Back in 1683, a guy named Christopher Wren was chatting it up with an astronomer and wondered why the planets moved in weird elliptical orbits instead of in nice, neat circles. It turned out that the accepted answer at the time was "Hell if I know," so Wren made a wager with the scientific community. He bet 40 shillings -- hundreds of dollars in today's money -- that nobody could come up with an explanation within two months. Enter Sir Isaac Newton, who apparently really needed 40 shillings.
It took Newton years to prove why the planets behave like they do, not the two months specified in the wager. So while he never was able to claim his hard-thought prize, he vowed that all that time he had spent away from his true passion -- LARPing as Merlin -- was going to pay off somehow, damn it.
"They are going to love my King Arthur-Robin Hood slash fiction."
So he took his solution to the bet, expanded on it with some more of his physics musings, published it as a book under the title Philosphiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy") and called it a day.
Newton's book, more commonly known as just Principia, turned out to be one of the greatest and most influential scientific texts of all time. Newton's famous three laws of motion? Yeah, you can find them in Principia, along with countless other theories that laid the foundation for every physics nerd who came after him. If one wise guy hadn't made the bet that spurred Newton on, physics as we know it might not exist.
Chapter 1: ... wizards, I guess?
Oh, and by the way -- Johannes Kepler, the guy who first noted that the planets move in elliptical orbits and thus provided the basis for Newton's later work, only did so because he had made a bet with a colleague that he could understand the planets' orbits in eight days. It actually took him eight years, but hey, we said scientists are known for making bets, not winning them.
Eddie would like to thank his friend Brenda Vega for helping him come up with the idea for this article. You can contact Eddie at email@example.com, and his website is here.
For more some folks who should have thought better, check out 6 People Who Died In Order To Prove A (Retarded) Point. Or learn about 7 People Who Cheated Death (Then Kicked It In The Balls).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Al-Qaida's No. 2: The Easiest Kill in Terrorism.
And stop by LinkSTORM because no one likes going to church anyway.