The Art of War and Physics

You may remember your physics class in high school. Physics is one of those classes you either love or hate. Like a page of Yelp reviews for a popular restaurant, we hear a vocal audience of sad-sighs or enthusiastic squeals about physics.

I did not like physics in high school.  The math was abstract and the teacher was a pompous jerk.

People do change. After learning about balancing health and well-being, I now appreciate physics and chemistry as ruling modes of life. It is a shame that physics has even been removed from the GMAT, western medical school entrance exam. Thousands of students will no longer need it to meet their goals, and the truths of physics will be phased out from the American curriculum.

American physics is attributed to Newton. This division gives it the name Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics can be broken down to three familiar laws:

  1. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

  2. The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a and the applied force F is F=ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (as indicated by their symbols being displayed in slant bold font); in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.

  3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We also know that energy, E, can not be destroyed or created. This is mirrored by the fact that Newton’s principles are inspired by many who came before him. Read, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Tzu, in a chapter called Energy, philosophizes:

22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.

23. Thus the energy developed by good fighting men is as the momentum of a round stone rolled down a mountain thousands of feet in height. So much on the subject of energy.

De-ja-vu plus or minus a few thousand years/miles. My guess is that Newton studied Tzu and applied his principles to meet his own needs. Both Tzu and Newton are regarded as philosophers.

One of the cool things about physics is that its lessons are relevant to life. When you learn about physics, you learn about people. After all, what is physics but a science derived from life by people?


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