Isaac Newton once lived next door to a nosy old widow who was ignorant of her neighbor’s renown. One day she was visited by a Fellow of the Royal Society (over which Newton himself would later preside), to whom she described the odd behavior of “the poor crazy gentleman” next door. “Every morning,” she explained, “when the sun shines so brightly that we are obliged to draw the window-blinds, he takes his seat in front of a tub of soap-suds and occupies himself for hours blowing bubbles through a common clay pipe and intently watches them until they burst.” Ushered to a window by his hostess, the man recognized Newton at once. “The person you suppose to be a poor lunatic,” he declared, “is none other than the great Sir Isaac Newton, studying the refraction of light upon thin plates – a phenomenon which is beautifully exhibited upon the surface of common soap bubbles.”


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