Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is Gravity Responsible for Falling in Love?*

Is gravity responsible for falling in love?

Are you kidding me? Of course not. Gravity is science. It is certain. It can be seen. It can be proven. It is indubitable. It can even be expressed by a scientific formula, in this case F=G([m1*m2]/D^2). (Thanks Sir Isaac Newton!)

Love—falling in, being in, staying in, or any other gerund related to its action—is anything but scientific. It’s kismet. It’s fate. It’s chance. It’s luck. It’s unproven. It’s a type of alchemy. It is the very antithesis of science.

But hang on a second. Could it be that simple? Is life really that clear cut? No, it’s not. Things are never just black or white, yes or no. There are usually lots of shades of grey, and there’s always at least one maybe.

Sir Isaac Newton, after all, wasn’t just a scientist. He was also a philosopher, a professor, a politician and a mathematician. He was Master of the Mint. (I don’t know what that means, but I bet it looked pretty cool on his calling cards.) You could say he was a jack-of-all-trades. Or you could say that he was neither one thing nor another. He lived his life in glorious shades of grey. He did, after all, have a surfeit of grey matter.

Is the Law of Universal Gravitation physics or is it mathematics? Both camps want to claim it as their own. It appears to be neither one nor the other: another great shade of grey.

Sir Isaac was a man of many talents, and also a man of many laws of physics. In addition to his Law of Gravity, he also wrote three laws of motion. The second and third laws explain force and action, but it is the first law where he may have been obliquely referring to love. The first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion, unless hit by something else.

So a person not in love will stay that way, but a person in love stays in love, unless hit by something (like fancying someone new). Maybe he wasn’t thinking about love when he wrote the First Law of Motion, but it certainly does seem to apply.

Would Sir Isaac still have come up with the same Law of Gravity if he had been able to apply it to falling in love rather than falling apple? Sir Isaac never married, and the encyclopedias don’t tell us if he ever fell in love. Falling in love, as applied to the scientific principal of gravity, certainly seems to be a shade of grey.

But if love, rather than an apple had inspired Sir Isaac Newton, could he have proven that gravity was responsible for falling in love? We shall never know.

* I wrote this essay as part of an application for a one-day writing course. (I was accepted.) They didn't seem to use it for anything, so I thought rather than let it sit on my hard drive unused, I would post it here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For Star Wars Fans Everywhere

The reasons I love this:
-Only in New York City would the presence of Princess Leia would be met with shrugs;
-The arrival of Stormtroopers elicits a bigger reaction, but still, it's hardly a massive reaction;
-The thought of a scene being played out on a New York subway makes my day.

(It would have been even better if they had used the voice of James Earl Jones, but you can't have everything, I suppose.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Hail the Oracle Octopus!*

All Hail King of World Cup!

For those of you who might have missed it this weekend, there was a small sporting contest called "The World Cup" played on Sunday night. But the bigger phenomena of the game was the astute picks by Paul the Oracle Octopus, who lives in Germany.

Paul now has announced his intention to retire to the quiet life after his perfect record of picking the correct winners during the World Cup. Paul, a 21st century kind of Octopus, announced his retirement in a 21st century kind of way: on Facebook.Good luck, Paul. We hope you find your retirement restful.

For those of you who missed Paul in all of his oracle glory, here he is, picking Spain to win.

*Thanks to Lesley Attarian, who came up with this headline.

Friday, July 09, 2010

New Imax: Legends of Flight

We love the Science Museum. Always have, always will.

Last night, we took advantage of our Science Museum membership to see the European premiere of the new Imax film, "Legends of Flight".

I was really looking forward to it. I thought it might be like my first-ever Imax film I saw in the late 1970s, "To Fly!" which was shown at the at the National Air & Space Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

"Legends of Flight" is predominately about the development of Boeing's new airplane, the 787. It also shows some other historic airplanes, such as the Constellation and the Harrier jet.

In some respects, it was like the best bits of "To Fly." There were several scenes of amazing cinematography, especially when the glider is flying over what appears to be Alaskan glaciers. They also used animation pretty well, showing the structure of a plane versus the physiology of a bird.

But the film also certainly marked a cinematic milestone: the use of Imax technology to show a business meeting. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. They actually had several (not just one) Boeing (or should that be boring) meetings about the development of the 787. Is that really the best use of Imax technology? I think not.

The boys loved it, and both awarded it a thumbs-up. I might have given it a thumbs-up if there had been less meetings and more flying.

Yet again, I am either a good mother for taking them to something exciting, or a bad mother, for not getting them home until 10:30 p.m. on a school night. It's a toss up.

"Legends of Flight": if you'd like to see a business meeting through the magic of Imax, this is the film for you.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

World Cup 2010: Paul the Oracle Octopus

In a continuing effort to bring my American friends up to speed on all World Cup 2010 news, I bring you Paul the Oracle Octapus!

OK. I'll be honest. "Paul the Oracle Octopus" is not his real name. I made that up. His real name is "Paul the Octopus" and he lives at the Aquarium Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany. His current claim to fame is being able to accurately predict the winners in the World Cup.

Paul works his magic after his handlers have placed two glass boxes containing mussels for Paul to eat with the appropriate flags on the front. Paul chooses the box-- and the winner-- by selecting it, opening the lid and eating the mussel.

He is, above all, an honest octopus. Even though he was born in England, he still picked them to lose to Germany, which they did. Yesterday, during a LIVE broadcast before the Germany-Spain game, he picked Spain to win (see above), even though he depends on Germans to feed him.

Paul the Oracle Octopus also correctly predicted that Argentina would lose to Germany, angering the Argentinian fans, who said they would put Paul into a paella if given a chance.

He has a very good record. The only time he was wrong was in 2008, when he predicted a Germany win over Spain in the European Championships, which Spain won 1-0.

Will Paul the Oracle Octopus pick the correct winner in the Spain-Netherlands match on Sunday? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

475 Posts and Counting...

Congratulations to me. This is my 475th post on MarathonMum.

When I started this blog five and a half years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. People have moved on now to Twitter and Facebook-- as have I, to a certain extent-- but I keep plodding on with the blog.


First of all, I like doing it. It gives me a chance to write about anything I like. I don't always come up with interesting essays, and often the posts feature pictures of Thing One and Two (though the grandparents like these posts). But I very much enjoy putting stuff out there. I may only have a few dozen regular readers, but that doesn't bother me *that* much. If I really cared about getting more followers, I would have made this a more general blog, guaranteeing more strangers reading the things I write.

I also might have more followers if I posted more regularly, but I tend to go in fits and spurts. Last year was a terrible year for productivity, but I was holding down another job as well as doing all the other things that moms have to do, so time was tight. Even when I was getting up regularly at 5:30 a.m. to get work done, the blog suffered.

Productivity also can be hampered by the fact that blogging is bloody hard work, as evidenced by the dead blogs scattered throughout the Information Superhighway. (MarathonMom, the original name I wanted to name this blog, I'm looking at you). There's also loads of people who say, "Oh, I'm going to do a blog," and then they abandon it. (Laurel Touby, take a bow. Scroll down for the apology for not blogging more.)

Another reason I keep plodding on is that it's serving as a really nice journal of our family life. Occasionally, I'll go back a few years to see what we were doing then, and I'll stumble across a photo of Thing One or Thing Two that will literally take my breath away, because they're so small-cute-different from how they are now.

But the best reason I can think of persevering is that it's keeping me writing. As I continue to toil on my first novel, it's a nice break to be able to just jump on to the blog and write whatever is in my head. Sometimes these thoughts are worth reading, sometimes they're not. But I do appreciate you stopping by, whoever you are.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Wimbledon 2010

They came, they saw, they conquered.

Obviously, I'm not talking about Andy Murray and Venus Williams at this year's Wimbledon. I'm talking about Thing One and Thing Two, who had their first Wimbledon experience.

Now that they're old enough to sit still, be quiet and stay up until 11 p.m. on a school night, (the last milestone being the last one reached), we headed to the tennis tournament after school on Thursday of the first week. The boys had been to Wimbledon just last summer (see below), but when we were there the most active people around were the people working at the tills in the museum shop.

At the height of the tournament, it's completely different. First of all, the Wimbledon station is completely decorated with Wimbledon posters and promotional materials, with big signs leading you to the bus queue or the taxi queue. (Although we didn't go there this year, in the past, Southfields underground station had astro-turf across the Tube platform, with tennis court markings).

We took the shuttle bus to the grounds, which was a mistake for us, because we were joining the famous queue, meaning once we got off the bus, we had to walk about a mile to get to the back of the queue, and then walk some more to get through the front gates, doubling back and crossing over on our past several times.

Once inside with your Ground Only Passes, it was fantastic. Even though it was 6 p.m., matches were still being played on all the courts, and thousands of people milled around the grounds. We got to see Sue Barker from her broadcast booth (reference lost on US fans). We also were one row behind the perimeter on Court 16 to see the No. 9 seed Na Li beat another ranked player. The boys were amazed at how fast the balls flew by and how hard they hit them.

As the day wound down, we got lucky when two older women stopped the boys and asked them if they'd like to go see some matches on Court No. 1. By this time, it was a women's doubles match for which not many people stayed. The guard either didn't notice or didn't care that we only had two tickets for three people, and it didn't matter any way since the court was only half-filled.

All in all, it was a fantastic memorable day I can't decide if I'm a bad mother for getting the boys home at 10:45 p.m. on a school night, or a good mother for taking them to Wimbledon. Maybe it's a little of both.

I got to go back to Wimbledon the following Wednesday for the men's semi-finals with the tickets we won in the lottery for Court No. 1. We got to see Rafael Nadal play, and even better, I got to see Rafa change his shirt! (which he did frequently between sets). It was just as much fun the second time.

We'll do it again next year, for sure.