Newton, diplomacy, and nose bleeds

If body A exerts a force on body B, then body B will exert an equal and opposite force on body A. It amazed me that, of all things, Newton’s Third Law of Motion was stuck in my head all through the Brazil Model United Nations Conference. I guess that my fear of failing the Physics mock exam on the Monday after we got back from Salvador led me to repeat to myself basic definitions I didn’t want to forget. But that’s not the point; any in-depth psychological analysis of my mental instability during senior year would probably require much more than my limited understanding of my own thoughts. The point is that I was surprised to discover that this law can be applied to much more than physics.

BRAMUN 2014 provided me with the opportunity of chairing my first large conference. As the Chair of the Political Committee, one of my responsibilities besides moderating sessions was to check if all delegates had submitted their position papers. If their position papers weren’t submitted, they wouldn’t be eligible for awards. I must have received more formally worded e-mails in the month leading up to BRAMUN than I have in my entire life. Delegates introduced themselves to me, assured me they had conducted extensive research and apologized for wasting my time with their questions. Bottom line, I was being treated as an authority figure, and it was intimidating. I made it clear that the power to determine which delegation received an award was in my hands, and in turn I was regarded as someone in control. If body A exerts a force on body B, then body B will exert an equal and opposite force on body A.

A few days later I sat in the Black Box Theater and began my Math mock IB Exam. Before I continue, let me just say I have a tendency to have serious health issues right before or during tests, and this time it was no different. While solving the fourth question, blood fell from my nose onto the paper and covered most of what I had written (I’m really sorry, Mr. Reynolds). I had already known that witnessing someone physically or emotionally near you undergo a difficult situation sparks, at least in some people, a willingness to help, and this was never clearer than during my math exam.  The blood on my face and hands exerted a force of worry on to other test-takers, who stared wide-eyed or sent comforting looks in my direction. If body A exerts a force on body B, then body B will exert an equal and opposite force on body A.

There are things physics can’t explain, and I don’t just mean dark matter. Human interactions rarely follow clear-cut rules and theorems. However, as stated by British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, “The fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in Physics.” The idea behind Newton’s Third Law of Motion can be broadly connected to the way humans react to situations. Turns out Newton really was a pretty smart guy.