Gravity - what would we do without it?

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The story that Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) thought up his theory of gravitational attraction after watching an apple fall to the ground from a tree in his orchard may or may not be true, but it is certainly true that nobody seems to have thought that an explanation of that event was necessary at all. Everything fell down if not propped up or supported, that was common sense. This did not stop people from using gravity for their own purposes.
The Romans and quite independently, the Chinese, made use of gravity to build arches and bridges; and waterwheels depend on water flowing under the influence of gravity to grind corn. On a much bigger scale, dams are still being built across rivers to form lakes from which water flows through turbines generating electricity.
A British charity, appropriately named 'Practical Action' devotes its knowledge and engineering skills to design and build solutions to problems of daily living in poorer countries where the terrain and the lack of resources make Hi Tech solutions unworkable.
Such a country is Nepal, well known for its mountains and lack of resources. Moving goods and people is a labour intensive matter. Wire ropeways, pulleys and other small items can be obtained from India, but the work can be carried out by local craftsmen trained by the charity representative. Wire cages are attached to the cables so that as one descends the other comes up with the goods. The motive power is gravity itself as the descending cage is loaded with lumps of rock. Everyone in the village including the children, plays a part in the scheme and collects rocks, large and small, to add to the pile near the ropeway loading platform. As for sustainability, the Himalaya mountain range is not likely to disappear in the near future.

Bob Weighton

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