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Sunday newsletter

Brain Pickings has a free Sunday digest the the week"s most interesting and inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children"s books, and other strands the our find for truth, beauty, and meaning. Here"s one example. Like? claim yours:


midweek newsletter

Also: due to the fact that Brain Pickings is in the fifteenth year and also because I compose primarily around ideas of a timeless character, i have chose to plunge into my large archive every Wednesday and also choose native the countless essays one precious resurfacing and resavoring. I ordered it to this totally free midweek pick-me-up because that heart, mind, and also spirit listed below — the is different from the conventional Sunday digest of new pieces:


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Anaïs Nin ~ above Love, Hand-Lettered by DebbieMillman
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Susan Sontag ~ above Love: shown DiaryExcerpts
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Albert Camus on Happiness and Love, shown by WendyMacNaughton
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The silent Music of the Mind: psychic OliverSacks
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“Newton was so right about so numerous things,” cosmologist Janna Levin wrote in her magnificent meditation ~ above madness and also genius, “that it appears ungenerous to dwell on wherein he was wrong.” and yet in his day, also his many revolutionary correctly — especially his revolutionary correct — to be met through ungenerous opposition by his smaller-spirited peers. Chief amongst them to be the English polymath Robert Hooke, whose well known rivalry through Newton led to humanity’s finest an allegory for exactly how knowledge grows.

Science writer extraordinaire James Gleick, in his biographical masterwork Isaac Newton (public library), calls Hooke “Newton’s many enthusiastic antagonist,” his “goad, nemesis, tormentor, and victim.” Hooke, generally known because that his curmudgeonly temperament and pessimistic disposition, reserved an especially caustic contempt because that Newton, who youthful genius aggrieved Hooke and aggravated his vain ego.

You are watching: I stand on the shoulders of giants

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‘Robert Hooke’ at home by Rita Greer

Fifteen month after he was elected to the imperial Society, Newton decided to withdraw from public dispute — the incessant obstructionism through Hooke and also other critics, that still remained simply epistolary bullies he was yet to accomplish in person, had actually started to wear down his sanity. Gleick writes:

He had uncovered a great truth that nature. He had proved it and been disputed. He had actually tried to present how scientific research is grounded in concrete exercise rather than grand theories. In chasing a shadow, that felt, he had actually sacrificed his tranquillity.

But the exclusive rivalry persisted. In 1675, Hooke alleged to have found what us now know as diffraction — the method light bends about a sharp edge. In ~ the time, the nature that light to be a mystery — some, like Descartes, thought about it a particle, while others, favor Hooke, assumed it the product the motion. Because if an obstacle prefer an edge can stand in light’s path and bend it, diffraction sustained the movement model, implying that light is a wave quite than a particle. (Today, we know that light can be both a particle and also a wave, relying on how we measure it.)

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Isaac Newton’s renowned letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675 (Historical society of Pennsylvania)

Hooke, who as far as the is recognized never replied, maintained an antagonistic perspective toward Newton for the remainder the his life. However substantial his intellect may have actually been, that revealed self as much from a giant, because that it is the note of a small spirit to hide behind one-directional criticism if fleeing from intelligent two-way discourse.

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As for the metaphor itself, it as well is a meta-testament come Newton’s allude — although that popularized it and also immortalized it in his top language, it originated at least five centuries earlier and also underwent several transmutations, including a well known one in Robert Burton’s 1621 masterpiece The Anatomy come Melancholy.

Gleick considers just how Newton’s famous proclamation frames his paradoxical life and immensely far-ranging legacy:

Isaac Newton stated he had actually seen farther by standing on the shoulders of giants, but he walk not believe it. He to be born right into a people of darkness, obscurity, and also magic; led a strange pure and obsessive life, doing not have parents, lovers, and also friends; struggle bitterly with great men who crossed his path; veered at least once come the brink of madness; cloaked his work-related in secrecy; and yet discovered more of the vital core of human being knowledge than anyone prior to or after. He to be chief architect of the modern world. He answered the old philosophical riddles the light and motion, and he effectively discovered gravity. The showed exactly how to suspect the courses of heavenly bodies and also so developed our ar in the cosmos. The made knowledge a point of substance: quantitative and exact. He developed principles, and they are dubbed his laws.

Solitude to be the essential component of his genius. Together a youth the assimilated or rediscovered many of the mathematics recognized to humankind and then created the calculus — the machinery through which the modern-day world understands readjust and flow — yet kept this treasure come himself. He adopted his isolation with his fertile years, devoting himself to the most secret of sciences, alchemy. He fear the light of exposure, shrank from criticism and controversy, and seldom released his occupational at all. Striving to decipher the riddles of the universe, he emulated the complex secrecy in i beg your pardon he experienced them encoded…

“I don’t recognize what I may seem to the world,” he said before he died, “but, regarding myself, i seem to have actually been only like a boy play on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and also then recognize a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the an excellent ocean of reality lay every undiscovered prior to me.”

Gleick’s Isaac Newton (public library) continues to be not only one of the ideal biographies ever written, yet a foundational text for anyone seeking come understand how the contemporary world together we know it came into view. Enhance it v Hegel ~ above knowledge and the true task of the human being mind.