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The Ten Days of Newton
The New York Times ^ | December 23, 2008 | Olivia Judson

Posted on 12/24/2008 11:56:25 AM PST by CE2949BB

Some years ago, the evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins pointed out to me that Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics and mathematics, and arguably the greatest scientist of all time, was born on Christmas Day, and that therefore Newton’s Birthday could be an alternative, if somewhat nerdy, excuse for a winter holiday.

Think of the merchandise! Newton is said to have discovered the phenomenon of gravity by watching apples fall in an orchard. (His insight came after pondering why they always fall down, rather than upwards or sideways.) Newton’s Birthday cards could feature the great man discovering gravity by watching a Christmas decoration fall from a tree. (This is a little anachronistic — Christmas trees didn’t come to England until later — but I don’t think we should let that get in the way.)

All very jolly — but then, ’tis the season. Yet things are not so simple. It turns out that the date of Newton’s birthday is a little contentious. Newton was born in England on Christmas Day 1642 according to the Julian calendar — the calendar in use in England at the time. But by the 1640s, much of the rest of Europe was using the Gregorian calendar (the one in general use today); according to this calendar, Newton was born on Jan. 4, 1643.

Rather than bickering about whether Dec. 25 or Jan. 4 is the better date to observe Newton’s Birthday, I think we should embrace the discrepancy and have an extended festival. After all, the festival of Christmas properly continues for a further 12 days, until the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. So the festival of Newton could begin on Christmas Day and then continue for an extra 10 days, representing the interval between the calendars.

(Excerpt) Read more at judson.blogs.nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Astronomy; History; Science
KEYWORDS: christmas; dawkins; newton

1 posted on 12/24/2008 11:56:26 AM PST by CE2949BB
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To: CE2949BB

Yes except that Sir Isaac Newton was a devout christian, and so would have nothing to do with such a stupid idea.


2 posted on 12/24/2008 11:58:12 AM PST by LtKerst (Lt Kerst)
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To: LtKerst
He was also an alchemist. We see how that turned out. ;)
3 posted on 12/24/2008 12:01:32 PM PST by CE2949BB (Fight.)
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To: CE2949BB

If I recall correctly, he wrote more on alchemy than he did mathematics and physics. What a waste.


4 posted on 12/24/2008 12:10:03 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: LtKerst

Yes, he was a genius, and a Christian, so you would think Dawkins would get the hint.


5 posted on 12/24/2008 12:10:08 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: LtKerst; CE2949BB

You know, the coolest thing about this proposed holiday season would be going caroling at all the hospitals founded by atheists, and volunteering at all the soup kitchens founded by atheists.

Poor Dawkins...I guess he doesn’t realize he’s going to be fed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster on Judgment Day. And it hungers...it hungers greatly.


6 posted on 12/24/2008 12:10:20 PM PST by Mr. Silverback (I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do!)
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To: CE2949BB
After all, the festival of Christmas properly continues for a further 12 days, until the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

Wrong; the Christmas season lasts forty days, from December 25 to February 2, the feast of Candlemas.

7 posted on 12/24/2008 12:11:25 PM PST by 6323cd (Loyal Opposition My Ass)
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To: GL of Sector 2814

“What a waste”

Only in retrospect. They did not understand atoms at the time.


8 posted on 12/24/2008 12:11:52 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: Brilliant
Only in retrospect. They did not understand atoms at the time.

Granted...he was a man of his time. Just imagine if he'd devoted his later life to real science, though.

9 posted on 12/24/2008 12:14:17 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: GL of Sector 2814

Yes, but we’ve got plenty of scientists today who have never devoted themselves to real science.


10 posted on 12/24/2008 12:16:22 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: Brilliant

You’re not insinuating that Newton would have bought into Globull Warming, are you?

LOL!


11 posted on 12/24/2008 12:23:38 PM PST by ReeseBN38416
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To: 6323cd
I've never heard of "Candlemas". The Wikipedia entry seems interesting.

Learn something new every day. :)

12 posted on 12/24/2008 12:29:04 PM PST by CE2949BB (Fight.)
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To: GL of Sector 2814
If I recall correctly, he wrote more on alchemy than he did mathematics and physics. What a waste.

Newton discovered the binomial theorem, calculus, the laws of motion, universal gravitation, and the decomposition of light. Any of these discoveries would have made him famous forever. But instead we got all of this from just one man. And all of this before he reached the age of 40.

After this he left teaching at Cambridge and moved to London to become head of the Royal Mint. Perhaps that is why he started his study of alchemy. Alchemy was state of the art at that time. Newton was trying to turn lead into gold. Of course we know today that it is theoretically possible to change lead into gold by changing the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom, but the process would be prohibitively expensive. It is much cheaper to dig gold out of the ground.

Mathematics and classical physics got so much from this one man. Must we demand that he invent modern chemistry as well?

Newton has my vote for the greatest scientific genius in history. I recently saw a poll in which Newton received the most votes of modern scientists for that honor. However, I think Dawkin's proposal to substitute Newton's birthday for Christmas is very silly. But then atheists do often say very silly things.

13 posted on 12/24/2008 12:44:19 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: Brilliant
"Yes, but we’ve got plenty of scientists today who have never devoted themselves to real science.

Well, there aren't too many people devoting themselves to alchemy these days. Other pseudosciences such as astrology and UFO studies are flourishing, but I wouldn't call people who study such things "scientists"!

14 posted on 12/24/2008 12:45:27 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: stripes1776
Mathematics and classical physics got so much from this one man. Must we demand that he invent modern chemistry as well?

Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to diminish his accomplishments in the slightest. I was just speculating that had he not drifted off into studies of theology and the occult he may well have produced even more substantive work. As it is, I quite agree that he's the greatest scientist of all time.

15 posted on 12/24/2008 12:49:45 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: GL of Sector 2814; Brilliant
Granted...he was a man of his time. Just imagine if he'd devoted his later life to real science, though.

Why do moderns demand so much from geniuses of the past?

16 posted on 12/24/2008 12:59:53 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: CE2949BB
Newton is said to have discovered the phenomenon of gravity by watching apples fall in an orchard. Keen observation. I wonder what ancient Egyptians attributed the physical properties of the “plumb bob” to?
17 posted on 12/24/2008 1:02:34 PM PST by bitterohiogunclinger (America held hostage - day 49)
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To: stripes1776
Why do moderns demand so much from geniuses of the past?

"Just imagine" = "demand"?

18 posted on 12/24/2008 1:10:02 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: GL of Sector 2814
As it is, I quite agree that he's the greatest scientist of all time.

We found something we can agree on. I hope we can also agree that Newton was a sloppy dresser. He often had crumbs in his uncombed wig.

19 posted on 12/24/2008 1:12:12 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: stripes1776
I hope we can also agree that Newton was a sloppy dresser.

Insufficient information, so I can neither agree nor disagree...although I do recall reading that Einstein didn't care for his appearance, either.

20 posted on 12/24/2008 1:18:47 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: GL of Sector 2814
"Just imagine" = "demand"?

OK, just image what discoveries you and I would have made and given to science if we developed our minds to the same extent as Newton. If only we had devoted our lives to "true science". We would both be geniuses.

That is a very nice fantasy. But unfortunately I never developed my mind to the same extend as Newton. Nor have I ever make any contributions to science. What a shame.

How about you?

21 posted on 12/24/2008 1:19:46 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: GL of Sector 2814
Insufficient information, so I can neither agree nor disagree...although I do recall reading that Einstein didn't care for his appearance, either.

Insufficient information? Then I would suggest you pick up a good biography on Newton. I makes very good reading.

22 posted on 12/24/2008 1:21:59 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: GL of Sector 2814
GL of Sector 2814 wrote:
Well, there aren't too many people devoting themselves to alchemy these days. Other pseudosciences such as astrology and UFO studies are flourishing, but I wouldn't call people who study such things "scientists"!
The pseudoscience of choice for "scientists" these days is "Anthropogenic Global Climate Change." It is quite popular. And about as scientific as UFO studies, astrology and alchemy.
23 posted on 12/24/2008 1:24:14 PM PST by cc2k
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All Nature and Nature’s Laws
Laid hid at Night,
God said, “Let Newton Be!”
And all was Light.
Alexander Pope


24 posted on 12/24/2008 1:24:34 PM PST by donaldo
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To: stripes1776
Insufficient information? Then I would suggest you pick up a good biography on Newton. I makes very good reading.

Insufficient from a strictly personal perspective. Your suggestion about reading a good biography sounds good.

25 posted on 12/24/2008 1:25:20 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: stripes1776
OK, just image what discoveries you and I would have made and given to science if we developed our minds to the same extent as Newton.

Since I'm confident that I'm not as smart as Newton, any discoveries I would have made would most likely have been much more minor in nature. I can't speak for you, not knowing you sufficiently.

If only we had devoted our lives to "true science".

I'm curious, why would you put that in quotes?

We would both be geniuses.

Only if we were geniuses to begin with.

That is a very nice fantasy. But unfortunately I never developed my mind to the same extend as Newton. Nor have I ever make any contributions to science. What a shame.

How about you?

I have one real regret about my life; while I majored in physics in college, I never completed my degree. This was entirely my fault (lack of discipline). Had I completed my studies, I might well have become a scientist.

I think it is a shame.

26 posted on 12/24/2008 1:35:15 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: CE2949BB
Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science author.

I suggest March 26 as a celebration the the new "Self-Absorbed Egotist Day." We could all send anonymous cards to the total a-holes we know telling them what we really think of them.

Hallmark will just love this idea. In fact, I bet they sell more "Jerk Day" cards than Christmas cards. ;~))

27 posted on 12/24/2008 1:35:32 PM PST by Ditto
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To: cc2k
The pseudoscience of choice for "scientists" these days is "Anthropogenic Global Climate Change." It is quite popular. And about as scientific as UFO studies, astrology and alchemy.

I'm skeptical of anthropogenic climate change myself, it's an unfortunate example of politics influencing the scientific debate.

28 posted on 12/24/2008 1:41:05 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: GL of Sector 2814

There’s always money, careers, and status in the current version of Lysenkoism, which today happens to be AGW.

Gubmint science is reliably wrong.


29 posted on 12/24/2008 1:48:04 PM PST by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism.)
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To: CE2949BB

30 posted on 12/24/2008 1:54:13 PM PST by LayoutGuru2 (Know the difference between honoring diversity and honoring perversity? No? You must be a liberal!)
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To: headsonpikes
Gubmint science is reliably wrong.

Not always...NASA's astronomical programs are very impressive.

31 posted on 12/24/2008 1:56:24 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: GL of Sector 2814
If only we had devoted our lives to "true science"

I'm curious, why would you put that in quotes?

I put that in quotes because people don't talk about "true science". They talk about science. Is Einstein's theory of relativity true? No, physicists know it is not true. It contradicts quantum mechanics. So the search is on for a better theory. Are theories ever proven in science? No. All you can do is collect data that supports a theory or contradicts the theory.

When you took a physics lab in college, did you ever state in your lab reports that you proved a theory? No, all you could do is test a theory by collecting data. You took several measurements with some degree of error and arrived at an average with some degree of error. Then you used a discrepancy test with some figure of error to compare the experimental results you obtained with the theoretical predictions. If the two calculations came within some tolerance with stated figure of error, then you could state the the experimental date supported the theory, but you never stated that the experimental results proved the theory. Inductive reasoning is never a proof. So it seemed odd to me that you wrote about "true science".

Only if we were geniuses to begin with.

Exactly. I was waiting patiently for you to say that. Geniuses are born geniuses. How do you explain that with science?

32 posted on 12/24/2008 2:30:06 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: stripes1776
I put that in quotes because people don't talk about "true science". They talk about science. Is Einstein's theory of relativity true? No, physicists know it is not true. It contradicts quantum mechanics. So the search is on for a better theory. Are theories ever proven in science? No. All you can do is collect data that supports a theory or contradicts the theory.

When you took a physics lab in college, did you ever state in your lab reports that you proved a theory? No, all you could do is test a theory by collecting data. You took several measurements with some degree of error and arrived at an average with some degree of error. Then you used a discrepancy test with some figure of error to compare the experimental results you obtained with the theoretical predictions. If the two calculations came within some tolerance with stated figure of error, then you could state the the experimental date supported the theory, but you never stated that the experimental results proved the theory. Inductive reasoning is never a proof. So it seemed odd to me that you wrote about "true science".

Please re-read the thread. You used the phrase "true science" first...not me.

What I did say was this: "Just imagine if he'd devoted his later life to real science, though." I'll stand by that. Newton spent his latter years writing 650,000 words on alchemy. Chemistry has its roots in alchemy, just as astronomy has its roots in astrology. But astrology isn't real science, and neither is alchemy. They are both pseudosciences.

Do you disagree?

Geniuses are born geniuses. How do you explain that with science

The same way I would explain how some people are born with the ability to run more quickly or lift heavy weights...genetics (and training). What other explanation would there possibly be?

33 posted on 12/24/2008 2:53:26 PM PST by GL of Sector 2814
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To: All; stripes1776
Is Einstein's theory of relativity true? No, physicists know it is not true. It contradicts quantum mechanics. So the search is on for a better theory.

For anyone wondering, I think stripes1776 is talking about the "Theory of Everything". (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

My head starts to hurt when quantum mechanics is talked about. Anything beyond the level of pop sci books by Michio Kaku and I become a blithering idiot.

34 posted on 12/24/2008 4:01:43 PM PST by CE2949BB (Fight.)
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To: CE2949BB
For anyone wondering, I think stripes1776 is talking about the "Theory of Everything". (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Theory of Everything (T.O.E.) is one way to think of the theory that will reconcile relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Yes, it's complicated and non-intuitive.

35 posted on 12/24/2008 4:55:41 PM PST by stripes1776 ("That if gold rust, what shall iron do?" --Chaucer)
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To: Mr. Silverback

Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.


36 posted on 12/24/2008 5:14:17 PM PST by WildcatClan (AND THOSE DOESNT BRAIN JUST GO. ---- Cecile Noe)
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To: stripes1776

The mention of “real Science” reminded me of a verse in 1 Timothy 6:20 that refers to: “avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.”

Also I am reminded of: “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”
(Jim Elliot, one of the five missionaries killed in 1956)

I must believe Sir Issac Newton was that kind of scientist and christian!


37 posted on 12/24/2008 6:15:08 PM PST by LetMarch (If a man knows the right way to live, and does not live it, there is no greater coward--Anonymous))
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To: Peanut Gallery

On the first day of Newton, my true love gave to me...


38 posted on 12/24/2008 7:55:21 PM PST by Professional Engineer (Green? I'm so green, I could barf.)
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To: CE2949BB

INTREP


39 posted on 12/24/2008 8:28:04 PM PST by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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