The Laws of Motion (& My Thoughts)

by Lorien E. Menhennett

To paraphrase Newton (and my physics book): An object at rest remains at rest as long as no net force acts on it. An object in motion (with constant velocity) remains in motion, with the same speed and in the same direction, as long as no net force acts upon it.

Question: Does Newtonian Dymanics apply to one’s thoughts?

My thoughts, you see, seem to be traveling a million meters per second. Without an opposing force, they show no signs of slowing down. And physics is the culprit, the force that put my thoughts in motion in the first place.

Well, maybe not physics itself. My fear of physics. Even more precisely, my fear of not doing well in physics.

I realize that this is a rather irrational fear, one not based on any evidence. So far, I am doing quite well in physics — I believe I am near the top of my class, in fact. A’s on my homework, labs, quizzes, even my first exam.

I have an A in the class. So why am I afraid of it?

I’m not sure. Perhaps because physics doesn’t come to me quite as naturally as chemistry or biology do. I really have to wrestle with the material in physics, sometimes on a problem-by-problem basis. It’s tough and taxing. Or maybe I’m scared because I have seen people work really hard in other subjects and NOT get the result (i.e., the grade) they wanted, and I see the possibility of that happening to me in physics. They don’t give out A’s for effort, after all. Or maybe I’m letting the pressure get to me a bit, all the talk about needing to keep your grades up, to do well in your post-bac courses … and I’m afraid that if I don’t ace physics this semester and next, I won’t achieve my end goal: getting into medical school.

Regardless of the reason for why physics produces a sinking feeling in my stomach, I need to deal with it as best I can. I don’t think I’m going to transform my viewpoint and suddenly *poof* love physics (although I do find it interesting). No, I don’t expect magic.

But I do need to exert a force on my thoughts to slow them down. Because according to Newton’s laws, they’ll just keep going unless I do something.

So here’s my plan: surround my physics experience with positivity. That doesn’t mean light scented candles or sing happy songs while I do my physics homework problems (too distracting, not to mention just plain weird). No, what this strategy means to me is that when I wrestle with a problem (or maybe more like five or ten of them), I reward myself in some way. I call or e-mail a friend, write a short blog post, or read (a non-school book) for 15 minutes. Do something positive after physics problems so that I associate the two. Ergo, physics doesn’t seem so scary.

Will it work? Will the force I exert through my “positive associations” be enough to slow my racing thoughts? I don’t know. There’s only one way to find out. So here goes.

(Note: Giving myself the time to write this blog post was a “reward” for doing more than a dozen physics problems today in preparation for an upcoming test. And let me tell you, I feel pretty good about things at the moment …)