Sunday, August 12, 2012

astro picture for the day

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Nasa/Jpl's Mars Curiosity rover has generated lots of excitement, and all it has done so far is land! Mars has held mankind's fascination for a while.  For Kepler, Mars presented a problem.  Untill, he mapped out the actual shape of Mars, he couldn't figure out what the problem was!

What's perhaps more remarkable about Kepler's mathematical understanding of the planets of the solar system is that he did it before Galileo figured out inertia, and that different massive objects have the same rate of fall in a vacuum.  These were the problems that stopped people from working on the heliocentric hypotheses.

Further, most people have heard of Isaac Newton's inverse square law; that mathematics is actually pretty easy when you check it out.  What most people don't realize is that Isaac Newton derived Kepler's laws from his three laws and his inverse square law. Newton's syntheses of Galileo and Kepler's findings(remarkable in themselves) requiered more mathematics; he had to come up with a theorem about how one doesn't have to calculate all the vectors of a mass - just know the center of mass. Newton went on to of course calculate the tides, the precession of the equinoxes, predict Haley's comet, the flattening of the Earth at the poles.  He also started the work to be able to derive the likely substances of the planets just by knowing the mass, rotation rate and speed around the sun.

The Greeks mathematics and physics was of course left to collect dust on the shelf(although, mathematicians still find it fun to relate the ancient mathematics to modern mathematics).  Isaac Newton's synthesis left the old agricultural civilization.  They were dependend on the calendar(not that are not; but, now clocks take precedence); they made their mythology(the science of the day) according to the zodiac and the precession of the equinoxes.  There's the twelve constellations always personified from the Egyptians to whoever made the Gospels.  If you'll notice Taurus the Bull, aries the ram, and Pisces the fish, you'll see that the Judeo-Christian religion seems to be about being at the right place at the right time; to kind of wright themselves into the history books.  The Minoans were full of Bulls; the Jews were into Rams horns, and Jesus Christ is always represented by the fish of the Pisces constellation.  The passover is about the transition from the pole star being in a given zodiacal constellation, taurus, aries, and pisces.  Well, it follows the pattern. Anyways, these concerns have for the most part been swept away.  Today, we see some people hoping that Maya myths of 2012 are true to sweep away this troubled world and put themselves into power.  No doubt, christians everywhere are waiting for the second coming at the coming passover(around 2100A.D; the passover, or the precession of the equinoxes from one constellation to another goes every 2100 years or so).  Many people don't know or care or believe this(I of course don't; but, i do believe that people believed in this mythology back then and tried to position themselves to it).

Newton's every action gives and equal and opposite reaction led to the rocket; i of course, hope that one day humanity expands out to space; out there, mankind will further grow up.

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I tried to explain awhile back how if civilization fell today, most people would die.  They don't know how to live off the land; they're living two many steps past 'living off the land' such as all life.  Let's say, they're that dependent on science and technology.  The few survivors will not be able to teach others how to start civilization again; All the stuff that got in the way of people thinking about science and mathematics, wild animals, weather, and others would keep people from learning everything before the next generation. they will have to start all over again.  I pointed out how the precision of the machine tools comes from astronomy(the clockwork precision of circular orbits).  So, they'd have to make stonehenges again; basically, they'd have to start all over again back to the stone age. 

The Kepler/Tycho Brahe events highlights our delicate dependence on science and technology in another way; people grew up with non-science beliefs; too leap to science thought required questioning those beliefs - something those beliefs do not want people to do. This is what I meant to point when I first posted Carl Sagan's episode 3 about Johannes Kepler(of his cosmos book/videos). 

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