How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 744

How was Newton able to prove inertia with gravity and friction still being present? Why didn't people think he was crazy? Did he have some type of vacuum or something? - JP
Actually, it was Galileo who first realized that objects have this tendency to continue moving at a steady rate in a straight-line path—what we call "inertia." He deduced this fact by studying the motions of balls on ramps. He noted that a ball rolling down a slight incline steadily picked up speed while a ball rolling up a slight incline steadily lost speed. From these observations he realized that a ball rolling along a level surface would roll at a steady speed indefinitely, where it not for friction and air resistance. He was aware that friction, air resistance, and gravity were disturbing the natural motions of objects and had figured out a way to see beyond them. But it wasn't until Newton took up this sort of study that the idea of forces and their effects was properly developed. Overall, it took almost two thousand years, from Aristotle to Newton, for the incorrect idea that objects tend to remain stationary when free of forces to be replaced with the correct idea that objects tend to continue at constant velocity when free of forces.

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