Sunday, May 24, 2009

Officer That guy right there started it!

This is the perfect time to do the International Year of Astronomy tribute to my all time hero of science , Galileo Galilei He did not invent the telescope but he did turn it skyward first and the world was never the same. In the time of Galileo, the world /universe was a tiny place as far as human understanding went. Europe was out of the "flat" stage but seemed to be locked into the geocentric mode. "The earth was the center of the universe and no matter what facts you bring forth and discrepancies the earth centric theory had, you are wrong and we are right". This was the Catholic church mantra of the time. Nicholas Copernicus found this out earlier when he proposed a treatise: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. This was a theory depicting a Helio-centric cosmos(sun centered) This was poo pooed by the church and his book was put on the forbidden list of books to read. That was until it could be corrected. Well the cat was out of the bag by then and in the modern 1600s The theory would not go away. There were a lot of Copernicans out there and one was Giordano Bruno He was burned at the stake for it in 1600. Wow so with this being the going rate for Copernican thinking, a mathematician by the name of Galileo hits the spotlight.

He is making big waves in the Scientific world since about 1588 or so He gets a Gig at the University of Padua Chair of Mathematics. It is here he gets a telescope. Now by today's standards the telescope was pretty bad optically but it worked. He turned that puppy on the moon and Katy bar the door, the moon is rough, has craters, mountains. He thought Hmmm that stuff is not supposed to be there according to the current thinking. Boy did Galileo run with it. He made observations of Jupiter and noticed Jupiter had moons that definitely were orbiting the Planet.That did not fit with the current Ptolemy thinking either. He wrote a book about it in 1610 :Sidereal Messenger, and moved to Florence to take a really cushy job for the Grand Duke of Tuscany.Things were really moving forward and upward for Galileo, but there seemed to be stuff that kept cropping up with observation after observation. The Geocentric deal is a dud! But how does one kindly and thoughtfully tell the Catholic church they are wrong wrong wrong and have been for a long time.

Having gotten wind of the questions Galileo was having, Cardinal Bellarmine met with Galileo and warned him not hold with Copernican theory. So Galileo met with his good buddy of the past Maffeo Barberini now Pope Urban. He thought and may very well had permission to write a book about the questions in the: Dialogue Concerning the two Chief World Systems in 1632. He painted the Church(Urban) as a slow thick tongued man named Simplicio defending the Ptolemy system. The Pope even recoginized one of his own arguments used during many long visits with Galileo. Oh yeah! called the Pope a simpleton to get his point across. I am guessing Galileo never heard the timeless saying: Never poke a stick at the mean dog. Well he did and was put through the Inquisition by his ole pal Urban in 1633. They produced a document (unsigned and unnotarized) and kept in the archives. Remember the Chat Bellarmine and Galileo with Bellarmine warning Galileo to never tout Copernican thinking and with this "Dialogue" he did, boy did he! The document showed Galileo promised not to write about Copernican teaching. It makes me think setup. He was condemned on suspicion of heresy. He had to denounce Copernican thinking and spend the rest of his life under house arrest.

OK that book did not go well and Galileo could have used a publisist. Instead of giving up Galileo did observations of the moon in fact noting that the moon had a slight wobble to it in 1637 This was one of his last observations. He went totally blind in that year.He was also able to smuggle out of the house and publish a manuscript: Discourse of the two New Sciences. This was the beginning of modern physics.It was published in 1636. So what is the point of this history lesson? If you believe in something and every fiber of your being says it is right then go for it write that book. Prove that point. Make sure you do not really tick off the guy that has your life in his hands. With out Galileo setting the stage for Keppler,Newton, Einstein and other great scientist, The telescope might have been the pet Rock of the 1600s came and went. What a lesser place this world would be without men like Galileo.

Clear skies and great seeing too

Steve T

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