drop, and that keeping the moon in orbit, were one and the same: gravity. (The apple-on-the-noggin inspiration story, most expert's are very skeptical of ! ).  Newton Apple GIF.gif
  • Nevertheless, looking at motion and acceleration of such objects, did lead Newton to develop a new branch of mathematics: calculus. And he loved, calculating! This at age 22.
  • He next, with prisms, began investigating light, defining the component colors of white light. Not a big deal? Well in his day it was huge! And people got crazy trying to understand his methods, data, results, and conclusions.
  • Return to Cambridge after the plague. Professor of mathematics (same position as Stephen Hawking today, who was born exactly 300 years after Newton's death).
  • He built a telescope incorporating mirrors instead of lenses, to avoid the chromatic aberration (false colors that aren't really there) induced by the latter: A revolution from Galileo's telescope. This was a sensation that resulted in his election to the Royal Society of Scientists. 


Hold onto your britches and powdered wig ...


  • Of course, at about this time (age 26 or so), Newton became an alchemist. WHAT? A phoney-baloney pseudo-scientist? What? Yet another in search of "the philosopher's stone" ? This "stone," once found or refined from corrupt substances of course, was presumed to heal most known illnesses, conferred immortality, and transformed lead and other base metals into pure gold. (Don't our lives today have many of the same goals?) Alchemists at the time, found ample employment (and sources of revenue and bottom line profit) with those (nobles, princes, the rich) who could afford such "science." A maldistribution between the poor and the rich was already in evidence, so some things have not changed for the better. The middle class at that time was small, and did not have much money to waste, unlike today, and so were not targetted by the alchemists in search of a grant. Defrocked alchemists (this research was outlawed because the government thought fake gold would debase the British currency, (but this also suggests that they must have had some confidence in a positive outcome of this research), were hanged when they were caught (on a guilded scaffolding, perhaps their only actual, though terminal, contact with real gold). So putting together a demo, spiel or PowerPoint equivalent, based in alchemical science aimed at getting money out of those who had some, was not risk free in the 17th century. 
  • Meanwhile, Robert Hook, and others, began to refute all of Newton's work on light, saying he had of course already studied it, and that Newton's work was all wrong. Not well taken by Newton, who was "allergic" to criticism: it prompted his going ballistic (a term certainly not employed in his day). For about 4 years, the citations went back and forth between Newton and Hook to defend the work. Hook never bought it. Deciding he would never publish a scientific paper again, was Newton's final response. So there.
  • Deeper into alchemy, Newton believed that deep human wisdom had arisen eons ago before our recorded history, had been lost, and he interpreted Greek drama as recipes for this re-emerging alchemical knowledge. Roman poets (Ovid) as well, were interpreted in the alchemical light by Newton. These he interpreted as a secret cookbook for alchemical processes (such as "The Net of Vulcan" made of copper, iron, fire). This was quite a departure from his "F = m·a" hypotheses, later Law. But actually, perhaps not for Sir Isaac who felt strongly that all these domains arose in the same "active principles of Nature."
  • A dangerous secret: As a Fellow at Trinity College, Newton had been required to become a Minister in the Church of England. (Which he hated). He eventually worked towards a conclusion denying the Divinity of Christ. He finds the notion of the Trinity to be a blasphemy on the first Commandmant. "No other Gods before me ..." Of course his new beliefs were illegal in that context, and at that time.
  • Yet, Newton wrote more during his life about Theology and Alchemy each, than Science and Math combined. Didn't you learn that in High School? For Newton, Religion and Science were inseparable parts of the lifelong quest to understand the Universe. Many interpreters of Newton's work, especially the French in later years, worked to take God out of Newton's work, and which he would have strongly objected to. Without confidence in the presence of a Prime Mover in his Universe, it is doubtful that his thoughts alone would have lead him to Principia Mathematica.  In his more than 1,600 texts in his personal library at Cambridge, Newton owned more than 30 Bibles. And out of these, he calculated when humans came into existence, and when it all would end. He spent 30 years working and reworking these calculations, aiming to translate his intuitions, premonitions, and interpretations of Biblical text, into mathematical reality.


Isaac back on track? 


  • Edmund Haley (of Haley's Comet fame), visited Newton when the latter was 40 years old. His aim was to explore the inverse square law that force and distance are related in the elliptical orbits of the planets around the sun. (Euclidian geometry, and not calculus). Sir Isaac took a little break from alchemical experiments. The question caught Newton's attention for the next 18 months, and resulted, after volumes of essentially constant work (18 to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week), in the Principia Mathematica. This is his crowning achievement. It contains the Axioms of Motion, offering that motion, whether on Earth or in the heavens, responded to the same laws. (His Three Laws of Motion). 
  • Out of this, Newton defined gravity as the force keeping objects, including the moon, in orbit around the earth. This was of course a thought experiment, having narry a rocket nearby. He made a daring proposition, hypothesizing that this force operates throughout the Universe. This is his Universal Law of Gravitation ( "Fg = G· [(m1 · m2) / r²] )", expressing the relation of two masses, and the square of the distance between them, to this gravitational force of attraction). This defined: planetary orbits, the ocean tidal movements, etc., ... a total revolution in thought for his time and long after. Newton was well on his way to becoming the Father of Modern Science.
  • Hook of course reappeared to become a total pain. Since forces of gravity are invisible, Newton's work was interpreted as occult philosophy. Did he find this "gravity" in his alchemical work, or based in the "Active Principle of Nature"? (These was a mysterious invisible alchemical force at work throughout Nature). Was invisible "gravity" simply more of the same? If so, ... that word "gallows" would have soon come to mind, or at least: "you're fired." Newton was looking for something "quite big," in his alchemical work. The fact that he published nothing about it, suggests that he in fact, in spite of 30 or more years devoted to this field, ( a field totally dismissed and disparaged today unless one considers chemistry its offspring), found nothing "big." Who knows? Are the effects of electromagnetic radiation offered increasingly from numerous directions today, tomorrow's alchemy? In each case there were (and are today) things "to show" to those interested. Then, copper, iron, fire: Now, electrons, magnetic fields, nonlocality, resonance ... but will actual effects on human existence, in both cases, end up in the trashcan? Newton was working in the domain of the occult and psi, where the invisible "active principle" just needed more study to be better defined. He never did get to that definition, discovery, demonstration. And of course, his work on alchemy he kept to himself and his assistants, and never hurt a soul with, besides eventually driving himself nuts for a while. Are such forays to and beyond "the fringe" today, able to make the same claim of benignity?
  • This lack of yield from his alchemical work, was more than stressful for Newton. He had what was probably a nervous breakdown, and probably due to exhaustion. Wild accusations against his friends (like John Locke) followed, though Locke eventually forgave him. (He had accused Locke of a direct attack on Newton's "chastity," by building and populating a brothel for Newton's personal use. No data about whether Sir Isaac ever went to check it out or not). Fortunately, the psychiatric illness lasted only a few months. Then again, maybe not. Maybe he developed an alter ego, and remained quite nuts. How would one know for sure? He cleaned up his act, bought some new wigs, moved to London to fill his new appointed position of Master of the Mint (two dozen counterfeiters were executed while he was in charge). Followed: Member of Parliament, President of the Royal Society, and Knighthood. He settled rather comfortably into his iconic (today we might read "establishment") existence, fitting without further argument into his role in London. No more alchemy.
  • His text on Optics followed, and included presenting many of his ideas on calculus, forty years after they were conceived. No one said: "that's old hat" since he had kept his calculus all to himself.
  • He gave up alchemy, but continued his devotion to Theology until his death in 1727 at age 84, buried in Westminster Abbey, with King's and Queens.


So Isaac wasn't all: "Action equals reaction."


Forays into "the fringe" were also on his calendar, and year after year for quite some time.


Any other conclusions?

Well, one could ask: "How does one know what is mainstream Science and what is "fringe" or just beyond into fancy?

If Newton's life conveys an answer, one part is certainly: "Time Will Tell."



And don't forget:

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Have a look at this video, to see the real authors of this material ... quite "enlightening."




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