Monday, 11 January 2016

orrery or keeping up appearances

Recognising elegance in simplicity—though the push to preserve the conceit that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe, convoluted as it is, displays a lot of genius and endured, placating our egocentrism for fifteen hundred years. Contrary to appearances, Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria, in contriving his model, even acknowledged himself in his introductory remarks that it would be far more straightforward if we orbited around the Sun.
Possibly astronomers and mathematicians of the time even derived a heliocentric arrangement, as a purely academic (if not heretical) pursuit. Insistence that the heavenly spheres must sweep out perfect circles—rather than degenerate ellipses, also was a major contributing factor in the overall refusal of the public and the scientific community to entertain any other sort of cosmology. Revolutionary as it was, the sun-centred solar system of Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei and despite the hard slog for acceptance, though ostensibly still true and accurate enough (when it’s not rocket-science), did not reign long itself before being toppled by Johannes Kepler, whose keen perception of the motion of planets—as the expression of gravity—displaced the Sun too, realising that it is not our star that leads in the waltz of planets. The principle of Ockham’s Razor does usually hold and these animations certainly impart a lesson in perceptive and relation but I wonder what else we might not be seeing for our clouded biases.