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.

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