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The Ten Days of Newton

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  • terry.foreman@murraystate.edu
    THE WILD SIDE - NYTimes blog by Olivia Judson December 23, 2008, 10:00 pm The Ten Days of Newton Some years ago, the evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 25, 2008
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      THE WILD SIDE - NYTimes blog by Olivia Judson

      December 23, 2008, 10:00 pm
      The Ten Days of Newton

      Some years ago, the evolutionist and atheist Richard
      Dawkins pointed out to me that Sir Isaac Newton, the
      founder of modern physics and mathematics, and
      arguably the greatest scientist of all time, was born
      on Christmas Day, and that therefore Newton’s
      Birthday could be an alternative, if somewhat nerdy,
      excuse for a winter holiday.

      Think of the merchandise! Newton is said to have
      discovered the phenomenon of gravity by watching
      apples fall in an orchard. (His insight came after
      pondering why they always fall down, rather than
      upwards or sideways.) Newton’s Birthday cards could
      feature the great man discovering gravity by watching
      a Christmas decoration fall from a tree. (This is a
      little anachronistic — Christmas trees didn’t come to
      England until later — but I don’t think we should let
      that get in the way.)

      All very jolly — but then, ’tis the season. Yet
      things are not so simple. It turns out that the date
      of Newton’s birthday is a little contentious. Newton
      was born in England on Christmas Day 1642 according
      to the Julian calendar — the calendar in use in
      England at the time. But by the 1640s, much of the
      rest of Europe was using the Gregorian calendar (the
      one in general use today); according to this
      calendar, Newton was born on Jan. 4, 1643.

      Rather than bickering about whether Dec. 25 or Jan. 4
      is the better date to observe Newton’s Birthday, I
      think we should embrace the discrepancy and have an
      extended festival. After all, the festival of
      Christmas properly continues for a further 12 days,
      until the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6. So the
      festival of Newton could begin on Christmas Day and
      then continue for an extra 10 days, representing the
      interval between the calendars.


      .....

      http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/the-ten-days-of-newton/?ref=opinion
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