When you are on a plane flying over the country, there is always that moment when you nod to yourself as you appreciate the laws of aerodynamics and the way they keep a large heavy metal thing up.

It works because they are laws, and aeroplanes have to respect them. There is no asking please or wishful thinking involved.

As I step on to the tarmac, I mutter a little "thank you" to the laws of aerodynamics.

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If it works for flight, then similar laws should be in place to guide social interactions.

To assist with this, I have developed the following Laws of Social Dynamics.

Let's begin with what is called the Bernoulli's principle.

"The cambered (curved) surface of an aerofoil (wing) affects the airflow.

"As the air flows over the upper surface of an aerofoil, its velocity increases and its pressure decreases; an area of low pressure is formed.

"There is an area of greater pressure on the lower surface of the aerofoil, and this greater pressure tends to move the wing upward. The difference in pressure between the upper and lower surfaces of the wing is called lift.".

In social inter-actions, the flow of small talk and rumour runs over the surface of the conversation creating pressure on the listener.

This greater pressure then creates lift moving the listener away from the subject. The person talking feels the resulting drag and is forced to find someone else to talk to.
Now we can shift to considering Newton's Law of Motion.


"Air has mass, it is a body. When an aircraft is on the ground with its engines off, inertia keeps the aircraft at rest.

"An aircraft is moved from its state of rest by the thrust force created by a propeller, or by the expanding exhaust, or both.".

Now we have all encountered inertia in social settings.

People who have very clearly defined ideas about nearly everything are like an aircraft with its engines off, inertia keeps the person unmoved by any form of argument.

For example, someone with fixed ideas about how people's skin colour affects their abilities. These ideas will never take off unless they are exposed to the very situation they distrust and rise above their prejudice.

Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity.

"An aircraft increasing in velocity is an example of positive acceleration, while another aircraft reducing its velocity is an example of negative acceleration, or deceleration."
Likewise, social interactions can suddenly accelerate moving people into a confused state.

Alternatively, there can be deceleration where a person goes outside to get some peace and quiet.

Newton's second law is that a body moving with uniform speed is acted upon by an external force, the change of motion is proportional to the amount of the force, and motion takes place in the direction in which the force acts.

Force = mass × acceleration (F = ma).

In social dynamics the external force may be alcohol.

When applied to a context in which the social dynamic requires dancing, then the drinking is often proportional to the motion exerted on the dance floor with the formula being: Alcohol = Bad Dancing multiplied by the number of people watching who will remind you of what happened the following day.

Newton's third law is the law of action and reaction. This law states that for every action (force) there is an equal and opposite reaction (force).

The Laws of Social Dynamics also shows how for every action – such as being rude and insulting people — there will be an equal and opposite reaction where others will move away and go talk to someone who treats them with respect.

Terry Sarten (aka Tel) is a social worker, musician, writer and dedicated people watcher — feedback: tgs@inspire.net.nz