29 October 2013
It was Sir Isaac Newton who is claimed to have been motivated to research gravity by an apple falling upon him. I have long had the motivation but a few days ago while collecting apples I still had some room in my backpack for more so I reached, stretched and retrieved one from it's perch above me. The reflex action of the branch brought a cascade of apples down upon me. Lesson learned – stand back and shake the branch.
The concept of gravity has always intrigued me. I haven't encountered anyone who could provide a reasonable explanation. It can't be reconciled with quantum mechanics which makes it all the more perplexing. But here is the best that I have been able to discern.
Every particle has tentacles that extend from it like an octopus. These are not visible to us. The force of these tentacles is proportional to the mass of the particle. The tentacles may extend a particular distance and then split into two arms that intersect with each other at 90 degrees. These arms intersect with the original tentacle at 135 degrees. This produces a Y shape. The length of the arms is two times the tentacle length squared – the hypotenuse of a right triangle. And the process continues. It could be that they are a single strand that extends from the particle in a straight line until it intersects with something. Regardless of how formed the strength of each tentacle is inversely squared to its distance from the particle.
If all matter is tethered to other matter then how is it that matter moves and we along with everything else don't become tangled in this web of tentacles? The tentacles are not matter themselves but instead are a wave similar to that of electromagnetism. Just as the copper or aluminum molecules do not move along an electrical line while their energy is being transferred the same is with gravity. The gravitational tentacles grasp corresponding tentacles creating a bond however fleeting it may be. Think of the throngs of spectators lining a parade route reaching out to a celebrity. The fingers of the fans and celebrities unite, even if just for a moment, creating a bond that is broken and reformed with the next particle as the particle makes its way through the Universe. As particles move closer to each other the length of the tentacles decreases which produces a greater force. When particles unite they become a single particle that extends its tentacles with a force proportional to its mass. More matter creates a greater collective force that allows for a further reach. Hence, the greater the mass of an object the more force it can exert on its surroundings.
So that is my explanation of gravity in layman's terms and as I have been able to understand it. Now onto the funny part.
My son Therin came back to Indy for the few days of his Fall Break. On Saturday we had lunch at our favourite restaurant, Formosa Seafood Buffet. We were joined by Therin's adorable girlfriend, my parents, a longtime friend of ours and my best buddy, a former classmate of Therin.
After lunch Therin, his girlfriend and my folks departed. We remaining three chatted for awhile then headed off to the home of my longtime friend. These two gals decided on going to see a movie. The movie Gravity peaked their interest. It was starting in a half hour at the nearby monster megaplex movie house – a building that could have hosted a 1964 Beatles concert if it was a one room auditorium. So I said 'let's get going' and obediently followed their lead.
As we entered the auditorium for Gravity we noticed that the movie was already underway. It was with good reason I said 'let's get going' as soon as these women made their movie selection. I thought it was odd that there wasn't 20 minutes of previews, dancing snacks and other related annoyances being displayed on the screen instead of the feature. Ten minutes later when the credits starting rolling I knew we weren't so fortunate to be in an era that has forgone self promotion amongst a captive audience. We exited that auditorium and entered the one showing Gravity for which we bought the tickets. It would have been helpful if there had been an usher to escort us to our seats or at least take our tickets and direct us to the appropriate auditorium but I guess it has been so many years since I have been to that type of theater that I no longer know the protocol.
For the second time we enter an auditorium while the movie is underway. This time much closer to the beginning. The movie concludes, the lights shine and my longtime friend excuses herself to the bathroom but ask us to stay as she wants to come back and watch the previews. Of course I resolutely obey. My best buddy and I chat away as the young man makes his way through the theater picking up debris. He confirms for us that Gravity will be the next showing in that auditorium. Shortly after that patrons begin trickling into the theater for the impending showing.
The lights fade a bit and the commercials begin. I mean commercial like on cable television – the paid programming. Then it is onto the previews. Our friend has yet to return. We keep chatting away until we are asked by another patron to take it into the hall if we wish to keep talking. So, quietly we sit attentive to the previews. Laughing on the inside and expressing an auditory chuckle occasionally as we know what the other is thinking. Now whispering through the previews we are befuddled at the ongoing absence of our friend. I have no cell reception and my buddy says she has not received any messages. I conclude that we have been abandoned at the theater. After all, our friend is diabetic and can be a bit inattentive anyway.
The movie begins and at less than one minute into it, to our amusement, our friend comes walking in, just missing the last preview. She motions for us to come down to her which we do. As we catch up to her in the hallway she immediately tears into us with, “I can't believe that two people who are so smart can be so stupid sometimes. I have been sitting in the car waiting for 20 minutes on you two. I called you [Stuart] twice and you didn't answer either call. I left messages. Were you two planning on sitting in there and watching the god damn movie again while I wait to go home.” We both express astonishment at this attack and accusation of thoughtlessness. What we determined was that the auditorium next to the one we were in was also showing Gravity but that it had started a half hour earlier. She had left the bathroom, entered that auditorium -- catching the remaining previews -- and then went to the car. This would account for the 20 minutes waiting on us. She apologized for her error and off we went. As we rode back to her house I played her messages using speaker phone. The first has a slight tone of impatience but basically informed me that she is in the car now. The second, coming about 20 minutes later, is clearly hostile and berates us in much the same manner as the hallway dressing down. We were all rolling. We managed to go to a theater showing the same movie in three different auditoriums, see the ending twice but not the beginning, get separated into different auditoriums and get chewed out for obediently following directions.
When we got home we prepared a light dinner, our friend took her diabetes meds and then we chit-chatted a bit. Eventually we went to the living room to watch another movie. Well into that movie our friend looks over at the two of us sitting on the couch and said, “Do you two ever shut up and just let someone hear the movie they are watching?” Only after being told to do so, I reply. Then it is just laughter.
Oh but we enjoy our conversations. We chatted the whole way home.
What an evening it was. We see the ending twice but not the beginning. Get told to shut up during two different movies and get berated for doing exactly as instructed by our companion who got lost. Much more of an adventurous evening than I had suspected. Maybe I will go see a movie again in another five years or so. At $10.50 per ticket, $8 for popcorn and $4.75 for a tub of carmel coloured corn syrup water I know I won't be paying. For that $44.25 I'll be able to buy 80 DVD movies at a garage sale in two years. Gravity will likely be in there.
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©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
GRAVITY: An explanation and a funny story
29 October 2013