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28 March 2010

My Essay (Part II) - A very brief history

Progress in science was in a better pace after the dark ages as Europe enters Renaissance. Young minds are inspired to think. During that period, the development of arts and science flourished but, when the period where the journey of science which involves empirical analysis are about to begin, The Catholic Church has much control almost everything from politic governing to the dissemination of knowledge. They allow information to be taught only if the knowledge does not conflict with the Holy Scripture.

Based on verses in the Holy Book, The Church holds strong belief towards the Aristotelian view on the geocentric universe; that is the earth is in the centre of the cosmos and everything else revolves around us. This is somehow true because common instinct says so. Take a look at the sun. It rises from the east and sets at the west which makes it seems like it is orbiting the earth.

This concept is deceiving because a closer look at other planet’s orbit, i.e. Mars, Venus and Mercury in the night sky revealed a much complicated path called retrograde movements that doesn’t really agree with the idea of the earth is in the centre of the universe. In addition, Venus show different phases just like the moon showing different phases and complete it's phase each lunar month. There are also many other little things that annoys the geocentric view and ignorance are practiced to save people from being burnt on a stake.

A simpler model to describe such planetary movements was later proposed by a Polish priest; Nicholas Copernicus in 1514 but despite the obvious reasoning, Copernicus dare not publish his works in public due to the fact that he could be branded by the Church as a heretic. It takes nearly a century later; two famous astronomers finally publicly supported the theory. One is Galileo Galilei of Italy and another is Johannes Kepler.

The death blow to the Aristotelian geocentric universe occurred in 1609 when Galileo observed the heavens with the newly invented scientific tool now known as a telescope. He saw that mud-coloured planet Jupiter has four tiny moons revolving around its mother planet. So, a relation was made – if Jupiter, a planet, can have moons circulating it, that implies that not everything have to revolve around earth! Furthermore, at the same time, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, perfected the Copernican theory suggest that the planetary orbits does not have to be in a perfect circle but rather an ellipse (An elongated circle). That finally explained the retrograte movement of planets and with Kepler's orbit, the planets are precisely in its place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One crucial side of Copernicus' discovery was that albeit it was only his pasttime activity, the discovery of heliocentric cosmology means more, to him a cleric then, than just a comprehension of how the universe works. Christianity is the only religion i know that goes as a far as the Inquisition to fight idiotic war against knowledge. Nay, to some, Copernicus' inner battles against his own belief is compared to atheism and even coming-out-of-the-closet tales.