As part of Grav-Mass celebrations, circus clowns with an inclination to the harder sciences used to teach kids a funny lesson about the principles of gravity, sharing with them the gifts of science and knowledge.

They'd dress like ripe apples and jump down from trees, and later, down into chimneys. They'd use plenty of soft fillings under their costumes, to look rounder like apples, but really, to soften their landing.

They'd also carry big sacks, also colored red, full of soft materials like pillows, blankets, coats and socks to further alleviate the impact.

They'd encourage kids to take notes measuring the time it took for them to hit the ground after jumping from various heights, to estimate the height of the trees and chimneys by measuring the length of the shadows cast by the brightest star in the sky, and to thus derive top speed and acceleration.

They'd explain how other stars that showed up at night were similar, but far more distant; that some objects that looked like stars were actually planets like ours, reflecting sunlight like the moon but far more distant, orbiting the same star because of the same kind of force that pulls apples to the ground.

They'd also tell them about a very bright object that appeared in the sky, marking the beginning of a new era on the planet: a massive asteroid, attracted by Earth's gravitational pull, burned in the atmosphere and hit the surface some 66 millions of years ago, starting a long impact winter that put an end to the dominance of the giant dinosaurs, making room for smaller mammals like us to grow; about how there were no humans witnesses to that event, but science has been able to put together a lot of knowledge from fossil records, and a coherent theory that explains that and other sudden mass extinctions, and the eventual evolution and birth of human civilization.

Then they'd move on to sleighs coming down slopes, under the same principles of acceleration due to the pull of gravity, and then "flying" upon reaching small ramps at high speed. They'd invite kids to discuss the effects that gravity would have on a sleigh that happened to find itself way up in the sky, and how it could possibly have got there to begin with, and how it could possibly remain there. Kids had a great time phantasizing about flying reindeer, imagining how far up in the atmosphere they would be able to breathe, and how fast the sleigh would have to move to remain in orbit.

After many accidents with the admittedly not very intelligent falling for the sake of science, the traditions were discontinued: science is not expected to be that hard, nor to have that kind of impact!

Nowadays, only traces thereof survive in the apple-colored costumes, round shapes, large sacks, and flying sleighs that still remind those in the know of the ancient Scient Clowns. Alas, the original meaning of the ceremonial sharing of the gifts of science and knowledge has ironically fallen into disuse.

Anyhow, happy birthday to Isaac Newton, merry Grav-Mass, and may the force be proportional to the acceleration!

So blong,

  • UPDATE 2023-12-24: added paragraph about the asteroid and the mass extinction.