Pisa, Italy, 1986

Pisa, Cathedral and Leaning Tower.

“16 feet per second per second” is a formula I remember from high school physics. I don’t really get the math, but I understand the idea is to calculate the acceleration of a falling object starting from an at-rest position. This is, of course, theoretical, and does not include factors such as air resistance. Galileo, an astronomer-physicist-mathematician-engineer, in an apocryphal story, in the late 1500’s, supposedly dropped two spheres of differing mass from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to show that acceleration was a constant, disputing Aristotle’s theory that objects of a larger mass would fall faster because of gravity. If someone tried to replicate that particular experiment today, with the sea of visitors standing around the Tower, someone would likely be badly injured, or worse. As we walked onto the plaza surrounding the Tower, Cathedral, and (not shown) Baptistery, we noticed some odd contorting behavior from randomly scattered people. Since this was long before the advent of Flash Mobs, we did not have that as a quick-to-mind explanation, but soon realized it was individuals, usually with an assist from a friend, trying to use a camera and forced perspective to compress their position photographically with the Tower and appear to be holding it up, or trying to right it. My attempt was to seem to be sitting, leaning back against it. (Of course we did photos too.) One factoid I learned is the Baptistery building was necessary (for baptisms) because in the Middle Ages anyone not christened was prohibited from entering the Cathedral, and my favorite lesson from Galileo is that you can be judged a heretic, and still be right, but it might take 350 years to set the record straight. “e pur, si muove”

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