Part 3: Pedestrian Activity and Newtonian Law

Natural Principles 1: Understanding Pedestrian Activity Through Simple Newtonian Law

Science is not lost. If nature can briefly be posited as physics for the following sections, then it can be claimed that nature has yet to be removed from human existence, despite denials. Science is operative in basic everyday behavior in New York City pedestrians. Confronting the city as reality in its simplest form, as a closed system whereby sidewalks and foot paths are formed for the sake of pedestrian order, it can be demonstrated through Newtonian Laws of Motion that nature still exists. Keep in mind that Newton’s Laws operate in a simple, ideal system of few variables.

Newton’s first law of motion states the principle of inertia: “An object initially at rest is predicted to remain at rest if the total force on it is zero, and an object in motion remains in motion with the same velocity in the same direction”. In other words, an object is inert (has zero velocity) unless acted upon, and if acted upon, will move with the same constant velocity until interrupted by another force. New York City is known to be a fast-paced environment.

As bustling pedestrians travel through the streets, they reclaim nature by simply walking to the beat of Newton’s first law. A student travels at a constant clip to get to class. It is a windless day and so the total force applied is zero. As she comes to the end of the block, she intersects with a car and must stop. The car is an acting force which interrupts her constant velocity. In this case, order of the rationalized city is accomplished; the pedestrian stops at the curb where she is supposed to stop and wait for vehicular traffic to pass.

In another scenario, two pedestrians are rushing down the block at constant velocities, one moving slower than the other. Having not hit any other pedestrians, their respective accelerations do not increase or decrease. As they come to the end of the block where the traffic light just turned green and a car is about the cross their paths, the faster pedestrian hesitates and slows in acceleration. The second, slower pedestrian catches up and act upon the first by pushing the first pedestrian across traffic, creating positive force in the same direction. The first pedestrian runs forward with this combined velocity, and moves at thew new constant speed across the street before the car comes. This is Newton’s second law, in which Force = Mass * Acceleration. This is a case where the total force on an object is not zero, and thus the object will accelerate. In this case, order of the rationalized city is not accomplished; the pedestrian, subjected to external force, has jaywalked and moved in a time not designated for walking.

Finally, Newton’s third law of motion–for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, segues into the principle of complex systems. Although it works in simple systems, it introduces the chaos theory of modern physics which dictates how the city works in complexity and explains how the city can produce chaos despite regulations.

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