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Why does the ball roll to the back of the wagon? - Vectr Weekly #12

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Why does the ball roll to the back of the wagon?
 
October 7 · Issue #12 · View online
Vectr Weekly
Why does the ball roll to the back of the wagon?

At Vectr, one of our favorite people to talk about is Richard Feynman. He’s best known for winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his theory on quantum electrodynamics, but in fact, he was a polymath. He traverses myriad subjects as easily as I traverse the neighborhood of New York City.
When Feynman was a child he had an acute fascination with the world around him. On one particular day, he noticed something interesting while playing outside and immediately ran inside to his father with a question:
Say, Pop, I noticed something: When I pull my wagon the ball rolls to the back of the wagon, and when I’m pulling it along and I suddenly stop, the ball rolls to the front of the wagon. Why is that?
So his father responds,
That nobody knows. The general principle is that things that are moving try to keep moving and things that are standing still tend to stand still unless you push on them hard. This tendency is called inertia, but nobody knows why it’s true… If you look close you’ll find the ball does not rush to the back of the wagon that you’re pulling against the ball; that the ball stands still, or as a matter of fact from the friction starts to move forward really and doesn’t move back.
The often unacknowledged fact of the matter is that the average person knows very little about the majority of things happening around them. Car engines, light switches, email; try asking a friend how any of these work and see what type of response you get.
Its all too common that things like pride, ego, fear, anxiety, and self-preservation (in a psychological sense) get in the way of asking questions. We hope to do our small part in changing that.
Ps if you’d like to learn more about Feynman, here’s a quick article I love. And if you want to dive even deeper, I’d recommend starting with Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character).
And finally a question:
What is something “simple” or “mundane” in your everyday life that you’ve always wondered about, but never bothered to look into?
Perhaps this will be the week that you ask someone or do a bit of homework yourself.

Stay curious!
-Jeremy & Jake
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