Isaac Newton: The Last Magician, BBC 2, 9pm.
Posted by celticman on Sat, 13 Apr 2013
There was no calculus which, for me, was magical enough. Newton did not study mathematics or science, but natural philosophy. What was natural for him, was unnatural for me, although to be fair I did get a C grade at arithmetic. Using those well know variables of time, speed and motion Newton worked out how the planets moved, how gravity worked and how an apple fell from a tree. This was a ha-ha moment, because, of course, he wasn't sitting under the tree at the time and having an a-ha-epiphany. By the time Newton was 24 he had pretty much worked out how everything works leaving me little to add to his great works. He lived for another sixty years—brooding. I also like to brood, so in a way I suppose I'm a lesser Newton. But there's not much drama in brooding, so archive footage of another mathematician and the economist John Maynard Keynes was shown talking about Newton's occult and heretical world view. Sadly Keynes couldn't be interviewed about the irrationality and magical thinking that is this current government's policy, but his idea of how the multiplier effect works its way through the economy should be a standard reading for any Tory politician. Newton's heresy was less extreme. He thought that there was only one God and that Jesus was simply a man that interceded with God on behalf of man. None of this matters a damn now, but at the time of bitter religious wars Newton could have been burned at the stake or in contemporary terms made to listen to our glorious Prime-minister Cameron's world view. Newton had little time for little people. In fact he had little time at all. He divided his days into strict periods of study and worked days, weeks, months and years, non-stop. He was a great rationalist and was in many ways the father of the scientific method. It was not enough for something to be self-evident, it had to be shown as such. His alchemical search for the mythical substance that turns lead into gold or a Tory into a human as we now know was doomed to failure. But he could repeat every experiment, every mistake. There are others who do not heed these lessons of his-story. Newton's genius will live on. I can't say I understand all of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, but I undestand that some ideas are unproven and absurd.