Howellings / Newton Didn’t Know It All


By Mark Howell

It’s a fact. The median age of the American population today is 37.



It’s a fact. Colossal mistakes made by some of the world’s greatest scientists are part and parcel of today’s understanding of life and the universe. A new book called “Brilliant Blunders” by Mario Livio describes, for example, how Charles Darwin explained the evolution of life with his theory of natural selection but also believed in a theory of “blending inheritance” that made the propagation of new variations impossible.



Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) discovered the basic laws of energy and heat but then used those laws to calculate the age of Earth that was short by a factor of 50. Linus Pauling discovered the chemical structure of protein but then came up with a completely wrong structure for DNA. Fred Hoyle discovered that carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron are created by nuclear reactions in the cores of massive stars but afterwards proposed a theory of the history of the universe known as steady state cosmology, which has the universe existing forever without any Big Bang at the beginning.



     Albert Einstein came up with the theory of space and time and gravitation known as relativity and then added an additional component later known as dark energy. But he later withdrew this proposal, believing it was unnecessary. Later, after Einstein’s death, it was discovered that dark energy really did exist. His original addition of it was correct and his withdrawal was the blunder.



Talking of blunders …while Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) will forever be renowned for identifying gravity after observing an apple fall from a tree, he had another theory that he thought much more important.



Newton was a professor of mathematics in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, England, which is where we personally encountered his studies on alchemy and his bizarre take on biblical chronology. Although considered while at Cambridge to be a “sulky” fellow, after the publication of the great Principia Mathematica, on which Sir Isaac’s worldwide reputation continues to flourish, he decided to remake himself as a public figure.



His work for the remainder of his life became more and more peculiar. Based on his conviction that every word of the Bible was sacred, he chose to study it every day, often for hours on end. He read it repeatedly in English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, scrutinizing every word, syllable and letter. In 1717, now at the height of his reputation, Newton was summoned to an audience with Caroline, Princess of Wales, who asked him to write for her a comprehensive chronology of the ancient world based on the Bible.



After the Great Flood, he claimed in this work, the remnants of humanity “lived together in Chaldea under the government of Noah and his sons … They remained in one language, one society and one religion for about 250 years.” Then, apparently, Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd Century discovered the “asterisms” or star patterns associated with “Chiron the centaur,” who nurtured Jason the Argonaut in navigating the Mediterranean, “for Chiron was a practical astronomer.” Even Gibbon, the famed historian of Rome, was taken in by all this, but after his time Newton’s history fell into complete obscurity and it was not rediscovered until — wait for it  — the 1960s.




Quote for the Week

“We are born with all the wisdom, playfulness and imagination we need but we also need a reminder get out of our own way, to let go of whatever fears, assumptions, distractions, resistance and busyness that may be hampering us, to allow ourselves to think and feel and beyond them.”


                                        — Marc Lesser, “Do Less, Accomplish More”

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