Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Knowledge: It's A Dangerous Thing. Especially If You Knowledge Like Newton Did.

So, it's another week of summer school for both (BOTH!!) girls, and, while I contemplated all the wild and crazy suggestions you all threw out last month (going to the bathroom by myself, reading, running, sleeping, skydiving, showering...) which were all stellar suggestions, and ones I should probably do (especially that shower one) buuuuuut...I'm not.  Because my need to sit in a noisy coffee shop, slightly (1) unshaven legs tucked discreetly under the table, typing letters onto a screen, swilling coffee, and basically avoiding all sorts of responsibility (which no one here will notice, as long as I keep my elbows below shoulder level, because I actually DID do that run thing, but only before I had to drag the kids out of bed this morning) is overwhelmingly attractive.  And I'm totally talking eating-an-almond-croissant-while-swilling-back-my-plain-latte-attractive.  So, you know, obviously, something I'm completely powerless to resist.

However, now that I'm here, and you're here, and we're both sitting, reading all the letters as they form words by jumping from my keyboard and gluing themselves directly onto the actual Internet, I realized that I should probably have a topic for this blog post.  Preferably one that is world changing.  But then, I realized, this lady already did that, and so, technically, now I'm free to rant about the quote I saw on the marquee of the auto mechanic shop this morning. SCORE!! (Add awkward sitting by myself in a coffee shop doing an actual fist pump here.  Don't worry it matches the crazy mumbling to myself that I'm also doing.)

"All great discoveries were made by accident"

Really? All? No hard work? No thought? No planning? No scientific process when into any of them, Auto Mechanic Shop?

Now, before you all start yelling out things like:

"Dude! What about Frank Epperson? He was only 11 when he accidentally left a cup with powdered soda and water with a stir stick in it outside when he went to bed. The next morning? He woke up as the inventor of the Popsicle!"


"Chocolate chip cookies, Martha.  Mrs. Wakefield totally thought they'd melt and make her cookies all chocolaty. But! They! Didn't!"


"What about Percy LeBaron Spencer, the inventor of the microwave who worked for the Raytheon Company, when he walked past that radar tube the chocolate bar he had in his pocket melted. No one, Martha. No. One. Melts a perfectly good chocolate bar in their pants pocket when they could just eat it instead! Duh."

Geesh! Settle down people. I mean, if it was just me, I'd totally agree with you, especially on a cool fall day, sitting on the porch swing, cup of tea in one hand, warm gooey chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven in the other.  However, Sir Isaac Newton disagrees with you. Vehemently.  Seriously, just ask Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Or Robert Hooke for that matter.  Oh wait.  You can't. Because they're both dead. Yeah. That's right. Dead. Now, I'm not saying Newton had anything to do with that, but what I am saying is that historical facts do not lie and the facts clearly state that Hooke died in 1703, Liebniz in 1716 and Newton? In 1727.  Plenty of time to cover up a few... indiscretions....

You see, lately, I've been making Katie check out one biography from the library each week (in an attempt to assuage the deluge of fairy/Geronimo Stilton/Animal Ark books that make their way into her library bag) and recently she chose Giants Of Science: Issac Newton by Kathleen Krull. And we read it.  (Related note: a few pages in I realized some of the subject matter may be a bit too much for Katie, and it turned into a read aloud so we could discuss his, um, how to say this nicely? (I can't) his craziness. But, it did prompt me to preview the first chapter of Krull's biography of Marie Curie, which we also had checked out, and, yeah... pogroms. Soooo that one definitely moved to "Mommy's Reading Shelf".) But I thought the book on Newton was fascinating!

I found out all sorts of stuff about Newton! How he hated sharing with other scientists (I mean, like a lot, a really really huge a lot), but kept meticulous notebooks describing absolutely everything he researched and discovered. How his invention of the reflecting telescope started with poking sharp sticks into his own eyes to see how his vision changed, and yet he somehow never went blind.  How more work was put into that whole apple/gravity thing than most cartoons illustrate. And, not one of his discoveries, not calculus, not the laws of motion, nor universal gravitation, anything, came about by accident. Not. One.

And, it's not just Newton, my misinformed Auto Mechanic Shop. Mr. J. Edwards agrees with me too:
"Discoveries are not made by accident, as it is often assumed, for, unless a man's mind be provided with precise and suitable conceptions, by which facts may be analysed and connected, they can never become the materials of exact knowledge; therefore I wish to impress upon you the importance of giving men a special education to enable them to become successful investigators."(2) 

So, may I suggest this quote for your marquee instead, Auto Mechanic Shop?

Don't poke sticks in your eyes, I already scientificated that.
Go discover your own stuff.
Sincerely, Sir Isaac Newton.

It's much more historically accurate.

 (1) Not slightly.
(2) Edwards, J. "On Research in Relation to Medicine." The Student's Journal and Hospital Gazette, January 27, 1883.


  1. I think the auto mechanic shop doesn't realize it made itself obsolete with that quote. No sense paying them to accidentally discover what's wrong with my car, after all...

    1. Dude! Totally! You know, my car has been making this annoying grinding sound lately and my shop can't figure it out, maybe I should get the Ellie and Katie out there, I'm sure we could bumble our way into a solution!