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The following story that is part of this lesson activity contains historical fiction – key parts are facts with the fictional slant that Newton was possibly an angler.

After returning from a fishing trip in the year 1685, Sir Isaac Newton kept recalling the excitement of catching a pike while losing an even bigger one when his fishing line snapped from a sudden surge of power from the big fish. Still lost in thought over his fishing adventure, he haphazardly placed his fishing rod and makeshift reel up on a shelf. But as he turned to leave, the rod and reel fell off the shelf and knocked Sir Isaac in the head. As the reel struck him, so did a new concept of physics that explained why he was able to land the smaller pike yet the big one with more “power in motion in opposite directions” broke his fishing line. Suddenly, Sir Isaac had an idea for designing an innovative fishing reel that would only allow a fish to pull an outline from the reel with a certain amount of force to keep it from breaking while also tiring the fish so he could eventually land it! And the rest is fishing and physics history (unlike this historical fiction story).

But in 1687, Newton really did publish his Classical Three Laws of Motion which state:

Law 1. A body remains at rest, or in motion at a constant speed in a straight line, unless acted upon by a force.

Law 2. When a body is acted upon by a force, the time rate of change of its momentum equals the force.

Law 3. If two bodies exert forces on each other, these forces have the same magnitude but opposite directions.

In the free lesson activity offered here, students will use Newton’s Three Laws of Motion to work within “reel engineer” teams to design a special fishing reel for kids. Their design will use a combination of features from a modern spin casting reel with Newton’s laws to help kids fight and land big fish (without their line snapping like poor Sir Isaac. Each team will then present your design to the class for discussion. What fun!

Share this with your teacher and explore the websites of our educational partners to learn more about the physics and science… of angling.

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