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Scientists, artists and laws of gravity

Published May 07. 2011 09:00AM

There's an interesting theory bandied about. Maybe you already know it.

It's a school of thought that says people fall into one of two categories - either artists or scientists.

They say scientists are left-brained dominant folks; artists are right-brained dominant. Think about it. Are you an artist? Or a scientist?

If I were to choose, I'd definitely align myself with artists because art is something I enjoy and find comforting. There's something warm and familiar about art.

Science, on the other hand, can be a fascinating puzzle. Much of science helps us by shedding light on mysteries. The theory of evolution and the fossil records are compelling, and that's great. I believe in it. But some science is hard to understand. For instance, scientists across the globe are buzzing about a theory proposed by Dr. Erik Verlinde. He's a Dutch theoretical physicist, 49, who says gravity is a farce.

"For me, gravity doesn't exist," said Dr. Verlinde. He says science has been looking at gravity the wrong way. He believes there is something more basic from which gravity emerges. His thoughts blow holes in accepted concepts of gravity.

Understand that this guy is brilliant and well respected, and serves as a professor at the University of Amsterdam.

His recent paper on gravity contradicts what science has believed for over 300 years. He says gravity is a consequence of the laws of thermodynamics, related to the behavior of heat and gases. Specifically, gravity is the result of the way nature maximizes disorder. Gravity itself doesn't exist, he says, but is the result of other actions and processes. Wow! This stuff is deep.

His observations are so astounding for our time (similar to Albert Einstein's), that supporters say he might be shedding light on the great mysteries of why space and time exist at all. Others in the field say they don't understand Verlinde's work.

Skeptics and detractors have poked fun at Verlinde for his theories.

One man said Dr. Verlinde should jump off the roof of a tall building and tell us that there's no gravity on the way down.

That remark might be harsh, but it's understandable. When I fell off a highwheel bicycle three years ago I broke two bones and cracked my ribs. I distinctly recall how gravity played a role. But I think Verlinde is trying to get us to see gravity in a whole new light.

Whatever happens, I admire him for having the guts to shake up the status quo.

This kind of revolutionary thinking is what eventually advances the understanding of science, medicine and humanity.

It's the same way in the world of art, too.

Pablo Picasso was a great artist. But not everyone embraced his cubist paintings, or the entire movement of cubism. Many poked fun at it and still do. Yet today, Picasso's works are worth a fortune.

The bottom line, I think, is to keep an open mind. For instance, I don't necessarily agree with the assumption that people are either artists or scientists. Some are both, some are neither. And some are something entirely different.

Besides, we shouldn't try to label people. Labels are for household cleaners, not humans. When we place labels on people, we label ourselves. And labels are often wrong.

I do wish Dr. Verlinde the best in his studies. If it turns out gravity doesn't exist, I plan to go out and do some bungee jumping. But then, if gravity doesn't exist, bungee jumping would be impossible. Confusing, to say the least.

Science has confounded me again. But that's fine. Let's see where all of this takes us. I plan to keep an open mind about gravity and everything else as well. It's the right thing to do.

The only thing we really know is that we don't really know.

So if anyone tries to tell you that gravity is completely understood, don't fall for it.

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