A matter of gravity

It’s funny how a big enough piece of news can obscure other news that one would think noteworthy. Imagine, for example, how the devoted followers of Mother Teresa must have felt after she passed away, when all anybody seemed to care about was the death that same week of some young ex-princess from England.

And so today. All around the world people are celebrating, but nobody is celebrating the birth of Sir Isaac Newton (born on December 25, 1642). If the great man had been born on nearly any other day of the year, today would be filled with special commemorations, rituals and ceremonies, in honor of the most influential scientist in the history of the Western world.

But because he was born on this day, nobody thinks of December 25 as “Sir Isaac Newton Day”. Yet imagine if everybody did! Children nestled, all tucked in their beds, would be hoping that Sir Isaac had left a refracting telescope or optical prism in their stocking.

Rosy cheeked carolers would be standing on street corners, singing merrily under a full moon of the universal laws of gravitation. Families would look forward to the traditional yearly meal, where they can discuss infinitesimal calculus and the generalize binomial theorem.

Of course we are a diverse society, and some might argue that a focus on Newtonism could unfairly exclude people with differing cultural orientations. So I’m sure nobody would object, in the name of diversity, if some families chose instead to celebrate December 25 as the birth of Humphrey Bogart or Cab Calloway, Annie Lennox or Quentin Crisp. Or maybe Jesus.

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