Riemann for Anti-Dummies: Part 43 : Isaac Newton: Godmother of Baby Boomer Bookkeeping

Riemann for Anti-Dummies Part 43


Baby Boomers, wishing to cure themselves of the afflictions endemic to their generation, will find the administration of a purgative that clears their spirit of the prejudices expressed by Newton’s first “law” of motion, to be of great therapeutic benefit. This “law”, which Newton cribbed from Paolo Sarpi’s Galileo, asserts that bodies in motion move uniformly in straight lines, and bodies at rest stay at rest, unless disturbed. The spread of the epistemological disease associated with this edict has been greatly facilitated by the high priests of modern science, who, acting in the manner and style of their Babylonian and Roman predecessors, have promulgated it as a “law of nature”. The contagion has now permeated into such diverse areas of human activity as the design and operation of space vehicles, the maintenance of basic economic infrastructure, the tragic choice of political candidates, and the truthful keeping of financial books.

The latter is, perhaps, one of the most effective clinical methods for recognizing the extent of the underlying malady, for Newton’s “first law” is exemplary of the bookkeeping methods typical of Enron, WorldCom, Winstar and other Baby Boomer parodies of Shelley’s Ozymandias. Today’s “aggressive accounting” is, in fact, a subset of Newton’s effort to foist a false set of books on the entire universe, and account for all real physical action as an aberration caused by the mysterious intervention of “outside forces”. Just as Baby Boomers do today, Newton absolved himself of moral responsibility with the sophistic disclaimer, “Hypothesis non fingo”, which is otherwise more truthfully stated as, “the Devil made me do it.”

As Bernhard Riemann noted in an unpublished philosophical fragment:

“The distinction that Newton makes between laws of motion, or axioms, and hypotheses, does not seem tenable to me. The law of inertia is the hypothesis: If a material point were present alone in the world and moved in space with a definite velocity, then it would constantly maintain this velocity.”

Newton’s extrication of hypothesis from the universe, like the keeping of a Baby Boomer’s “feel good” set of financial books, is nothing but self-delusion. As Kepler demonstrated, following in the intellectual tradition of Plato and Cusa, the trajectories of all material bodies, such as planets, are determined by a set of physical principles, which are to the physical universe as hypotheses are to the human mind. But, while non-living material bodies, act according to the principle of mind, human beings possess one, giving them the capacity (power), whether they wish to acknowledge it or not, to control and change their trajectories by changing the principles that govern them. Given this, the willful creation of hypotheses, like a truthful set of books, is the only sane course for humans to chart.

What is Straight Anyway?

To chart this course we must recognize, as Riemann, his teacher Gauss and his teacher Kaestner did, that Newton was pulling the classic magician’s trick with his first law of motion. By directing the attention of the observer to a mythical material point, the credulous audience focuses their attention on what appears to be the straight-line path of the point. While fixated on what they imagine they see, the audience fails to account for the unstated, but controlling, assumption governing the action, to wit: the material point is moving in a plane as defined in Euclid’s Elements. In other words, the straight-line path of the material point is a function of the assumption that the space in which it moves is a flat plane. In this way, the books are rigged to produce the pre-desired result.

Gauss caught on to this trick in his teenage years. He recognized that the characteristics of the plane could not be established, as Euclid did, by a definition. Writing in his notebook on July 28, 1797, “I have demonstrated the possibility of the plane”.

Thirty-five years later he elaborated this note to his former classmate Wolfgang Bolyai:

“In order to treat geometry properly from the beginning, it is essential to prove the possibility of the plane (Planum); the usual definition contains too much and already implies an intrinsic hidden theorem. One must be amazed that every writer from Euclid until the most recent times have been so careless: but this difficulty is of an entirely different nature than the difficulty of determining Sigma from S (left from right-bmd)…

“The impossibility of determining, a priori, between Sigma and S is the clearest proof that Kant was wrong to claim that space was only the form of our perception (Anshauung). I have indicated the basis for this in a little essay…which contains the quintessence of my view on imaginary numbers in a few pages.”

What Gauss was pointing to is that Euclid’s definition of a plane contains the assumption that the straight-lines in it will behave in certain ways. Gauss rejected this approach. Instead, he understood a plane to be that surface in which straight-lines obeyed certain provable relationships, specifically, those relationships that flow from rotational action. Rotational action does not {define} a plane. Rather, the plane is that surface in which the rotational action which occurs, produces certain relationships among straight-lines.

From the standpoint of our earlier examination of Newton’s first law, the straight-line uniform motion of the lonely material point occurs because it is assumed it is taking place in a flat plane. Newton, like all magicians, didn’t want anyone in his credulous audience to ask, “Is the universe actually flat?”, or even more fundamentally, “Is it possible for anything to be flat?”

That is the type of question that anyone wishing for civilization to survive, should begin asking.