Links for 2010-10-25

  • “I haven’t, of course, read every single book nominated for the Hugos since 1953. (What have I been doing with my time?) If I haven’t read it, I shall say so, and I shall say why. Otherwise I shall talk briefly about the books and their place in the field. If I’m inspired to re-read a book and talk about it in detail, I’ll do that separately. I’ll be very interested to hear other opinions and especially suggestions for other things of the year that should have been nominated. My views are, of course, my views, but I’ll be interested to see if there is a consensus–my feeling is that for most years there is, and also that the Hugo nominators are often right, but there are occasionally some startling omissions and some live controversies out there.

    I’m going to start with 1953 and stop with 2000, because I don’t think it’s possible to have a proper historical perspective on anything closer than that.”

  • The title’s a little misleading– this is actually a list of pretty cool developments in early science that turned out not to be correct, but got people started thinking about the right questions.


  1. #1 andre3
    October 25, 2010

    Question on the blunders of ancient science link. For Ptolemy it says that epicycles were used to cover up the mistake of circular orbits (vs elliptical orbits) but I thought epicycles were used to cover up the geocentric mistake. Are the retrograde motions of the planets also due to the elliptical orbits?

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    October 25, 2010

    Andre: Epicycles were used for both reasons. The Copernican model used epicycles, just not as many as the Ptolemaic model.

    The real reason for retrograde motion of planets is that as the Earth passes through opposition with another planet (i.e., the planet and the Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth), the Earth moves faster than the planet, causing the other planet to move backward in the (non-inertial) Earth-centered frame. It has nothing to do with elliptical orbits; the phenomenon would also occur for perfectly circular orbits.

  3. #3 Nick Dvoracek
    October 26, 2010

    It’s interesting that Archimedes escaped this list. Not that I know what would have put him on it, but he’s about the only major classical “scientist” to be missed.

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