Newton’s First Law: Text, Translations, Lost meaning and Implications to Representation of Newton’s theory

Igal Galili

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

15.3.2017

20:00 At The Edelstein Center

Newton’s First Law: Text, Translations, Lost meaning and Implications to Representation of Newton’s theory.

Abstract: I will represent the study regarding translation from Latin of Newton’s First Law (NFL) in a new perspective. The study argues that Newton’s original yields two versions of complementary meanings, one “temporal” and the other “quantitative”. This aspect was missed and the meaning of the law misinterpreted due to the two-staged oversimplification of the Latin original in its translation into English. It was revealed in the original translation from Latin into Russian performed by a prominent physicist, unlike the first translations into English. The especially important option of the translation states NFL addressing the idea of inertia of massive bodies in the context of active forces – a new paradigm of motion. The way NFL is currently presented in physics textbooks caused the decline in the status of NFL in the physics curriculum for being solely a special case of the second law. As a rule, if quoted at all, NFL is presented in its “temporal form”, while the “quantitative” form does not appear. Some advanced textbooks replace NFL by a modernized claim, which addresses inertial frame of reference – the concept much beyond and away of Newton’ worldview. We advocate the nontrivial meaning of NFL, which is important for the “fair” representing Newton’s theory of mechanics and calls for its “rehabilitation” in physics instruction (**).
(*) Newton, I. (1936/1989). Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Nauka, Moscow, translated into Russian by A.N. Krilov
(**) Galili, I. & Tseitlin, M. (2003). Newton’s first law: text, translations, interpretations, and physics education. Science & Education, 12 (1), 45-73