Forced Changes Only: A New Take on the Law of Inertia

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2021-12-04
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Abstract

Newton's First Law of Motion is typically understood to govern only the motion of force-free bodies. This paper argues on textual and conceptual grounds that it is in fact a stronger, more general principle. The First Law limits the extent to which any body can change its state of motion -- even if that body is subject to impressed forces. The misunderstanding can be traced back to an error in the first English translation of Newton's Principia, which was published a few years after Newton's death.

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physics.hist-ph, physics.class-ph
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