I once heard Isaac Asimov tell the great physicist Freeman Dyson that Newton’s laws are trivial—so trivial that his dog could understand them. Asimov challenged Dyson to explain how his dog could leap in the air and catch a tennis ball in midflight if the dog didn’t understand the physical laws controlling the motion of the ball.
At some level Asimov was right. A dog, and a center fielder for that matter, must understand something about physics to catch a ball in flight. But this level of understanding—for both dogs and professional baseball players—rarely, if ever, includes knowledge of the differential equations Newton developed to describe the trajectory of masses in gravitational fields. In fact, such knowledge would prove of no value to a baseball player who took the time to acquire it.