Posts Tagged ‘Galileo’
On 11 January 1672, the Fellows of the British Royal Society were treated to a demonstration of Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, which formed images with mirrors rather than with the lenses that had been used since the time of Galileo. Afterward, the fellows hailed Newton as the inventor of this marvellous new instrument, an attribution that sticks to the present. However, this linear historical account obscures a far more interesting, convoluted story. Newton’s claim was immediately challenged on behalf of two other contenders, James Gregory and Laurent Cassegrain. More confounding, the earliest known concept of using a curved mirror to focus light predated Newton by more than 1,500 years; the final realisation of a practical reflecting telescope post-dated him by more than a half century…
For almost any device, claiming one individual as the inventor is problematic to say the least. Conception, demonstration and implementation can be very different things, and the path connecting them is typically not a line but a long, challenging and tortuous route…
A cautionary tale illustrating the danger of crediting technologies to single inventors: “How many great minds does it take to invent a telescope?”
* Issac Newton
As we share the credit, we might send scientific birthday greetings to Vincenzo Viviani; he was born on this date in 1622. A mathematician and engineer, Viviani is probably best remembered as a discipline of Galileo: he served as the (then-blind) scientist’s secretary until Galileo’s death; he edited the first edition of Galileo’s collected works; and he worked tirelessly to have his master’s memory rehabilitated. But Viviani was an accomplished scientist in his own right: he published a number of books on mathematical and scientific subjects, and was a founding member of the Accademia del Cimento, one of the first important scientific societies, predating England’s Royal Society.
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible”*…
Many scientists know the pain of meeting a stranger at cocktail party or sitting down at Thanksgiving and getting this question: So, what’s your research about?
Though trying to distill the function of mRNA in gene expression into a few minutes of intelligible chit chat may seem as hard as earning a Ph.D., the ability to communicate complex research to the general public is of the utmost importance.
So to help academics everywhere, American Association for the Advancement of Science launched the annual “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest. Now in it’s ninth year, the contest requires grad students translate their often complex research into a new format, giving them a different perspective on their work and a chance to communicate their findings with the public. It’s also fun…
The full story (replete with videos of victorious performances) at “Jive to the Academic Beat With This Year’s ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ Winners.”
* Richard Feynman
As we let the spirits move us, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the Roman Catholic Church admitted that it had erred in condemning Galileo. For over 359 years, the Church had excoriated Galileo’s contentions (e.g., that the Earth revolves around the Sun) as anti-scriptural heresy. In 1633, at age 69, Galileo had been forced by the Roman Inquisition to repent, and spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest. After 13 years of inquiry, Pope John Paul II’s commission of historic, scientific and theological scholars brought the pontiff a “not guilty” finding for Galileo; the Pope himself met with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to help correct the record.
The history of witchcraft in Britain is a dark one, brimming with trials, persecution and torture, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent men and women during the 16th and 17th centuries. But what did you actually have to do to end up in the dock, accused of Devil worship and crimes of witchcraft? Very little, as the following questions, compiled with the help of Owen Davies, professor of social history at the University of Hertfordshire, reveal…
Take the quiz at “Would you have been accused of witchcraft?”
* Ian Rankin, The Flood
As we stir our cauldrons, we might spend a memorial moment honoring two extraordinary explorers who died on this date. Marco Polo, whose coda to his remarkable travelogue was “I did not tell half of what I saw,” passed away on this date in 1324.
And Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist, philosopher, and pioneering astronomer, rose to his beloved heavens on this date in 1642. Galileo (whom, readers will recall, had his share of trouble with authorities displeased with his challenge to Aristotelean cosmology), died insisting “still, it [the Earth] moves.”
Draft of Galileo’s letter to Leonardo Donato, Doge of Venice, in which he first recorded the movement of the moons of Jupiter– an observation that upset the notion that all celestial bodies must revolve around the Earth.
The United States is currently gripped in a bout of earthquake mania, following a series of significant tremors in the West. And any time Yellowstone, LA, or San Francisco shakes, people start to wonder if it’s a sign of The Big One™ to come. Yet even after decades of research, earthquake prediction remains notoriously hard, and not every building in quake-prone areas has an earthquake-resistant design. What if, instead of quaking in our boots, we could stop quakes in their tracks?
Theoretically, it’s not a crazy idea. Earthquakes propagate in waves, and if noise-canceling headphones have taught us anything, it’s that waves can be absorbed, reflected, or canceled out. Today, a paper published in Physical Review Letters suggests how that might be done. It’s the result of French research into the use of metamaterials—broadly, materials with properties not found in nature—to modify seismic waves, like a seismic cloaking device…
Read all about it in “How a ‘Seismic Cloak’ Could Slow Down an Earthquake.”
* George Carlin
As we think soothing thoughts of stability, we might send scientific birthday greetings to Vincenzo Viviani; he was born n this date in 1622. A mathematician and engineer, Viviani is probably best remembered as a discipline of Galileo: he served as the (then-blind) Galileo’s secretary until his death; he edited the first edition of Galileo’s collected works; and he worked tirelessly to have his master’s memory rehabilitated. But Viviani was an accomplished scientist in his own right: he published a number of books on mathematical and scientific subjects, and was a founding member of the Accademia del Cimento, one of the first important scientific societies, predating England’s Royal Society.
As the salaries, bonuses , and options packages of America’s corporate elite continue to rise, so does their responsibility to arm themselves with the most advanced decision technology. Those sighs of relief one can hear from behind the doors of C suites and executive washrooms? They’re the bosses’ relieved reaction to Thinkgeek’s new Schrödinger’s Cat Executive Decision Maker:
When decisions need to be made, sometimes there isn’t a right choice. Hire Bob or Bob? Order pizza or Chinese? Give up your free will to the Schrödinger’s Cat Executive Decision Maker.
To use the Schrödinger’s Cat Executive Decision Maker:
– Ask your question. Any question that can be answered in a binary fashion will do. The cat is extremely bored in the box and will listen to whatever you say. It is open to questions of an executive, legislative, or personal nature. You’ll never know the answer if you don’t ask.
– Slide open the door. At this point, the magic will happen and you’ll see the cat flashing in flux between life and death. You’ll either find this disturbing or intensely magical. We won’t pass judgement on your character based on your reaction, we promise.
– See your decision solidify before you. The cat will be alive (which we interpret as a “Yes”) or dead (or “No”). The almighty Schrödinger’s Cat Executive Decision Maker has spoken. Go and do its bidding. Meow.
As we get cozy with uncertainty, we might recall that it was on this date in 1616 that Cardinal Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino decreed that Copernican theory is “false and erroneous.” It was this decree that Galileo violated, for which he was tried and put under house arrest for the last eight years of his life. Bellarmino was canonized in 1930.
San Roberto (source)
…Imagine you’re a new parent at 30 years old and you’ve just published a bestselling new novel. Under the current system, if you lived to 70 years old and your descendants all had children at the age of 30, the copyright in your book – and thus the proceeds – would provide for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.
But what, I ask, about your great-great-great-grandchildren? What do they get? How can our laws be so heartless as to deny them the benefit of your hard work in the name of some do-gooding concept as the “public good”, simply because they were born a mere century and a half after the book was written? After all, when you wrote your book, it sprung from your mind fully-formed, without requiring any inspiration from other creative works – you owe nothing at all to the public. And what would the public do with your book, even if they had it? Most likely, they’d just make it worse.
No, it’s clear that our current copyright law is inadequate and unfair. We must move to Eternal Copyright – a system where copyright never expires, and a world in which we no longer snatch food out of the mouths of our creators’ descendants…
A bold idea such as Eternal Copyright will inevitably have opponents who wish to stand in the way of progress. Some will claim that because intellectual works are non-rivalrous, unlike tangible goods, meaning that they can be copied without removing the original, we shouldn’t treat copyright as theft at all. They might even quote George Bernard Shaw, who said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”…
Certainly we wouldn’t want to listen to their other suggestions, which would see us broaden the definition of “fair use” and, horrifically, reduce copyright terms back to merely a lifetime or even less. Not only would such an act deprive our great-great-grandchildren of their birthright, but it would surely choke off creativity to the dark ages of the 18th and 19th centuries, a desperately lean time for art in which we had to make do with mere scribblers such as Wordsworth, Swift, Richardson, Defoe, Austen, Bronte, Hardy, Dickens, and Keats.
Do we really want to return to that world? I don’t think so.
As we return to our senses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1632 that Galileo Galilei “published” Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo)– that’s to say, he presented the first copy to his patron, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Dialogue, which compared the heliocentric Copernican and the traditional geo-centric Ptolemaic systems, was an immediate best-seller.
While there was no copyright available to Galileo, his book was published under a license from the Inquisition. Still, the following year it was deemed heretical and listed in the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum); the publication of anything else Galileo had written or ever might write was also banned… a ban that remained in effect until 1835.
Designer Adam Saynuk is a detail guy… and a very fine photographer. Consider the photographs that he took for The Taco Truck (restaurant/store/food truck in Hoboken, NJ) last year, in which he minutely examined each of 35 ingredients…
[TotH to Good]
As we resolve to leave our glasses on while eating, we might recall that it was on this date in 1609 that Galileo first demonstrated his telescope. Earlier that year, while in Venice, he’d heard of “Dutch perspective glass,” which made distant objects appear closer and larger. He reports that he returned to Padua, made a prototype, then an improved telescope, and returned to Venice– where he presented his invention to the Doge Leonardo Donato, who was sitting in full council. The Doge and Senate were so impressed that they awarded him life tenure for his lectureship at Padua and doubled his salary.
Later that same year, Galileo turned his invention around, and created the precursor of Adam’s favorite optical tool, a compound microscope with a convex and a concave lens.
19th Century painting of Galileo displaying his telescope to Leonardo Donato (source)