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Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree Weightless in Space

As the
legend goes, the great English physicist and mathematician who
originally conceived of a theory known as gravity, and one of the most
influential thinkers in modern history, was inspired from a simple
apple falling from a tree.  As the legend was told and retold,
eventually an element was added to the tale that suggested Newton had
actually been hit in the head by the Earthbound fruit.  And now a piece
of wood from that very tree that led to his inspiration is being
launched into space.

Newton often would tell curious onlookers
the tale of his inspiration.  Of course Newton had been working on his
theory of gravitational pull since the 1660s, but did not fully
formulate the theory until he was inspired by a chance fruit dropping
from an apple tree.  The sudden Eureka moment was not, as is popularly
believed a result of Newton’s cranium being struck by the offending
orchard’s falling fruit, but rather spying it from a distance as he was
walking through a garden while visiting his mother in Lincolnshire and
pondering.  The single act brought on inspiration so Earth changing
that the apple tree itself was made famous, and Newton’s place in
history was assured.  And the inspiration had not simply created the
theory of gravity, but revealed the answer of whether the Earth’s
gravity existed far into space where it could hold the moon as it
traversed the sky.

The Royal Society, whose archives normally
keep the section of wood safe, will be entrusted to British-born
astronaut Dr. Piers Sellers as he journeys into orbit with the
historical relic in tow.  The decision was made in reaction to the
350th anniversary of the academic institute.  The tree of knowledge
which helped Newton discover the properties of gravity will not,
however, be spending much time in space.  As soon as it has completed
its journey and tribute, the wood will return to Earth and be placed on
permanent display at the Institute.  Dr. Sellers, who will be carrying
the wood on its lengthy journey into space commented on Newton’s
reaction to the prospect of taking the source of inspiration into
space, saying the famous thinker would have loved the idea of such a
tribute.  It’s interesting to note that the way we will be paying
tribute to one of the thinkers who surmised one of the most integral
aspects of the laws of physics will be tributed by the ingenuity of
humans mastering those laws in order to take to the stars.  Newton, a
known scholar would have no doubt found humor and inspiration in the
poetic nature of the situation.

Though the piece of wood is
symbolic in nature, there is some controversy over which tree actually
was the one to have inspired Newton.  There are several potential
candidates throughout the gardens.  But just as Newton’s idea sired
several others over the generations, apple trees have been springing up
for centuries in the area.  And there is no sign of either slowing down.