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What Newton really meant

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Out of Newton’s laws, his first is not only the hardest for people to remember from school but also the subtlest. At a first glance it can seem almost redundant if not nonsensical failing at the most simple of hurdles. In this piece Daniel Hoek examines the First Law and shows how our collective misunderstanding of it seems to have stemmed from an unfortunate mistranslation.    Newton’s First Law is a lie! That is to say, the principle that everybody calls “Newton’s First Law”, the one they tell you about in school, the one physicists and scholars have for centuries attributed to Newton –– that principle is not Newton’s First Law. It is a clumsy mistranslation of the Latin principle that Isaac Newton labelled the First Law of Motion, an eighteenth century mistake that somehow managed to fly under the radar.But before I go into that, let me back up a little to remind you of what Newton’s First Law is supposed to s…

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