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For Steve Strogatz, a mathematician we sometimes have on the show,it all started with a pendulum.

"Our teacher handed us a little toy pendulum that was retractable.

Then the teacher gave us a stopwatch and said that, 'I want you to time how long it takes for this pendulum

to swing back and forth 10 times.'

"Okay, so I do the experiment. It swings, 'Click', I report how many seconds it took and then I write that in my little, freshman lab notebook.

Well, then he says, "Now make the pendulum a little bit longer, do it again" and it takes longer to make the 10 swings, and I write down

the number. And I do this 5 or 6 times and I'm dutifully plotting the results on graph paper,

(which is what the experiment was really supposed to be teaching us, how to use graph paper).

But what it taught me was that this spooky thing that was happening, which is that the dots were falling on an arch, on a curve.

This curve was a curve I had seen before before because I had just learned about it in algebra class,

and it is called a parabola. And this really gave me the creeps because it was as if this inantimate

thing, this pendulum, knew algebra.

How could this thing swinging back and forth know something about parabolas?

Or how could it be built in?

And so it was in that moment when I suddenly understood what people meant when they said that there's

a law of nature.

"Our teacher handed us a little toy pendulum that was retractable.

Then the teacher gave us a stopwatch and said that, 'I want you to time how long it takes for this pendulum

to swing back and forth 10 times.'

"Okay, so I do the experiment. It swings, 'Click', I report how many seconds it took and then I write that in my little, freshman lab notebook.

Well, then he says, "Now make the pendulum a little bit longer, do it again" and it takes longer to make the 10 swings, and I write down

the number. And I do this 5 or 6 times and I'm dutifully plotting the results on graph paper,

(which is what the experiment was really supposed to be teaching us, how to use graph paper).

But what it taught me was that this spooky thing that was happening, which is that the dots were falling on an arch, on a curve.

This curve was a curve I had seen before before because I had just learned about it in algebra class,

and it is called a parabola. And this really gave me the creeps because it was as if this inantimate

thing, this pendulum, knew algebra.

How could this thing swinging back and forth know something about parabolas?

Or how could it be built in?

And so it was in that moment when I suddenly understood what people meant when they said that there's

a law of nature.

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