Newton's Dark Secret

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  • #26
BobG
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zoobyshoe said:
I can't square the guy who so beautifully and logically described motion with someone who would buy in to the fable of a thing like this. Like I said earlier, it surprises me that instead of approaching the whole subject objectively from scratch and coming up with something that would have made his name as the "Father Of Modern Chemistry", he went on the assumption the ancients knew something he didn't, and seems to have gotten sidetracked in chasing a phantom rather than exporing what was really there. It doesn't much exonerate him to say that chemistry didn't exist at the time, since neither did calculus, and so he sat down and developed it.
The idea of a force that could "magically" permeate out and affect other objects that had no contact with each other would have to be considered pretty outrageous, as well - at least it would have if Newton hadn't measured the affect of this mysterious magical force so accurately.

Alchemy wasn't all that common anymore in Newton's time, which is why he kept it at least semi-secret. It was out of favor as a science, plus was banned by law (just in case - the government didn't want someone magically creating new coins). As an aside, Newton also spent some time as the warden of the Royal Mint and was very effective at prosecuting counterfeiters.
 
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BobG said:
The idea of a force that could "magically" permeate out and affect other objects that had no contact with each other would have to be considered pretty outrageous, as well - at least it would have if Newton hadn't measured the affect of this mysterious magical force so accurately.
Not the same thing at all, really, since this force was observed to be at work around him constantly all his life, as opposed to the transmutation of substances, which was a legend no one had ever actually seen. It's quite different to try and quantify something whose existence and effects can't be ignored, however ultimately inexplicable, and to go in persuit of something that hasn't ever been observed.
Alchemy wasn't all that common anymore in Newton's time, which is why he kept it at least semi-secret. It was out of favor as a science, plus was banned by law (just in case - the government didn't want someone magically creating new coins). As an aside, Newton also spent some time as the warden of the Royal Mint and was very effective at prosecuting counterfeiters.
They talk a bit about the purely practical (anti-counterfeiting) side of alchemy in the link. I'm hoping the show will thoroughly set the backdrop for his interest and clarify to what extent he was outside the accepted thinking of the day scientifically.
 
  • #28
One of the most famous scientists in early history is also one of the most famous alchemists. Paracelsus.
Before science thuroughly debunked most of mysticism I can see that it would have been quite easy for one to have found themself intregued by alchemy of which there were always actual definite scientific aspects such as chemistry, medicine, and metallurgy.
 
  • #29
Integral
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This is not a secret or surprising, I thought it was well known and understood by most.

There is even a SciFi short story where someone brings back a (now old tech) LED calculator and shows it to Newton, unfortunately the result of the first calculation he is shown is 666. Newton of course freaks out. I don't recall specifics as to author and title.

People of the era were very superstious as a rule, why would you expect Newton to be any different?
 
  • #30
Curious3141
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Entropy said:
Meh, so was Einstein. He practiclly ruined his wife's career in physics then dumped her and his kids to marry his cousin, which he cheated on.

Newton was in a whole other league of cruelty. He evidently enjoyed interrogating and sentencing people to be hanged, drawn and quartered. I think he got 10 in total, all for counterfeiting.

Then there were the episodes with Hooke and subsequently Leibnitz. He was a hideous troglodyte. I *wouldn't* want to meet the man personally, even though I would dearly love to meet Einstein or most other historical science greats.

On the other hand, maybe it'd be fun to meet Newton and tell him just how wrong his simple conception of mechanics turned out to be, and that he was upstaged by a Jew (I'll bet Newton was an anti-Semite, in addition to his other endearing qualities). :rofl: Then again, he'd probably have me drawn and quartered given the chance.
 
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Integral said:
This is not a secret or surprising, I thought it was well known and understood by most.
It has never been mentioned in any physics text or even popular book on the subject I've ever read. This is, apparently, the first time anyone has tried to systematically go through these notebooks and "decode" all the terminology. He never published any alchemical stuff, and it's clear that, while it may have been known he was knowledgable about it, he was certainly keeping his own research secret.
People of the era were very superstious as a rule, why would you expect Newton to be any different?
Because he was Newton.
 
  • #32
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Curious3141 said:
Newton was in a whole other league of cruelty. He evidently enjoyed interrogating and sentencing people to be hanged, drawn and quartered. I think he got 10 in total, all for counterfeiting.
This is disturbing.
 

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