Merry Newtonmas, everyone!
You’ll find many scientists working over the holidays this year. Partly that’s because of the competitiveness of academia, with many scientists competing for a few positions, where even those who are “safe” have students who aren’t. But to put a more positive spin on it, it’s also because science is a gift that keeps on giving.
Scientists are driven by curiosity. We want to know more about the world, to find out everything we can. And the great thing about science is that, every time we answer a question, we have another one to ask.
Discover a new particle? You need to measure its properties, understand how it fits into your models and look for alternative explanations. Do a calculation, and in addition to checking it, you can see if the same method works on other cases, or if you can use the result to derive something else.
Down the line, the science that survives leads to further gifts. Good science spreads, with new fields emerging to investigate new phenomena. Eventually, science leads to technology, and our lives are enriched by the gifts of new knowledge.
Science is the gift that keeps on giving. It takes new forms, builds new ideas, it fills our lives and nourishes our minds. It’s a neverending puzzle.
So this Newtonmas, I hope you receive the greatest gift of all: the gift of science.
As Christmas comes from the Old English ‘Cristes mæsse’, which means ‘Christ’s mass’ (referring to the Eucharistic celebration of the birth of the Saviour, not matter), Newtonmas would mean ‘Newton’s mass’ which would presumably refer to a Christian celebration of the Eucharist by a priest named Newton. (In fact, there does exist a priest named Keith Newton who used to be an Anglican bishop in the United Kingdom and who converted to Catholicism in 2009 and officially becoming a Catholic priest in 2011.) So, rather then being a symbol of secular culture, to me the term ‘Newtonmas’ still has a Christian association, as the suffix ‘-mas’ still has Christian associations.
A better term for secular agnostics and atheists would be ‘Newtontide’ based of the secular ‘Yuletide’, but in which case one could just simply use ‘Yuletide’ altogether.
To be a bit tongue-in-cheek, if the analogy held wouldn’t it refer to the Eucharistic celebration of the birth of Newton? It’s not as if Christmas refers to a mass performed by Christ.