Geoffrey. 18. Freshman at BYU.


Imagine a physicist, well versed in the laws of gravity, which he believes to be excellent approximations to the ultimate truth. One day he encounters his first helium-filled balloon, a blatant challenge to the laws he knows so well. Two courses are open to him: He can say, “Well, the laws of gravity are usually true, but not always; here is one of the exceptions.” Or he can say, “Let me see if there is any way to explain this strange phenomenon without abandoning the most basic principles of my science.” If he takes the latter course, and if he is sufficiently clever, he will eventually discover the properties of objects that are lighter than air and recognize that their behavior is in perfect harmony with existing theories of gravity. In the process, he will not only learn about helium-filled balloons; he will also come to a deeper understanding of how gravity works.

Steven E. Landsburg, The Armchair Economist

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