The Beauty of Newton's Hypothesis

Newton supposed that the case of the planet was similar to that of [a ball spun around on the end of an elastic string]; that it was always pulled in the direction of the sun, and that this attraction or pulling of the sun produced the revolution of the planet, in the same way that the traction or pulling of the elastic string produces the revolution of the ball. What there is between the sun and the planet that makes each of them pull the other, Newton did not know; nobody knows to this day; and all we are now able to assert positively is that the known motion of the planet is precisely what would be produced if it were fastened to the sun by an elastic string, having a certain law of elasticity. Now observe the nature of this discovery, the greatest in its consequences that has ever yet been made in physical science:—

I. It begins with an hypothesis, by supposing that there is an analogy between the motion of a planet and the motion of a ball at the end of a string.

II. Science becomes independent of the hypothesis, for we merely use it to investigate the properties of the motion, and do not trouble ourselves further about the cause of it.


Is that it worked, produced measurable results and predictions, and it didn't matter that what gravity is remained a mystery.

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 Lectures and Essays, by the Late William Kingdon Clifford
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Stephen , Pollock , Clifford (2010-03), Lectures and Essays, by the Late William Kingdon Clifford, Nabu Press, Retrieved on 2012-01-31
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  • Folksonomies: history