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Frictionless Pulleys



The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   

which knew it would inherit the earth   

before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   

watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom   

is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,   

more famous than the dress shoe,   

which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men   

who smile while crossing streets,   

sticky children in grocery lines,   

famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   

but because it never forgot what it could do.


                                                                                                                                                                                –   Naomi Shihab Nye





Heal us O Lord, and we shall be healed.

In other words – Send us the Cure,  we’ve got the Disease already.

                                                                                                         –    Tevye      (from Fiddler on the Roof)








A physics student will pretty soon be required to grapple with the principles of Mechanical Advantage … a portion of which involves – loads, pulleys, and ropes.

If you raise a load using (only) a SINGLE pulley (mounted high enough, and to something strong enough) … it may make your job easier to do, especially if you must repeat the process and lift similar loads again and again.  But it will NOT be because you have gained MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE … but simply because such a (basic) rig allows you to REVERSE the direction of the force required to lift your load. (By pulling DOWNWARD … you can make your load go UPWARD)   And it may also mean that you do not have to carry the load up a flight of stairs or up a ladder … and YOUR BODY weighs MORE than your load does (which means that the work of raising your own body to the same height as your load’s destination … that was all WASTED WORK.   So – doing the rigging may WELL have been worthwhile.

But, what if you need to raise a load which weighs more than YOU do?   For THIS, you need Mechanical Advantage, and you must start adding pulleys … (and, as always, have a long-enough rope)   If you add (only) ONE more pulley, you would attach it to your LOAD (and run the end of the rope up to near the first pulley, and just tie it off.  We KEPT the original rigging … just augmented it. So (to clarify): starting high, where the rope is tied, it goes down to the pulley attached to your load, then back up    THROUGH the original pulley, then back down to your hands (as it did before).

Now – you have a Mechanical Advantage of TWO, and you will be able to raise a load (nearly) TWICE as heavy as YOU are.  You are trading Distance for Force. Let’s say that with the original rig, you raised a 100-pound load 10 feet. And to do that, you applied a 100-pound (downward) force, and pulled through 10 feet of rope.  With the addition of the second pulley, you could raise the 100-pound load (the same 10 feet as before) – by exerting a 50-pound pull while pulling through 20 feet of rope. [Twice the distance, but applying HALF the force]  Mmm?

And, theoretically, you may add ADDITIONAL pulleys – (the third would be at the top, next to “pulley 1”; the fourth you would put at the bottom, alongside “pulley 2” … and so on, back and forth (odd-numbered pulleys at the top, even-numbered ones at the bottom) … till you get bored, or until you run out of rope.]

Your Mechanical Advantage   will always be equal to the NUMBER OF SUPPORTING STRANDS.


Now … (to explain the title of this essay) –

When the writers of physics books assign you a sample problem, they will ALWAYS tell you to “ASSUME THE PULLEYS ARE FRICTIONLESS”.


WHY do they do this? (tell the student – to ‘assume the pulleys are frictionless’ … when we all know that they’re NOT)?


Well, for one thing – a good pulley IS (almost) frictionless.  That’s why we make them, and use them – to minimize friction (… and to alter the direction of applied force, and to create mechanical advantage)  


Even the BEST pulley is NOT completely frictionless.


We are so instructed    because – at THIS POINT (in our training), our teacher wants us to comprehend the fundamentals.  He wishes us to  learn the PRINCIPLES of Mechanical Advantage (and NOT be able to calculate ACTUAL forces required to raise a load … ACCOUNTING for Friction)   Coefficients of Friction … that will come later, if we get that far.


To COMPREHEND THE PRINCIPLES OF PHYSICS is NOT an easy task … so it’s sensible to LEARN THE BASICS FIRST (and nuances will be filled in later … if, as I said before – we get that far)


This essay is intended as a “discussion of –  HOW to APPROACH a Problem which is difficult to understand”.

HOW can we (even) approach the Problem of Planetary Crisis? (crises)?

Well, the (short) answer is – DON’T try to do it all at once !

Begin … with the basics.   / (We’ll assume our ‘pulleys are frictionless’)   Mmm?


Okay … Let’s have a look –


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Our (planetary) Life-Support Systems are being damaged … and it’s we Human Beings that are doing it.  (and, of course, this is happening along a number of fronts)




Forgive me if this seems trite … but we should follow the money.


There are, for example, many (many) patents which are being ‘sat on’ … despite the fact that their implementation would be beneficial to All Life (and the planet itself) … because it would be financially detrimental, in the short term, to certain corporations / wealthy families.


This should, of course, be illegal.


Any citizen (of this world) should be able to apply to their (own country’s) courts for an injunction against any action that anyone is doing, if that action is harmful to our well-being or that of our grandchildren … to our Planet.  Anything else is Nonsense. It’s madness.


Planetary destruction/degradation needs to be (to become) illegal.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Current Corporation-Design makes (all) corporations into Sociopaths.


The Corporation is a Human / (Legal) Invention.  


We invented it.  We designed it. We can redesign it.

(And we must)  

Our grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) must be treated as (major) stockholders.


This is NOT something beyond our power.

It is (simply) something which is beyond our (current) will.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Suppose I’m riding my motorcycle, and I’m in a Big Hurry to get somewhere … and I get into a wreck (with a truck) … and when I come around, I’m paraplegic … wheel-chair bound.

Then I’d get to thinking – Mmm … Maybe I did have time    (to drive slow enough to be safe).


What we do NOT want – is to wait until the oceans die … and then say  – “Oh gosh! What are we going to do about this?”

Or let the atmosphere warm up THREE DEGREES … and then say – “Oh Dear!  This is bad!  Maybe we should change!


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Let us suppose – that there are ENOUGH of us (who want to try to save this world) … that we have the vision, the will, the resources, and determination  adequate for the task … we would (of course) encounter considerable ignorance and denial.  But we will ALSO find we are (temporarily) obstructed by insanity … by madness.


Did you know that the Koch brothers have spent 150 million dollars – to discredit the science of global warming? (to 2017)



The super-rich have figured out … how to keep themselves powerful (rich) … and everybody else poor (weak).


Whenever something horrible is happening … we should learn to FOLLOW THE MONEY.

(And we need to become conscious of the MEANS OF MANIPULATION & CONTROL.  Many techniques are employed which are hidden … subtle, and not at all obvious.   You should watch the videos [links for which are] at the end of this essay.)


IS THERE ANYONE WHO IS BENEFITING FROM THIS?  (or someone who IMAGINES that they are benefiting.)?


We need to get it through our head – that these people are insane.  They are mad. How else can you describe someone who chooses money   before Life?


They are NOT our friends.


We can NOT allow these sociopaths to determine our collective future.  They are clearly not qualified to do that (based on the choices they have made so far)


We must choose our own future.


Any problem that can be solved technically   SHOULD be.


A Spiritual Problem   may well require a Spiritual Solution.


The DISEASE that we’re suffering from is a little difficult of description –

It’s a disease of the Heart.

You could call it “anomie” … or

A lack of Heart Connection  (we do not feel connected, on the heart level – to each other  OR 

to the very life support systems which keep us alive   day in and day out.

(If we DID, it would already be universally illegal to destroy (or harm) the planet … and we would NOT throw our trash out our car windows.)


You could call it (our “condition” … our disease):  ALIENATION.


(Think about it:  There is not really a “good” word for it.   “Alienation” is maybe the best one I can think of)


And this is why (the fact that we have this DISEASE) – we should support any activity, or thought, or action, or policy, or movement which fosters Family, or Connection, or Love, or appreciation of Nature (of the Great Mother).






We should NOT expect the rich and powerful … to rescue us from Self-Genocide.




WE must do it.


 (please watch:    (Pathology of the Rich  – Chris Hedges)

                               &    (Noam Chomsky  – 10 strategies of Manipulation)




 The Family Is All There Is

Think of those old, enduring connections

found in all flesh–the channeling

wires and threads, vacuoles, granules,

plasma and pods, purple veins, ascending

boles and coral sapwood (sugar-

and light-filled), those common ligaments,

filaments, fibers and canals.

Seminal to all kin also is the open

mouth–in heart urchin and octopus belly,

in catfish, moonfish, forest lily,

and rugosa rose, in thirsty magpie,

wailing cat cub, barker, yodeler,

yawning coati.

And there is a pervasive clasping

common to the clan–the hard nails

of lichen and ivy sucker

on the church wall, the bean tendril

and the taproot, the bolted coupling

of crane flies, the hold of the shearwater

on its morning squid, guanine

to cytosine, adenine to thymine,

fingers around fingers, the grip

of the voice on presence, the grasp

of the self on place.

Remember the same hair on pygmy

dormouse and yellow-necked caterpillar,

covering red baboon, thistle seed

and willow herb? Remember the similar

snorts of warthog, walrus, male moose

and sumo wrestler? Remember the familiar

whinny and shimmer found in river birches,

bay mares and bullfrog tadpoles,

in children playing at shoulder tag

on a summer lawn?

The family–weavers, reachers, winders

and connivers, pumpers, runners, air

and bubble riders, rock-sitters, wave-gliders,

wire-wobblers, soothers, flagellators–all

brothers, sisters, all there is.

Name something else. 


                                                           –     Pattiann Rogers


~ ~



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