There are numerous patterns in nature which man has continuously been trying to discover and exploit. Legend has it that as he sat in an orchard to enjoy the cool breeze of a British afternoon, one Isaac Newton’s peace was disrupted by an apple that hit him on the head. It had detached from a tree branch above him and fell on his head.
If it had fallen on a mere mortal, that would have been the end of the story and we would never have known about it. But it fell on one of the greatest thinkers of modern times. “Why did if fall downwards and not sideways or indeed upwards?” wondered Newton. From these questions, Newton postulated the laws of gravity. We now know, thanks to Newton, a great deal about gravity and we are able to exploit it or defy it to our own convenience.
Pop superstar Michael Jackson invented and patented a special type of shoe that enabled him to perform an anti-gravity stance in his dance. It is mind boggling to see a number of men tilting to an impossible angle as the track ‘Smooth Criminal’ plays. The point is that Michael Jackson took his time to study how to defy gravity in order to mesmerise his audiences, and he did a good job of it.
Gravity is defied in numerous other ways by all manner of creatures. Insects, birds and some mammals have been flying, staying airborne despite the downward pull of gravity, for millennia now. It is believed that even some species of dinosaurs were able to achieve flight. The art of flying is one that is achieved against the force of gravity. Man has also mastered this art and now defies gravity at the drop of a hat.
One of the incredible ways in which man defies gravity is to send spacecraft into space, making them break free from Earth’s gravitational force. To achieve this, the spacecraft has to reach a speed known as escape velocity. The more massive a planet or heavenly body is the higher the escape velocity that objects must reach to break free from the gravitational field of that body.
All this has been made possible through painstaking study and manipulation of the laws laid down by Isaac Newton and others.
Besides gravity there are numerous other natural phenomena which man has exploited, or is yet to exploit, for his benefit. Electromagnetic waves are one such phenomenon. Radio communications, cordless telephony, remote control units, to mention but a few, are among the myriads of applications which have contributed greatly to modern man’s convenience. Through electromagnetic radiation it is possible to communicate with distant spacecraft. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, for example, has now left the solar system and is coasting in interstellar space, currently just over 20 billion kilometres away, but contact between it and Nasa’s control station is maintained through electromagnetic waves, albeit with a time lag of over 18 hours (one way communication) because of the colossal distance between Voyager1 and earth.
Painstaking observation and study will unlock many mysteries that lie hidden in natural phenomena. That is why science is an extremely important human undertaking. Nature has just about everything that the human race needs, but such goodies are not packaged in anything that is straightforward. We need to continue working towards making new discoveries. Those citizens of the world that are daring are making progress by the day. The rest of us apparently just want to sit back and enjoy to fruits of other people’s efforts.
Any technological wizardry that amazes us is preceded by long periods of research and, more often than not, frustration. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak spent days and months on end working from a garage to create the first Apple computer. Today, people use iPads and iPods, Apple products, like they just dropped from heaven.
Searching within communities, I see almost no sign that we are pursuing knowledge. Meanwhile, the world is moving further on and we are getting left behind.n