Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So I am currently back at home, awaiting my dentist appointment tomorrow. Scarlet took a tumble on Friday, and so i had to get stitches in my chin and i chipped a tooth. For a while, I looked truly gnarly. Fortunately, I didn't actually take any photos, so few will know just how much like a hobo i looked. Especially when I still had a fat lip. All in all, quite a surreal experience.
In math today, we talked about how much of a revolution to conversion from a geocentric to a heliocentric solar system was. I argued that it wasn't that extreme, considering that the idea had already been floating around for thousands of years, all of the observations remained the same, and the math was pretty much the same as well, between Copernicus and Ptolemy, including diagrams. People in my class were pretty salty about this, because they wanted to make a big deal about the religious aspect and humans no longer being the center of the universe. But I stand by it. It seems like it was more of a revision than a revolution. A revolution would be something like Lavoisier or Harvey or Lobachevsky, that would remain significant even when taken out of context, whereas it seems like Copernicus wouldn't have been shocking if it hadn't occured during Christian-dominated times. I'd say this is because those other examples relied on fundamentally different methods, observations, and hypotheses, whereas Copernicus only changed the last bit. Hypotheses are always changing, but the other parts seem like they generally stay more consistent.
I was also reminded how difficult it is to truly have an original thought. Copernicus is generally known as the inventor of the heliocentric system, but it had in fact been thought of thousands of years prior to that. I feel like that's probably true for a lot of different "discoveries", where either I personally am unaware of the true originator, or the world as a whole has forgotten them. And while on the subject of discoveries, I was again fascinated by how frequently several people discover the same revolutionary idea at the same time. Like Newton and Leibniz with calculus to give a more famous example, or Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, who I would be really surprised to find most people know about. I suppose that happens because it's the natural next step in the thoughts process, so why wouldn't two people both take that step, and it would be a reinforcement of the idea that they had taken the logical next step. It's still pretty cool, though.
In final science news, some physicists are actually claiming that the reason the particle accelerator in Switzerland isn't working is because the collisions are causing particles in the future to come back in time that interfere with the machine. I'm not sure if that would be a good thing or not, but mainly, I don't believe it. Let's pop a quick intervention on those scientists for being so crazy. And once again I recommend people check out wired.com, it's got some really cool articles up about spiders, day-dreaming, and Earth-twins.