Impressions on Newton’s mechanics.

“Are you impressed?” – Simon asks, laughingly, and I can see it must be a pun. We are in bed, reading up on Newton’s laws of motion that talk of forces being “impressed” upon bodies.

Simon continues: “Newton’s mechanics says that the speed limit is infinite, which says that matter doesn’t exist, which says that Physics doesn’t exist, which says that Newton’s mechanics doesn’t exist. Newton’s mechanics contradicts itself!”

The book we are reading (17 Equations that Changed the World by Ian Stewart) goes on to describe how in Newton’s laws, calculus peeps out from behind the curtains and how the second law of motion specifies the relation between a body’s position, and the forces that act on it, in the form of a differential equation: second derivative of position = force/mass. To find the position, the book says, we have to solve this equation, defusing the position from its second derivative. “Do you get it?” – I ask, “Because I don’t think I do”. — “I’ll need a piece of paper for this”, – Simon quickly comes back dragging his oversized sketchbook. Then he quickly writes down the differential equation (where the x is the position) to explain to me what the second derivative is. And then he solves it:

Looking back at the vacation

Although vacation is a vague notion in our family, where days are devoted to doing favourite things 365 days a year. For Simon, that means that his days are filled to the brim with science experiments, practicing math and devouring books and videos on quantum mechanics, also when he is on vacation (away from home). The past three weeks in Southern France and Spanish Sitges also involved a lot of swimming and enjoying the outdoors of course, but science remains Simon’s top priority. He also felt like he had grown unaccustomed to the beach overkill (while at home, we only went to the beach something like once a week max) and couldn’t bear the sand sticking to his wet feet for a while. By the time we settled at our Spanish Airbnb he gradually got acclimatised to this continuous sensory ordeal though and I was happy to see him relax at the seashore, especially on the last day of our stay. He had spent about two hours in the water (experimenting with vortices, swimming after a ball and just playing silly), and  didn’t even want to get the sand off his feet anymore. We just sat there on the beautiful retro beach in Sitges, hugging and watching the sea, in absolute tranquility. Simon had even forgotten that Daniel Shiffman’s live stream was due that evening!

Made a lot of “binary calculators” (above)

Helped little sis learn fractions

Introduced little sis to infinite fractions

Checked out his new lathe tools and tried sawing

Experimented a whole lot (with surface tension, forces, water and gases)

Yet another experiment

Followed tutorials by Physics Girl, Up and Atop, PBS Space Time, Veritasium, Reactions, PBS Infinite Series

Loved his new Larry Gonnick Calculus book and did quite a lot of… Calculus. It was quite funny when a restaurant owner noticed Simon differentiate at dinnertime and was very impressed. He trend out to be a former high school science teacher. Interesting how Simon’s giftedness is usually only openly appreciated by those who have some understanding of the subjects he elaborates upon. People with less understanding show less tolerance, like a guard at the French swimming pool who told us off and snatched Simon’s (clean) plastic plate away, not allowing Simon to carry out his beloved vortices experiment in the public pool (resulting in a huge meltdown and Simon being afraid the pool would close or change rules every day).

Launching propeller rockets on the beach

Simon’s first chemical equations. He first thought they worked like linear equations 🙂

More Physics Girl inspired experiments

Favourite one: burning matches in a glass results in all the water in a shallow plate getting sucked into the glass (water level rising). Has a physical and a chemical explanation!

Favourite evening activity

Loving the waves

The Standard Model

Simon, let’s go to the beach, let’s get your shoes on! What’s that on your foot? – Oh, I was just building the Standard Model of Elementary Particles.

Simon is very fond of the new Physics book we are reading before bedtime, it’s called We Have No Idea and it’s about everything yet to be discovered.

The Maisie Day

For Simon and me, this book (“Infinite Lives of Maisie Day” by Christopher Edge) has probably been one of our most profound experiences of the year. We read it together, sometimes, giggling with joy as we recognized Simon’s favorite topics interwoven in the plot (like that the main character also dreams of proving the Riemann hypothesis), and sometimes tears choking our throats as we went through the sad and scary bits of the story. And what a trip down the memory lane last night, at the Royal Institution in London, where we attended a lecture about the science behind “Infinite Lives of Maisie Day”! As Simon proudly told one of the lecturers (University College London’s cosmologist Dr Andrew Pontzen) after the show, he even predicted something important in the book. Simon recognized that Maisie turned into a mirror image of herself after she had traveled around the Mobius-shaped universe, just as depicted in Escher’s “the impossible staircase” painting . “But that’s only possible if you’re flat, a 2D object! So it’s not correct in the book, but they probably put that in to make it simpler,” Simon laughed. “You’re absolutely right! Keep doing science!” the cosmologist told him. @Ri_Science

High and low tide

We drew a line to mark how far the sea has pulled back between 17:30 and 21:00 o’clock. It’s amazing to observe the the Moon in action! We have read about this dance that the Earth and the Moon dance with each other, circling round and round in what is currently our favorite book, Eine kleine Nachtphysik by Wolfgang Rosler:

And the winner is…

We’re back from a beautiful vacation in France and Spain, and it’s official now: All Shapes and Sizes by Murderous Maths’ Kjartan Poskitt is the winner!

And the runner up:

“Optical Illusions” by Russian mathematician Jacob Perelman.