By Milton A. Rothman
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Additional resources for Discovering the Natural Laws: The Experimental Basis of Physics
We also see that in order to design an experiment to verify a law of nature we must be very clear In our minds what parts of the law are definitions and what parts remain free to be verified by observing natmre. Both the Newtonian and Machian points of view are equiv alent as far as practical applications are concerned. However, there is an important conceptual difference. The Newtonian method assumes you know all the forces and all you want to do is to find the response of objects to these forces.
When we observe the interactions of electrons and pro tons with each other, we see that the eflFect of the gravita tional force is completely overwhelmed by a much stronger force: the electromagnetic force. The electromagnetic force differs from the gravitational force in at least two very im portant ways. First of all, the electromagnetic force comes in the form of both attraction and repulsion, while the gravita tional force only comes as an attraction. Electrons attract protons, but electrons repel other electrons, and protons repel protons.
There are many possible operational definitions; I choose one similar to that used by Mach—the inertia balance illus trated in Figure 2-2 (see page 18 ). Let us assume that the two masses are the two cars shown in the figure. To make sure that there are no misleading ex traneous influences, I have a spring push the two cars apart a number of times, each time with the cars arranged in a 27 Discovering the Natural Laws different orientation. Also the experiment should be done in a number of different locations in space.