Leibniz III: Physical Economy and Vis Viva



Part III of a series of discussions of G. W. Leibniz’s astonishing life and essential work. Today, we take up Leibniz’s views on the purpose of society in improving the happiness and goodness of its people, his proposals for scientific and economic academies to put discoveries into practice to improve people’s lives, and his work on physics. In particular, we focus on his discovery of vis viva—the start of the study of dynamics—and make fun of Descartes along the way! Understanding the physics of motion was essential for economy to benefit from the increasing use of machines and of heat-power.

There were many references made during the presentation! For further reading, check out:
• Jason’s earlier video on vis viva, which includes links on that topic
• Leibniz’s writings:
On Wisdom — text / pdf
On the Establishment of a Society in Germany for the Promotion of the Arts and Sciences — text / pdf
• Slow-motion video of the balls falling: #1 and #2

Attribution: the video of Newton’s cradle is from YouTube user Zeezle / CC-BY.

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