as well as exerting

nyggus

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Hi,

A sentence from Martin Rees's "Just six numbers":

"Two protons would, according to Newton's laws, attract each other gravitationally, as well as exerting an electrical force of repulsion on one another."​

I have problems with understanding it. In particular, I have problems with the "as well as" phrase and "exerting" that starts it: what does this whole phrase modify?

Thanks,
nyggus
 
J

J&K Tutoring

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Think of as well as = and or at the same time.

"Two protons would, according to Newton's laws, attract each other gravitationally, and (two protons) would exert an electrical force of repulsion on one another."

Exert can be found in a dictionary.
 

nyggus

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Thanks. I didn't have problems with the words but with the construction. I'd have no problem with the sentence if it read, ..."attract each other gravitationally, [STRIKE]as well as[/STRIKE] exerting an electrical force of repulsion on one another." Is this use of "as well as" typical?
 
J

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"Two protons would, according to Newton's laws, attract each other gravitationally, as well as exerting an electrical force of repulsion on one another."

If we take away "as well as", then I would certainly have a problem with the sentence: "Two protons would, according to Newton's laws, attract each other gravitationally, exerting an electrical force of repulsion on one another." The grammar is fine, but it would make no sense, as attract(ion) and repulsion are antonyms.

The author is talking about the apparent paradox in Newton's idea(s).
 

nyggus

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Thanks. I see your point. As for "as well as," please don't be amazed that I have problems with the sentence: in all examples I've seen, "as well as" joined parallel constructions while in this sentence it joins non-parallel constructions ("would attract" and "exerting," if I get it right).
 
J

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I agree. Maybe it would have been better if the author had used: ... while at the same time.

Scientists still don't fully understand these apparently opposite forces, and they (the forces) may well be happening at the same time with unequal power, so perhaps the original is correct after all.



I am not a quantum physicist.
 

nyggus

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If we take away "as well as", then I would certainly have a problem with the sentence: "Two protons would, according to Newton's laws, attract each other gravitationally, exerting an electrical force of repulsion on one another." The grammar is fine, but it would make no sense, as attract(ion) and repulsion are antonyms.

One more thing. Do you have a problem with the ill-constructed version of the sentence, that with "...attract each other gravitationally, exerting...", because you would read it as "...attract each other gravitationally, in that way exerting..."?
 
J

J&K Tutoring

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Yes. We can't pull something nearer to us by pushing on it!

We could, however, imagine having a rope attached to an object and pulling the rope with our arms while simultaneously having a foot on the object to keep it away. Whichever force was stronger (arms pulling or foot pushing) would determine the movement of the object relative to ourselves.

Uh oh, I'm starting to wonder if the original is okay after all, with the substitution of while at the same time to help a layman like myself understand a little better.

My head just exploded...
 
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nyggus

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Uh oh, I'm starting to wonder if the original is okay after all, with the substitution of while at the same time to help a layman like myself understand a little better.

My head just exploded...

And think of a layman and a non-native English speaker like me...
 

nyggus

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In fact, I think complex concepts should be conveyed with simple language. I know not all will find this idea attractive because English offers great opportunities to write in an attractive and lively style. I am not saying scientists should write only in plain and simplistic language; but I am saying they should write in attractive language that will be understandable for non-native English speakers. I've read scientific texts that, while conveying complex ideas, were both simple to understand and pleasant to read: that's what I'd call a well-written scientific text. I've also read scientific texts that were written in a very attractive style (at least that's what I thought of it, when reading) but with so difficult vocabulary that I had to use a dictionairy every thirty seconds.
 
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