Physics, elasticty and society


bouncing ball

These are three words that one may not often find together but here I am at 4:04 in the morning writing them down. This may come as a surprise to my readers but sometimes I come up with crazy connections like these in the middle of the night. At this point, I am sure some of you are asking yourself, why am I even reading this, or what in the world is he talking about. Well, here is the physics part: When a ball is dropped from a height, it starts at zero velocity and begins to accelerate towards the floor. Because of gravity, as discovered by Isaac Newton, the ball will accelerate to a high rate of speed in a relatively short time, and if not for air resistance would continue to accelerate until it hits its gravity source. In our scenario, the ball eventually encounters the floor and after losing some energy during the impact, which is where the elasticity comes in, reverses direction and begins to travel up towards where it began its journey. As it travels upwards, its speed decreases quickly until it is traveling at zero velocity where it reaches the hand that dropped it. If the ball is not caught at its peak, it will stop, reverse direction and begin its second decent to the floor, repeating the same events that occurred the first time. This process will continue with the ball decreasing its achieved height a small amount each time until it simply lies on the floor.
Now take this analogy and apply it to civilizations as they move through their natural development and to their eventual demise. Civilization begins with a sudden rush of energy as a new concept of governing or commerce evolves. This is the release of the ball from the hand. At this time everyone is excited, ready to work hard to achieve their goals. This is analogous to the ball that was dropped, accelerating towards the ground, losing potential energy and gaining speed until it hits its first obstacle which causes a change in direction, a rethinking of goals and the beginning of the climb back to the glory days. As society ages this process repeats itself over and over again until all the energy is gone and the proverbial ball is sitting on the floor.
The interesting idea here is that it seems we are definitely ready to hit the floor in so many ways, which to the optimist means that we will soon to begin a climb back to some standard of excellence. Said another way, it can’t get much worse so it has to begin improving soon.
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!

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