'When Isaac Newton inscribed onto parchment his now-famed laws of motion in
1687, he could have only hoped we'd be discussing them three centuries later.
Writing in Latin, Newton outlined three universal principles describing how the
motion of objects is governed in our Universe, which have been translated,
transcribed, discussed and debated at length.
But according to a philosopher of language and mathematics, we might have been
interpreting Newton's precise wording of his first law of motion slightly wrong
Virginia Tech philosopher Daniel Hoek wanted to "set the record straight" after
discovering what he describes as a "clumsy mistranslation" in the original 1729
English translation of Newton's Latin Principia
Based on this translation, countless academics and teachers have since
interpreted Newton's first law of inertia to mean an object will continue
moving in a straight line or remain at rest unless
an outside force
It's a description that works well until you appreciate external forces are
constantly at work, something Newton would have surely have considered in his
Revisiting the archives, Hoek realized this common paraphrasing featured a
misinterpretation that flew under the radar until 1999, when two scholars
picked up on the translation of one Latin word that had been overlooked:
quatenus, which means "insofar", not unless.
To Hoek, this makes all the difference. Rather than describing how an object
maintains its momentum if no forces are impressed on it, Hoek says the new
reading shows Newton meant that every change in a body's momentum – every jolt,
dip, swerve, and spurt – is due to external forces.
"By putting that one forgotten word [insofar] back in place, [those scholars]
restored one of the fundamental principles of physics to its original
splendor," Hoek writes in a blog post about his paper.'
Via Rixty Dixet.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics