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At the height of World War II, in 1942, the British Navy had a sudden breakdown in radio communications. The British became convinced that it was a German trick. It turned out to be disturbances caused by sunspots over 93 million miles away.

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Cosmos Collector's Edition Boxed set - VHS
Carl Sagan's COSMOS is one of the most influential science programs ever made.

Q. Does the moon have a dark side?

A. The moon does have a far side which is impossible to see from the earth, but it doesn't mean that it's always dark. Each side of the moon is dark for no longer than 15 days at a time.


Q. Where does sound come from?

A. The air is always filled with sound waves. All things give off vibrations, but some have a low frequency which most cannot hear. The reason: it may take 3 minutes to make a single vibration. They may be caused by earthquakes and storms.



Newton, an Apple and You

by Jeanette Cain


Have you ever wondered why things fall down and not fall up? If you've heard of Sir Isaac Newton, then someone has probably told you that an apple fell on his head causing him to think of this very same idea! Thank goodness the apple didn't fall on his head, but only close enough for him to start thinking about things falling down, rathern than not falling up. Do you think he was the first person to ever see an apple fall to the ground? Probably not, but he was the first to decide that he wanted to know "Why?"
 

 
Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day in 1642. His father died only a few weeks before he was born and his mother was very poor. No one really expected that a genius would be born into a family lacking riches or money, but Newton proved them wrong. He was a small, sickly child and could not play games with the other children. Sounds a little like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, doesn't it? He also enjoyed doing things by himself, so he made up games that he could play by himself. When he was not making up games, he was reading. At the age of ten Newton went to a public school, but he had to room with a druggist whom he did not know. Although Newton was sickly, he enjoyed playing tricks on the druggist and was most often in more than just a little trouble with the druggist.
 

When he decided to use his time through positive actions, he made little windmills that worked and kites that flew. He would make clocks that could run on water power, write poetry, and much to his mother's amazement he would draw charcoal sketches on the wall of his bedroom! Obviously, Newton's mom didn't have Mr. Clean!

His mother sent for his return home when he was 14, because she needed him to run the farm. Newton enjoyed learning so much that he could be found behind the bushes studying from his books. It was his uncle who realized that Newton would never make a farmer and made the suggestion that Newton be sent to college. He attended Trinity College in Cambridge and became well-known for his mathematic skills. It is said that he knew more than his professors!

In 1665, England faced a great plague which caused the college to close. At 23 years old, Newton had to return home to his mother's farm once more. Now this is where the story of Newton and the apple had its beginnings. He thought about gravity and sometimes in the morning hours he would sit on the edge of his bed (only half-dressed) and think about gravity until dinner time.

He had bought prisms at a county fair for a few pennies. He experimented with these penny prisms and showed that a beam of sunlight is composed of the six colors of the rainbow. Those colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. He even ground lenses and mirrors to make a new type of microscope. Newton also invented a new type of mathematics called calculus. Each time he finished one of these experiment, he returned to his ideas about gravity.

Newton said that the moon is caught between two forces: (1) gravity, which pulls it toward the earth; and (2) centrifugal force, caused by its rotating, which pulls it outward. Since the moon is held by these two forces it cannot fly toward the earth and it cannot fly away from the earth. So, the moon does the next best thing-it moves in a curved path around the earth!

You can try your own experiment with these two forces at work by tying a string on a ball and whirl it in the air around you. Ask an adult for help. You can feel it pulling away, but your grip on the string is like the force of gravity. It will hold the ball so that it moves in a circle around you. You, like Newton have found and proved that the Earth's gravity has a tendency to pull all objects toward its center.

Newton then reasoned that if gravity explained the curved path of the moon, then couldn't it also explain the curved path of all the planets and heavenly bodies in the solar system? Newton said that just as the earth holds the moon, the sun would hold the earth and all the other planets. Even the comets would be held with the sun's gravitational pull. This is called the Universal Law of Gravitation. The sun's force of gravity will hold all the planets in their orbits.

This law also explains why a space ship can orbit the earth. It is the whirling motion that forces the space ship away from the earth, but it is gravity that pulls the space ship back toward the earth. These two forces balance one another and will allow a spacecraft to travel in an orbit. Not everyone understood this at first, but at that time these were new ideas and very strange and different from what people had believed.

From a sickly and poor start in life, Isaac Newton made many discoveries. His book Principia was published in 1687. Some people say that this was one of the greatest single achievements of the human mind. He was president of the Royal Society for 24 years and was knighted by Queen Anne.

When Newton died on March 20, 1727, at the age of 85, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. This was an honor reserved for only the greatest men of England. On his tomb, "Let mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race."

Sources:

Editors. The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book-Childcraft International, Inc: Chicago. 1990

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