Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Mighty Pebble

I may not be the heaviest person. I only weigh around 68 kilograms. Nonetheless, I am much much heavier than a tiny pebble weighing in at a few micrograms. Apparently, I should have no struggle with such a tiny rock. Yet, today, as on many occasions, I was knocked off my skateboard and sent flying by just such a little critter. What is its secret power? In what does its strength lie?

We've all heard or read about David's battle with Goliath. David was a meek Shepard boy; Goliath was a barbaric giant and the secret weapon of a savage army. The odds were certainly against David. Yet, David famously defeated Goliath. What was his secret? Firstly, David felt G-d's presence accompanying him and was filled with courage thereby. But in addition he also had a specific talent: he could identify his enemy's vulnerabilities.

And so it is with the pebble. A pebble catches the skater off guard as its often invisible. Yes, it uses Guerilla warfare. And, even when visible, its minuscule size isn't exactly intimidating; one doesn't expect it to pack such a punch. It pretends to be a weak and innocent bystander (and considering that its inanimate 'bystander' is literal!). Furthermore, it strategically employs physics to overthrow the skater. The law of inertia, as touched upon earlier, is the principle that an object will remain in a certain state of motion unless acted on by an external force. The more mass an object carries the more inertia it possess and the more force is needed either start or stop the object's movement. For example, it is much harder to stop a car travelling at  30 kilometers an hour than to stop a ball rolling at the same speed (velocity to be more precise), for the car's mass is incomparably greater than the ball's.

When a skater is travelling on his skateboard, both he and the board share the same speed, but, the skater's mass is approx. 20 times the board's. Hence, its much easier to stop the skateboard than the skater. When a skateboard wheel meets with the pebble, it comes to an abrupt halt, but the skater who has much more inertia continues moving. [note: the skater is also not attached to the skateboard, and, because the skateboard is rolling on the ground it comes in direct contact with the pebble [the friction] while the skater is almost hovering in the air above the board where friction is lower.]

The message here is that strength relates more to intelligence than physique. By approaching challenges with intellect rather than mere brute force one's incomparably more likely to succeed. A lion is certainly stronger, faster, and more aggressive than a person (just try arm wrestling with one and you'll see what I mean) yet people are able to capture lions. Why? Because humans are the more intelligent, they are ultimately the  stronger...

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