The man in this photo is carrying a sign that says, “Magnets – How the *?*! do they work???” One of my colleagues, Jenny Rice, posted this found image on Facebook. A high school science teacher might remark that if he’d paid attention in high school science classes he’d understand how they work. I’m not so sure about that; I mean, a recent article in the New York Times talks about a noted physicist who is debunking gravity, a fundamental concept that everyone learned about in school. Personally I always thought the explanation of gravity was rather suspect.
Now I’m not one of those humanities folks who have no understanding or aptitude for science. I did pay attention in science classes, and in fact had 5 years of AP science during my 4 years in high school. On the other hand, that was almost 30 years ago. I can’t explain how magnets work, though I remember that it had something to do with positive and negative charges and the subatomic particles that create them.
What I remember about gravity was that Newton explained it as an “attraction between bodies” – e.g., the planet Earth and its moon. The Earth exerts a “pull” on the moon, which keeps the moon in its orbit. That theory suggests that EVERY body or mass has some degree of that “pull,” and I just don’t buy it. It sounds an awful lot like magnetism, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, the concept of gravity is a convenient term to explain our experience of the world – we ARE earthbound, things DO fall down rather than up. I will, no doubt, tell my son that the reason things fall down is “gravity,” just as many people explain things to their children as “God made it that way.”