The physics of ambition

Isaac Newton came up with laws governing motion,  and while physics is essentially for geeks, I can see where he was coming from. My recent state of boredom and inertia isn’t personal; it’s physics. According to Newton’s First Law: if the total force acting on an object is zero, its center of mass continues in the same state of motion. By which he means if there’s nothing pushing or pulling you, of course you are going to sit around all day, thinking. Law number two is basically ‘if you give something a good shove, it moves’,  which pretty much reflects my current state.

The shove isn’t from one person, but lots. Energetic people I’ve interviewed or met through work like Ranulph Fiennes, the ex-banker ocean-rower Roz Savage, the polar explorer Rosie Stancer, the late Jane Tomlinson who cycled across America, David Attenborough, and the many bright-eyed, admirable yet faintly wholesome types that get up early to chase theirdreams and end up with a book deal and a spot on Midweek with Libby Purvis. They make me feel, if not exactly inspired, guilty and jealous which is the most powerful motivator cocktail.

Then there’s the cumulative effect of reading. With the possible exception of Into Thin Air, reading gets you thinking in a fidgety way about the sort of things you could be doing instead of slobbing about; the sort of life you could be leading. When small, I devoured battered adventure classics like Osa Johnson’s I Married Adventure, The Shamba Raiders by Bruce Kinloch, Serengeti Shall Not Die (the Grzimeks), Ride a Rhino by Michaela Denis, a pile of National Geographics, Look and Learns, And and Bee, and Beryl The Peril annuals. Adventure swished about in my brain.  So, while I’d (quite) like to be an architect, or lawyer, it isn’t going to happen because a) I only retain facts by putting them on a hard drive, and b) I read the wrong stuff.

I’m not sure about Newton’s Third Law – for every action there is an equal and opposite action. That doesn’t sound very nice. Makes it seem it’s hardly worth bothering.

While I force-feed the inner explorer over a cup of tea and Digestives, I do ponder this Third Law. Reckon it’s why I’m a procrastinator. That, and the fact I don’t like the cold.

Cambridge University has opened a digital archive of Newton’s papers, including the Principia, in which the physicist developed his theories of action and procrastination – or rather, laws of motion and gravity.

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