Gravity: How you build knowledge

Last updated on Dec 6th, 2019  

Please start with

Understanding Reality: What you know vs what you believe

if you have not already read it.

Today we are going to discuss gravity. The thing Issac Newton described in the year 1666.

Gravity is not actually a thing. Gravity is an observation. You might be surprised that gravity may not even be a force.

On the Earth, if you pick up a rock, and let go of it, it will fall to the ground.

If you have not performed this experiment yourself please go outside and do so now.

It is important that you “know” (have knowledge of) how rocks behave when you pick them up and let go of them. I will wait while you do the experiment.

One of the things you have probably found while picking up rocks and letting go of them is that they behave consistently. That is falling back to the ground.

Since you have picked up and let go of rocks yourself you have “knowledge” of how rocks act.

By the way, you will read or hear mention of “first hand knowledge”, “second hand” and so own. There is only first hand knowledge. Any other form is a belief. Knowledge is only that which you demonstrate for yourself. Everything else is belief.

There are some interesting properties that you can observe related to the rock after you let go of it.

If you had a measuring tape and a stopwatch you could determine that the rock, after it has left your hand, falls towards the ground at approximately 32 ft per second squared.

Some people will say the rock falls towards the ground and some might say it accelerates towards the ground.

People who think of the Earth as the source of the “force” causing the rock to move after you let go of it tend to think of the rock as falling. It is actually quite hard to determine what force is acting on the rock or the Earth and some people would describe the rock as accelerating towards the Earth.

The one thing the rock is not doing is moving from where you let go of it back to the surface of the Earth at a constant rate. In other words, it is **not** falling so many feet per second.

It is accelerating.  As the time tics by the rock is moving more quickly. During the first second the rock falls a certain distance, during the second second is falls further than it did during the first, and so on for the third and subsequent seconds.

If you let go of the rock from high enough up as the rock falls an effect called drag, between the air and the rock, will increase to the point where the rock begins to fall at a somewhat constant rate. However, for normal sorts of heights that you can manage easily the rock will accelerate the whole way and drag or air resistance will not be much of a factor.

Now do you believe that the rock accelerates as it falls to the ground? or do you know?

No doubt you have been told that objects generally fall at 32 feet per second squared which means that it is accelerating as it falls.

But is this a belief or knowledge?

For the vast majority of people this is a belief as very few people have taken the time to measure and time the behavior of falling objects.

Is it not interesting how quickly we move from knowledge to belief?

I am willing to bet you could find a fair number of people who believe rocks fall at a constant rate (that is a fixed velocity).

I also bet you would be hard pressed to find someone with actual knowledge of the  behavior of falling rocks.

If you want to join a club made up of very rare people you might perform this experiment so you can be among the very few in the world with a knowledge of the falling behavior of rocks.

So do all objects fall at the same rate?

They do not as you have no doubt observed. You can also demonstrate this yourself by dropping a rock and a feather.

The difference in the behavior between the two objects is due to air resistance.

The rock and the feather will fall at the same rate on the Moon where there is no air.

So you can “know” that different objects fall at different rates on Earth.

However, if you think this is due to an interaction between the air and the object, is that a belief or knowledge?

You might even wonder how you know the air is there given it is pretty hard to see.

And of course, unless you are an astronaut  just about everything about the moon is belief.

You do *know* that some sort of medium bright round thing appears in the night sky during many nights. You can observe this for yourself. But much beyond that is belief.

One of the problems with knowledge is realizing how little of it you actually have.

And another big realization is that generally as you develop more knowledge you also come to understand how little you actually know.

This can be very frustrating.

In popular culture this is part of the saying “the more you know, the less you know”.

However, I assure you knowing more is always better, and I will prove it to you.

“ignorance is not bliss”

At this point your mind may want to resist the concept that you do not *know* much.

It is important that you overcome this resistance and accept what you know and what you believe.  This acceptance will help you immensely in understanding the world and the people around you.

In fact, you already have three incredibly useful pieces of information.

One piece of information is your new understanding of knowledge vs belief. Another is your understanding of how much of your understanding of the world is knowledge verses belief. And a third is your understanding that the vast majority of people have nearly zero understanding of the difference between knowledge and belief and further that they have no idea of how little knowledge they have and to what an enormous degree they rely on belief to get through the day.

Understanding these concepts is the core to learning how to operate within the world in a useful and productive way.

You also need these concepts to be happy and to avoid frustration and anxiety.

Anxiety is what you feel when you do not know what to do.

Frustration is what you feel when you think you know what to do but you are not getting the result you want.

These concepts and Happiness I will be talking about more later.

But for now we are in search of knowledge, or more exactly we want to identify what actions will bring about which results. In other words, we want act in a way that brings about the results we want.

We also want to develop a method to use belief successfully. Belief saves us time, but does not always get us the results we want unless we can **trust** whomever we are getting the information from.

So how do decide what to believe?

That comes does to a question of trust.

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