wordup “Our hero” in this case being Monckton at WUWT. Most of the post is a long rant about The Weekly Standard’s Lindzen puff piece exemplifies the conservative media’s climate failures by Dana Nuccitelli in the Graun, which is in turn a reply to What Catastrophe? MIT’s Richard Lindzen, the unalarmed climate scientist in “the weekly Standard” (wot I wrote about recently).

And of course I didn’t read it all. But I was struck by M’s reply to DN’s The major difference between Lindzen and Galileo was that Galileo was right. Which was:

Actually, Galileo was wrong. The Church, as well as informed scientific opinion, had long agreed that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way about. However, Galileo had drawn inappropriate theological conclusions from heliocentricity, perpetrating the notorious non sequitur that since the Earth was not the centre of the Universe the Incarnation and Crucifixion were of less importance than the Church maintained.

This is weird stuff. Lord knows what gnostic texts M has been smoking; he gives no refs. Wiki, as you’d expect has a reasonable version of the truth (which, for those who don’t know, is significantly more nuanced that the version you get taught in school).

Amusingly, in the weekly Standard piece that started this all off, we find “Most people who think they’re a Galileo are just wrong,” and the context (as you’d expect from a piece friendly to L) is that a comparison to G is good: i.e., G was essentially correct. Which is true (if you’re thinking of heliocentrism) or false (if you’re thinking of epicycles, or of physics versus geometry).

Refs

* Galileo: Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems: magnetism – a factoid I bet you didn’t know, and a motto.
* Galileo on infinity
* The sleepwalkers
* WUWT Parody Writes Itself – QS about a different post, but worth the LULZ.
* Papal Condemnation (Sentence) of Galileo (June 22, 1633) – thanks t.

Comments

  1. #1 Max Erwengh
    2014/01/14

    Now it’s really funny to say, “Actually, Galileo was wrong.”, just because he predicted perfect circles (like Kopernikus?), instead of ellipses with a eccentricity close to zero. Yet, an incredible accurate astronomer (better: astrologer) like Tycho von Brahe plus a smart thinker like Johannes Kepler have been needed to see elliptic orbits (plus another genius like Newton to proof it mathematically). So how can one say that Galileo was wrong? It’s like saying Newton was wrong because he neglected the effects happening if you assume that the speed of light is constant in every reference frame. Or it is like saying Stern and Gerlach were wrong, because their conclusion about their experiment was wrong, as they thought it would proof the atom model of Bohr, but instead it revieled its limits. Well (sometimes?) Lord M gets totally wrong.

  2. #2 John Mashey
    2014/01/15

    This is a common problem amongst those whose understanding of science (and often engineering, economics etc)., ie, thinking that a model is either right or wrong.
    Box got it right: all models are wrong, but some are useful.

    In the real world, unlike the realm occupied by some:
    A) History of science shows long sequences where each successful new model has to be as good or better approximation to reality than any it displaces.

    [Assuming you're talking about Galileo, I don't think you're right: I can see no evidence that these people were thinking in terms of models. Right up to Newton, people thought they were describing reality. Or perhaps more accurately they didn't distinguish; the concept that science-only-produces-models didn't exist. Indeed its not clear to me when this concept first came in. Its very clear now, because we have two (QM and GR) models that can't be made to mesh -W]

    B) Likewise, but orthogonally, people may use a model hierarchy in which insight is gained from comparison between levels, and where there may be computational trade offs if they are computer models. For instance, climate models can incorporate different levels of science detail, but frequency of time steps and size of grid boxes make huge differences in the computational costs. Nobody tries to do such models with individual molecules.

    C) Same thing happens in engineering. If someone is doing computational fluid dynamics for airplanes:
    - If the grid boxes are too large, they cannot see turbulence effects that may matter a lot.
    - As the boxes shrink, the model is a better approximation to reality.
    -At some point, the payoff for further shrinks diminishes to the point of not being worth the longer computations.
    Ie, there is the typical S-curve of expense vs payoff.

    In designing microprocessors, one might mix: instruction-level simulators, (OK for running software, getting traces), or more expensive cycle-accurate simulators, or logic-simulators (gates) , timing simulators (which need to know about layout, lengths of wires), circuit simulators (seriously analog, since the digital views are just approximations), and these days, sums for heat and power management. None of these are “right”, but all ate useful.

    A continuing irony is the widespread use of computers and networks that depend heavily on employing physics and building rafts of models… To write silliness about such topics.
    Sigh.

  3. #3 toto
    2014/01/15

    Every time the subject of Galileo comes up, you see a bunch of pompous curmudgeons who insist that OF COURSE the Church totally accepted that the Earth was moving around the Sun, and was totally cool with heliocentrism in general and the Copernican system in particular, and if only Galileo had not been a prick, etc.

    Complete bull, usually spread by 1- Catholic Church apologists and 2- vacuous contrarians a la Feyerabend who take delight in confusing the uninformed.

    Actual text of the Papal Condemnation of Galileo:

    http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/condemnation.html

    Highlights:

    “The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture.

    The proposition that the Earth is not the center of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith. (…)

    We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, the said Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world”

    See also: “The Secession had nothing to do with slavery!”

  4. #4 John Mashey
    2014/01/15

    Galileo remains popular in many contexts.
    In July’s SalbyStorm, people likened Salby to:
    16 Galileo
    4 Copernicus
    1 Giordano Bruno
    1 Einstein of climate science
    1 Rosa Parks
    1 Timothy Leary

    Galileo is still champ. Don’t ask me to explain the last two.

  5. #5 Eli Rabett
    http://rabett.blogspot.com
    2014/01/15

    Well, if you consider what Leary was swallowing it follows.

  6. #6 John Mashey
    2014/01/15

    The entire comment, by NikFromNYC @ WUWT was:

    ‘He is Rosa Parks. He is Timothy Leary. He is Murry Salby.’

    In this case I merely archive, not claim to explain.

  7. #7 dhogaza
    2014/01/15

    ‘He is Rosa Parks’

    He was on the bus …

    ‘He is Timothy Leary.’

    By all contemporary accounts, he missed the bus.

    ‘He is Murry Salby.’

    He wouldn’t recognize the bus if it ran over him …

  8. #8 Frank
    Australia
    2014/01/15

    Looking at the WUWT article. Is this a trick? Using Central England mean temps from 1694 – 1733 to prove that fast (decades scale) rises in temps are natural. a) you have to believe Central England mean temps are a proxy for global mean temp. b) at this time Europe etc were coming out of the “Little Ice Age” so the trend line is starting from a low base? The increase is “natural” in that sense, but I suspect it is wrong to compare it to the current warming trend.

    [If it was anyone with any credibility, I'd have called them out for that. Since its M, it wasn't worth bothering. Yes: CET is a small area so will show more variability that the globe; so if you pick back through the record, you'll be able to find periods when it has a higher trend. Plus its not very reliable that far back -W]

  9. #9 Thomas P
    2014/01/15

    The latest issue of Scientific American has a more interesting story about why it took a long time for all scientists to accept the heliocentric model:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-case-against-copernicus
    The two main problems was that as far as people understood motion the Earth ought to slow down unless continuously pushed with an enormous force, and where would that force come from?

    The second problem was that in the heliocentric models the stars had to be really far away to show no parallax, and measurement of their apparent size meant that they had to be really huge if that far away, and again it was questioned why they should be so much larger than anything in the solar system. Not until much later did people understand enough about optics to realize that diffraction in the telescopes made their measurement of star sizes totally wrong.

    When it comes to Monckton’s claims about why Galileo was sentenced, that seems to be more like a garbled version of the verdict against Bruno who was more of a heretic.

    [I can only see the preview. Parallax was a genuine problem. The "enormous force" is spurious, because it applies to whichever model you choose: if you believe in a geocentric system then you have exactly the same problem, except you're pushing the sun -W]

  10. #10 Thomas P
    2014/01/15

    William, no one knew what the sun and the planets were made of and it was postulated it was a material for which moving was as natural as rest is for matter on Earth.

    [Possibly. I can't read the Sci Am though, only the preview. Could you quote exactly what they say about this? -W]

  11. #11 Thomas P
    2014/01/15

    “In contrast, the motion of celestial bodies such as stars and planets was easy to explain—astronomers since the time of Aristotle had postulated that celestial bodies were made of a special aethereal substance that was not found on Earth. This substance had a natural tendency toward rapid circular motion, just as a wagon had a natural tendency to come to a halt if not pulled vigorously.”

    I read the article in the paper edition, but it seems to help if you open it in a private window to disable all cookies, although the method seems somewhat erratic.

    [Ah, I see: yes, this is the familiar idea that earthly material had a "natural motion" of straight lines, and heavenly matter had a "natural motion" of circles. It was a bloody silly idea and self-evidently ridiculous, but that's not the point here :-). I'm still not convinced by the converse: in all I've read, the thing people worried about, if the earth was in motion, was "but wouldn't all that violent motion cause people to be blown about by the wind, etc.?" -W]

  12. #12 Paul S
    2014/01/15

    Frank – it’s worth considering that the mercury thermometer was only invented in 1714 and technology didn’t spread as fast back then. The amount of well-calibrated instrumental data used to construct the record up to 1733 was probably close to zero.

    [If you look at the UKMO's CET page (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/) they don't even start until 1772. They provide http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/Parker_etalIJOC1992_dailyCET.pdf which is pretty sniffy about the early data -W]

  13. #13 Eli Rabett
    http://rabett.blogspot.com
    2014/01/15

    “Using Central England mean temps from 1694 – 1733 t”

    As Eli recalls Central England mean temperatures from 1694 were somewhat not instrumental and not in England. Nigel Persaud was fond of ignoring this
    —————————–
    “Manley1953) published a time series of monthly mean temperatures representative of central England for 1698-1952, followed (Manley 1974) by an extended and revised series for 1659-1973. Up to 1814 his data are based mainly on overlapping sequences of observations from a variety of carefully chosen and documented locations. Up to 1722, available instrumental records fail to overlap and Manley needs to use non-instrumental series for Utrecht compiled by Labrijn (1945), in order to mate the monthly central England temperature (CET) series complete. Between 1723 and the 1760s there are no gaps in the composite instrumental record, but the observations generally were taken in unheated rooms rather than with a truly outdoor exposure….”

  14. #14 Thomas P
    2014/01/15

    William, it’s easy to sit here with all our meticulously built up knowledge of physics and call earlier ideas “self-evidently ridiculous”, but the weren’t given what they knew then. Or rather, *all* theories they could come up with was in some way ridiculous so they had to pick the least crazy. Galileo, for example, had a model for the tides that predicted tides once a day, something that is clearly wrong rather than just ridiculous.

    People back then weren’t any more stupid than today, it’s just hard to figure out many of these things. What impresses me even more is how people ever managed to sort through all messy chemical reactions and come up with the periodic table.

    I’m sure you are right that there were other reasons people considered it unlikely that the Earth could be moving even if this article just mentioned one. Actually, it did mention that people had figured out that if the Earth was rotating, thrown or falling objects should be deflected, which wasn’t observed, and a quantitative calculation of the coriolis effect didn’t appear until much later so the didn’t realize how small the effect is.

  15. #15 Eli Rabett
    http://rabett.blogspot.com
    2014/01/15

    Well, if you look at the Mendeleev table, you see that what they did was to look at reactions with hydrogen and oxygen. Using the law of multiple proportions they could figure out how many atoms of each were in the various compounds and then sort things by type, eg. XO XO2, X2O3, etc. Once you have it sorted out that way you can compare the masses of the various types. . .

  16. #16 G
    2014/01/16

    For the benefit of our readers outside the USA:

    Rosa Parks was an African-American woman who refused to obey the racial segregation laws that applied to seating on public transport buses at the time: she refused to give up her seat to a white man, and sit in the “colored” section at the rear of the bus. When she was prosecuted for this, the African-American community initiated a boycott of segregated bus systems. Her case was a critical turning point for the Civil Rights movement that ultimately put an end to segregation, and established racial equality firmly in American law.

    Timothy Leary was a Harvard psychology professor who became a well-known popularizer of the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs outside of medically-supervised settings. The publicity around his activities was used as a rationale for banning those drugs and prohibiting medical and research use. In the past decade or so, the US FDA has become far more reasonable in permitting careful human-subject studies of psychedelics, for medical applications and for cognitive science research.

    Lastly, for dealing with people who claim to be Galileos:

    “If you’re so brilliant, where are your published papers in peer-reviewed journals?” (This will typically elicit a reply that includes vague conspiracy theories, which can then be called out as evidence that the speaker is delusional.)

    “I knew Galileo when he was alive, and sir, you are no Galileo.” (This is a play upon a line used in a public debate by a political candidate, as a reply to an opponent who had compared himself to President Kennedy. It was widely reported and has become a persistent cultural meme.)

  17. #17 Brian Schmidt
    2014/01/16

    William sez:
    “Assuming you’re talking about Galileo, I don’t think you’re right: I can see no evidence that these people were thinking in terms of models. Right up to Newton, people thought they were describing reality. Or perhaps more accurately they didn’t distinguish; the concept that science-on-produces-models didn’t exist.”

    I’m sure W knows more of this than me, but given the concept dating to Plato that what we sense is just a rough shadow of real essence and given that science was derived from that experience, I’d expect our ancestors to expect that their science is only approximate.

    OTOH, they seemed to expect everything in the heavens to operate in certain mathematically perfect ways.

    Maybe it’s just a contradiction between what their philosophy should’ve led them to and how they actually perceived science.

    [Its an interesting topic, and I might try to dig up more; or if anyone knows more, do say. But for the moment, I'm sticking to my previous position: they didn't think that way; they thought they were finding out how the real world actually worked. You can see the same kind of lack-of-distinction in how Aristotle (or Galileo) talks about problems involving infinity: they don't distinguish the real physical world from the mathematical one -W]

  18. #18 Julian Frost
    2014/01/16

    @G, according to Wikiquote and Wikipedia, it was Dan Quayle who compared himself to kennedy, and Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen replied:
    “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

  19. #19 John Mashey
    2014/01/16

    G: thanks for adding the history for folks unfamiliar with it.
    needless to say, you can guess why I selected that quote :-)

    But there were more:
    ‘Doctor Salby is in good company: Copernicus and Galileo’

    ‘I got to admit, this could be the trial of the century for a CAGW run university. Too bad in Galileo’s time he did not have the internet and powerful backers to mount a proper challenge:’ quoting a certain Viscount:
    ‘“This case is outrageous. I shall be finding out further details from Professor Salby and shall then arrange for powerful backers to assist him in fighting the university,
    which – if his side of the story is in all material respects true – has committed multiple criminal offenses. This needs to be a high-profile case.’

  20. #20 Thomas P
    2014/01/16

    Brian, as I understand it philosophers from the ancient Greeks forward thought that they could deduce the true nature of reality more or less by thought alone, and that if experimental evidence didn’t fit, that was due to the flawed nature of our senses. Around the time of Galileo that concept had started to shatter and scientists started to realize how important experiments were.

    I’ve read some of Galileos work and it’s a mix of brilliant, and still relevant, insights and ideas that today seems totally outlandish. Well worth checking out, even if you don’t want to read all of it.

  21. #21 Eric Lund
    2014/01/16

    ‘Doctor Salby is in good company: Copernicus and Galileo’

    They laughed at Copernicus. They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Bozo the clown. They might be laughing at Salby; if so, that’s about the only thing he has in common with the first three.

  22. #22 Toby
    2014/01/16

    I always understood that the Church was willing to accept heliocentricity as a “computational device” in order to give correct predictions, but were not willing to admit the position of the sun in relation to the earth in reality. Some Jesuit contemporaries of Galileo like Father Clavius were leading astronomers of the day, and that was their advice.

    In other words, they were fine with the model, as long as they could say “it’s only a model”.

    [I think the situation is more complex than that. Somewhat oddly, I can't see where I've written this before. So:

    The Church had a number of perfectly decent astronomers, and was aware of the heliocentric-geocentric issue. But it also knew that earlier church decisions had implicitly (or more likely explicitly, but revokably) endorsed the geocentric position. Also, at that point, the church was only slowly coming out of the idea that it was the source for all knowledge. Also, there were various factions: the church was not unified. So I think they knew full well that they could afford to switch to endorsing heliocentrism - their authority would survive that - but they couldn't afford to flip-flop: they couldn't endorse, and then if the evidence changed, or was re-interpreted, switch back to geocentrism. They'd look like bozos. So they were prepared to change, but they weren't ready, and Galileo pushed them too hard and too early -W]

  23. #23 The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse
    2014/01/16

    If I may:
    The distinction between ‘instrumentalist’ versus ‘realist’ positions on science can be traced back to the Greeks.

    In the early-modern context, there is the famous preface to Copernicus’ ‘De revolutionibus’ – which was found by Kepler to have been inserted by Osiander prior to publication. Coperincus himself clearly accepted heliocentrism as real, but also admitted that his choice of epicycles in ‘De rev’ was under-determined by the observations.

    [Yeees. But although "choice of epicycles in 'De rev' was under-determined" is true, I have the impression that Copernicus nonetheless thought that his theory was "true" - that the planets really did move in epicycles, even if he didn't actually know which ones. No? -W]

    I strongly recommend that persons interested in this topic read N. Jardine, “The birth of history and philosophy of science. Kepler’s A defence of Tycho against Ursus with essays on its provenance and significance”, Cambridge University Press, 1984.

    [Thank you. I shall look it up -W]

    Also: A. Koyré‎, “The Astronomical Revolution” Methuen, London 1973.

    Prior to Kepler and Galileo, many accepted so-called ‘compromise of Geminus’, which sought to distinguish astronomy (which was regarded as essentially geometry) from physics (which was about natural causes).

    Kepler’s ‘Apologia’ and his great ‘Astronomia nova’, while not easy reading, are brilliant take-downs of this ‘compromise’.

    [That sounds odd. Prior to Newton, astronomy *was* only geometrical. All of Kepler's stuff is (well, at least all the bits that make sense. There's a lot of stuff generally ignored nowadays, by me as well, so I don't know what's in it). No? -W]

    Was Galileo right or wrong? Depends. Galileo accepted heliocentrism – but he thought Kepler’s astro-physical theories were laughable – and he went to his death believing in circular planetary orbits.

    One thing is certain, however, Monckton’s verbosity is never worth taking seriously.

  24. #24 Max Erwengh
    2014/01/16

    W: “Prior to Newton, astronomy *was* only geometrical. All of Kepler’s stuff is.”

    Well Kepler didn’t made up his stuff entirerly geometrically, simply because you can’t derieve the motions of planets from geometry.
    He derieved it from data.
    But of course you can derieve his Second Law from a geometrical standpoint, but only if you know about conservation of angular momentum and central forces.

    Well, what I want to say is that physics always deal with actual phenomenons and their quantitative description. You simpy can’t decouple experiment and theory. How the description is derieved doesn’t matter as long as all experiments lead to the same conclusion (yet a physically/mathematically way is (of course!) the aim for any theory).

    [Fitting orbits to observations, based on an assumed shape of orbit - ellipses, circles, epicycles, whatever - is geometry. There is no physics involved. [Update: my assertions here re Kepler are wrong; see #27 lower down] Kepler had no physics: he had no idea at all *why* the planets moved in ellipses. The “why” is physics. Newton had a “why” – momentum, and gravity. He didn’t know why gravity worked, so his why was incomplete, but it was still physics -W]

  25. #25 guthrie
    2014/01/17

    It is always annoying to see modern scientists dismiss old proto-scientists ideas as being evidently wrong or mad or whatever. The study of the history of science has moved on from such wrong views.

    For those interested in astronomy, maths of the time of Galileo etc, see this useful blog:
    http://thonyc.wordpress.com/

  26. #26 Christopher Winter
    2014/01/17

    Julian Frost (#18): @G, according to Wikiquote and Wikipedia, it was Dan Quayle who compared himself to kennedy, and Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen replied: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

    Quite correct. But if you read the transcript of the debate, you’ll find that Quayle said he had served in the Senate as long as John Kennedy. This is not the same as comparing himself to Kennedy.

  27. #27 The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse
    2014/01/17

    [Fitting orbits to observations, based on an assumed shape of orbit - ellipses, circles, epicycles, whatever - is geometry. There is no physics involved. Kepler had no physics: he had no idea at all *why* the planets moved in ellipses. The "why" is physics. Newton had a "why" - momentum, and gravity. He didn't know why gravity worked, so his why was incomplete, but it was still physics -W]

    Sorry W – this is completely historically wrong. Although many current-day astronomy texts make the claim that Kepler was engaged in an exercise of pure geometry, or mere ‘curve-fitting’, they are mistaken.

    Kepler did not have the correct law of universal gravitation – although he understood the proportionality to mass, he did not have the inverse-square distance dependency – and he did not have the correct theory of inertia – like Aristotle, Kepler assumed that the planets were somehow ‘pushed sideways’.

    Nevertheless, as early as 1596 Kepler was writing about a ‘vis motrix’ (motive force) emanating from the Sun and decreasing in effectiveness over distance. This idea only makes sense, of course, in a heliocentric system. It explains why the inner planets orbit much more rapidly that the outer planets.

    Read the first chapters of Kepler’s “Astonomia nova”.
    Johannes Kepler, New Astronomy, translated by William H. Donahue, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1992. ISBN 0-521-30131-9

    You will find this:

    Gravity is a mutual corporeal disposition among kindred bodies to unite or join together; thus the earth attracts a stone much more than the stone seeks the earth. (The magnetic faculty is another example of this sort)…. If two stones were set near one another in some place in the world outside the sphere of influence of a third kindred body, these stones, like two magnetic bodies, would come together in an intermediate place, each approaching the other by a space proportional to the bulk [moles] of the other…. For it follows that if the earth’s power of attraction will be much more likely to extend to the moon and far beyond, and accordingly, that nothing that consists to any extent whatever of terrestrial material, carried up on high, ever escapes the grasp of this mighty power of attraction.

    This was published in 1609 – If you do not find that astonishing, you should.

    Kepler’s so-called “1st law” (the law of elliptical orbits) was a direct consequence of his studies into the various shapes that a planetary orbit would assume under different force-laws.

    One can see, in retrospect, that Kepler’s studies were doomed to fail because he did not have a good understanding of inertia. But Kepler was very much concerned with answering “why” questions.

    Newton often gets all the credit for inventing astrophysics – but without Kepler, there would have been no Newton.

    [Very interesting, thank you. I'd like to pursue this.

    I maintain that fitting orbits to ellipses *is* pure geometry; the point at issue then becomes, is that was what Kepler did? You've now pointed out that Kepler had some idea of gravity (which I didn't know). However, you haven't demonstrated that he used that knowledge in deriving his ellipses. As I understand it (and I'll have to dig this out if you challenge me, but likely you know this better than me) Kepler tried a variety of different orbit shapes (he'd rejected epicycles for some reason I think) before settling on ellipses. That doesn't sound to me as though he had any theoretical / physical basis for choosing ellipses. Is that wrong?

    Analogy: I could demonstrate that Galileo had a good understanding of inertia. But he didn't use it for his astronomy -W]

  28. #28 The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse
    2014/01/17

    [...you haven't demonstrated that he used that knowledge in deriving his ellipses... That doesn't sound to me as though he had any theoretical / physical basis for choosing ellipses. Is that wrong?]

    Kepler was working with the ‘wrong’ force-law. He believed (based on the evidence he had) that the ‘vis motrix’ diminished in inverse proportion with distance, not with distance-squared. This assumption was tied to his Aristotlean conception of inertia.

    However, since the eccentricity of the planets’ orbits is low, this is actually a good approximation to the inverse-square law that would be proposed by Newton eight decades later, especially near a planet’s line of apsides.

    Kepler was initially shocked to discover that circular orbits could not be made consistent with Brahe’s precise positional data. But he did not throw away the data, rather, he changed the entire basis of planetary astronomy – by explicitly introducing a solar-force explanation for the non-circularity of the orbits. Even Kepler’s mentor, Michael Maestlin, advised Kepler against this theoretical move, as it broke the then-universal presumption that causal reasoning did not form any part of astronomy.

    Kepler knew that the orbital shape was determined by the force-law. If one reads the middle chapters of the ‘Astronomia nova’ one finds Kepler explaining in great detail how he used the area swept out by the planetary radius vector as a ‘proxy’ for what we would call an “integral” of the solar force over the orbital path. This has become known as his ’2nd law’ – even though it was introduced prior to the ’1st’ (ellipse) law.

    The point is this: Kepler was using theoretical constraints to inform his mathematical physics. The elliptical orbit was justified by Kepler as a consequence of a force. The fact that Kepler’s physics turned out to be ‘wrong’ is beside the point, and is a ‘fault’ that can equally apply to Newton’s theory of gravity with respect to relativistic physics.

    Another good read is: B. Stephenson, “Kepler’s Physical Astronomy”, Princeton University Press,1994.

    [OK, thanks. That's me refuted then. I've got the book you recommended earlier on order, so look forward to reading up on this -W]

  29. #29 Russell
    2014/01/20

    At least Rosa Parks could smoke in the back of the bus.

    Dick is not alone in fuming over the alienation of smoker’s rights.

  30. #30 Mal Adapted
    2014/01/20

    Russell, I support your right to smoke/vape everywhere that nobody else has to breath the air you’re polluting.

  31. #31 Russell
    2014/01/26

    Easy on the loud breathing , Mal, you’re standing upwind.