Newton’s Laws of Motion: Part One

By Emily Greenberg

Part One: Newton’s First Law

Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.

Newton’s First Law is sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. Inertia is the tendency of objects to resist changes in their states of motion. Thus, it is the natural tendency of objects in motion to remain in motion and for objects at rest to remain at rest.

example 1: Suppose Newton, 38, is an object in motion moving in the same direction and at the same speed every day of his damn life. figure1_Newt

6 am wakeup. Shit, shower, shave. A 40 minute commute in suburban rush hour sandwiching 8 hours at the cube farm. Back at home, he pokes at a lumpy chicken breast while his wife relays her own 8 miserable hours at a different cube farm. After dinner, they watch the evening programs on the large television in the living room, then move into the bedroom and watch the late night programs on the small television. It’s Tuesday, which means they’ll fuck. They never fuck Monday because Mondays are depressing, or Wednesdays because they both work late, or Thursdays because they’re too tired, or Fridays because it’s the end of the week, or Saturdays because neither wants to work that hard on a Saturday, or Sundays although he has forgotten the reason why. So Tuesday it is. It’s become routine, clinical. They each strip off their own clothes because it’s easier and when it’s over, they lie on their backs, stare at the whirring ceiling fan. Tomorrow will be the same, minus the sex, and then the next day and the next and the next. According to Newton’s First Law, Newt continue on like this until he dies, or until an unbalanced force compels him to change his direction.

An object in motion will change its velocity only when acted upon by an unbalanced force.

example 2: Suppose Newt drives home early one day because of inclement weather. Due to a traffic accident on his usual route, he detours through a small residential area, where he notices his wife’s car parked in the driveway of a modest brick house. He grows curious, then unsettled, then enters the unlocked house. “Karen?” he calls, plodding across the wood grain in his rain-soaked loafers. “Karen?” He quiets. Through the steady rain pounding on the windows, he hears a faint human noise and follows it. Through the kitchen with its black granite countertops, three coffee cups soaking in the sink, and a circular wall clock whose batteries had run out last week, stopping time.
Through the home office, figure2
the laundry room, the main hallway. Until he’s standing in the doorway of the master bedroom, and she’s there, white and creamy and perfect, beneath some oaf, a redfaced neanderthal with a dull animal grunt, a sweat-soaked hairy back.

They see him, scream, and break apart.

And then Newt is outside himself. He’s jumping on the oaf man and punching his head, biting his oversized ears, digging his nails into the hairy back, the hairs thick and curly and repulsive, and he’s eating the hairs, ripping them out with his bare teeth, spitting them onto his wife’s pearly breasts, where they stain her skin like ashes on snow.

In the previous example, we saw what happens to an object in motion when acted on by unbalanced forces. We will now consider a more complex example involving both objects in motion and objects at rest.figure3

example 3: Suppose Newt, in the midst of choking on back hairs, picks up an object at rest, a lamp sitting on the nightstand, and smashes it against the redfaced oaf man’s gargantuan monkey skull.  And he does this again.
And again. At first, the redfaced oaf man grunts and tries to buck Newt off.

But Newt is overcome with an adrenaline that gives him an otherwise uncharacteristic strength and speed. And then the oaf slumps over, a pliant piece of clay molding to the bed.

Consider the case of an object at rest by itself, without the interference of unbalanced forces.


example 4: Suppose the red faced oaf man is an object at rest. He lies still, motionless, spread-eagled on the bed, blood drying on the corners of his lips. In this case, the object at rest, weighing approximately 190 lbs, has much mass and thus much inertia; he will not become an object in motion again unless acted on by a large unbalanced force, such as a medic or the Grim Reaper.

Emily Greenberg is a writer and artist based in Brooklyn, NY.  Find out more at

Drawings by Emily Greenberg