Home » Astronomy, News » Copernicus: How much of what you know about the controversy around his sun-centred model of the universe is history?

Copernicus: How much of what you know about the controversy around his sun-centred model of the universe is history?

File:Nikolaus Kopernikus.jpg And how much is “Soviet realist”-type melodrama?

Remember Copernicus? Originally, that guy (1473–1543) who developed a sun-centred (heliocentric) model of the solar system – in his day, the known universe. Later, his name fronted a theory according to which Earth should not be considered unusual, but he had nothing to do with that.

It’s no surprise his name got attached to a theory that originated five centuries later. a theory he probably wouldn’t have agreed with. Almost everything most of us know about him and the conflict that developed around his model is wrong, but convenient for propaganda purposes.

A recent article in Scientific American, by Dennis Danielson and Christopher M. Graney, offers history:

Most scientists refused to accept this theory for many decades—even after Galileo made his epochal observations with his telescope.

Their objections were not only theological. Observational evidence supported a competing cosmology—the “geoheliocentrism” of Tycho Brahe.

The article is paywalled, but this paper, which Danielson delivered as a lecture to physicists in 2001 (later published in the American Journal of Physics), provides a good, non-paywalled beginning:

For more than three centuries scientists, historians, and popularizers of science have been repeating the claim that Copernicus ‘‘dethroned’’ earth from its ‘‘privileged’’ central position in the universe. However, a survey of pre-Copernican natural philosophy ~which viewed the earth as located in a cosmic sump! and of Copernicans’ own account of the axiological meaning of the new heliocentric astronomy ~which exalted earth to the dance of the stars! demonstrates that the cliché about earth’s ‘‘demotion’’ is unwarranted and fit to be discarded. © 2001 American Association of Physics Teachers. @DOI: 10.1119/1.1379734#

Some may remember Danielson from The Privileged Planet.

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3 Responses to Copernicus: How much of what you know about the controversy around his sun-centred model of the universe is history?

  1. News,

    indeed, there is a lot more to the situation than meets the eye.

    As just one instance, Brahe’s observations were made by naked eye [with aid of clever but massive and expensive instruments that required royal sponsorship . . . ], and were astonishingly accurate. Kepler was able to acquire access and to then calculate on them, ultimately arriving at his three laws by 1610 – 20 or thereabouts.

    Galileo’s travails [much of which were occasioned by ill advised treatment of valid points by a former friend and advocate whom he alienated thereby, who happened to have been a Cardinal and then a pope dealing with a lot of challenges including military ones . . . don't forget the last Turkish siege of Vienna was 1683] were from 1616 on to the 1630′s.

    Early telescopes were notably not particularly impressive in performance so it was not just those who would not look through them that did not see what was advertised, some of those who did, did not see clearly enough.

    And we need not go into Galileo’s inconclusive or erroneous arguments.

    Going back to Copernicus, his heliocentric idea was locked into circles of motion in the heavens. So I think it was he moved from 80 circles to “only” 40. Brahe seemed to have an empirically better warranted case.

    It turns out that, apparently, if one superposes just right, circles on circles become effectively ellipses.

    Kepler’s innovation was to see, aha, ellipses will work as a simple figure for motion in the heavens [a mathematical generalisation of the circle BTW . . . ], thence his law on elliptical motion with the Sun at one focus. This simplified enormously. The law of equal areas swept by radius vectors allowed for the speeding up and slowing down in orbits. The harmonic law on periods vs distances from sol allowed for different speeds of different planets.

    Galileo of course made a major direct discovery of the Galilean satellites of Jupiter. Thus we could see a heliocentric solar system in miniature.

    The discovery of imperfections in heavenly bodies such as the moon’s surface roughness and the sunspots in the sun, helped break down the Platonic notion of perfect heavens. Looking at the sun through telescopes of course damaged Galileo’s eyes and may have contributed to his blindness late in life.

    last but not least, our notion that the idea was that Earth was the centre of the cosmos is misleading. Their actual notion was that we were more like the imperfect, messy SUMP.

    Heliocentrism in that sense promoted earth to the heavens.

    The whole concept of mediocrity then pivots on a misreading of the meaning of geocentrism as it is called.

    It is also an unjustified notion, in general. We are certainly on a rare planet, and likely a highly privileged one.

    KF

  2. PS: Here on is a 101 level backgrounder on astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology leading to the design inference on fine tuning.

  3. A few notes on ‘centrality’;

    There is no centre of the universe! According to the standard theories of cosmology, the universe started with a “Big Bang” about 14 thousand million years ago and has been expanding ever since. Yet there is no centre to the expansion; it is the same everywhere. The Big Bang should not be visualized as an ordinary explosion. The universe is not expanding out from a centre into space; rather, the whole universe is expanding and it is doing so equally at all places, as far as we can tell. [11]

    i.e. from a 3-dimensional (3D) perspective, any particular 3D spot in the universe is to be considered just as ‘center of the universe’ as any other particular spot in the universe is to be considered ‘center of the universe’. This centrality found for any 3D place in the universe is because the universe is a 4D expanding hypersphere, analogous in 3D to the surface of an expanding balloon. All points on the surface are moving away from each other, and every point is central, if that’s where you live.

    Centrality of The Earth Within The 4-Dimensional Space-Time of General Relativity – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8421879

    As well quantum mechanics offers a restoration of ‘centrality’ to

    Quantum Enigma:Physics Encounters Consciousness – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics – John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe.
    And yet, have you ever before read a sentence having meaning similar to that of my preceding sentence? Likely you have not, and the reason you have not is, in my opinion, that physicists are in a state of denial…
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-designer/

    Quantum Physics – (material reality does not exist until we look at it) – Dr. Quantum video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ezNvpFcJU

    A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it? – 2008
    Excerpt: In mid-2007 Fedrizzi found that the new realism model was violated by 80 orders of magnitude; the group was even more assured that quantum mechanics was correct.
    Leggett agrees with Zeilinger that realism is wrong in quantum mechanics, but when I asked him whether he now believes in the theory, he answered only “no” before demurring, “I’m in a small minority with that point of view and I wouldn’t stake my life on it.” For Leggett there are still enough loopholes to disbelieve. I asked him what could finally change his mind about quantum mechanics. Without hesitation, he said sending humans into space as detectors to test the theory.,,,

    (to which Anton Zeilinger responded)

    When I mentioned this to Prof. Zeilinger he said, “That will happen someday. There is no doubt in my mind. It is just a question of technology.” Alessandro Fedrizzi had already shown me a prototype of a realism experiment he is hoping to send up in a satellite. It’s a heavy, metallic slab the size of a dinner plate.
    http://seedmagazine.com/conten....._tests/P3/

    So both Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity offer ‘centrality’ in the universe:

    The Galileo Affair and Life/Consciousness as the true “Center of the Universe”
    Excerpt: I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3D state is centered on each individual conscious observer in the universe, whereas, 4D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism, Christian Theism in particular, offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe. [15]

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit

    As to the fact that, as far as the local solar system itself is concerned, the earth is not ‘central’, I find the fact that this seemingly insignificant earth is found to revolve around the much more massive sun to be a very fitting ‘poetic reflection’ of our true spiritual condition. Please reflect on this for a moment, in regards to God’s ‘kingdom of light’, are we not to keep in mind that our lives are to be centered on the much higher purpose which is tied to our future in God’s kingdom of light? Are we not to avoid placing too much emphasis on the temporal pleasure this world has to offer, since it is so much more insignificant than the lasting pleasure of what heaven has to offer?

    Matthew 16:26
    And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

    Here is a quote from evangelist Louie Giglio which I think beautifully captures this ‘poetic reflection’ of our true spiritual condition

    You could fit 262 trillion earths inside (the star of) Betelgeuse. If the Earth were a golfball that would be enough to fill up the Superdome (football stadium) with golfballs,,, 3000 times!!! When I heard that as a teenager that stumped me right there because most of my praying had been advising God, correcting God, suggesting things to God, drawing diagrams for God, reviewing things with God, counseling God.
    Louie Giglio – How Great Is Our God – Part 2 – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfNiZrt5FjU

    The Biggest Stars in the Universe – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcz4vGvoxQA

    Thus, as is extremely fitting from the basic Christian view of reality, the centrality of the material world in the universe, comparatively speaking, is found to be rather negligible, save for ‘the privileged planet’ principle which reflects God’s craftsmanship in forming the Earth for life, whereas the centrality found for each individual ‘conscious soul/observer’ in the universe, through quantum mechanics, is found to be of primary significance,,, In other words:

    ,,,”Is anything worth more than your soul?”
    Matthew 16:26

    Verse, Quotes, and Music;

    Acts 26:13-15
    at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

    “The Light was brighter than hundreds of suns, but it did not hurt my eyes. I had never seen anything as luminous or as golden as this Light, and I immediately understood it was entirely composed of love, all directed at me. This wonderful, vibrant love was very personal, as you might describe secular love, but also sacred.
    Though I had never seen God, I recognized this light as the Light of God. But even the word God seemed too small to describe the magnificence of that presence. I was with my Creator, in holy communication with that presence. The Light was directed at me and through me; it surrounded me and pierced me. It existed just for me.” –
    testimony taken from Kimberly Clark Sharp’s Near Death Experience

    “The only human emotion I could feel was pure, unrelenting, unconditional love. Take the unconditional love a mother has for a child and amplify it a thousand fold, then multiply exponentially. The result of your equation would be as a grain of sand is to all the beaches in the world. So, too, is the comparison between the love we experience on earth to what I felt during my experience. This love is so strong, that words like “love” make the description seem obscene. It was the most powerful and compelling feeling. But, it was so much more. I felt the presence of angels. I felt the presence of joyous souls, and they described to me a hundred lifetimes worth of knowledge about our divinity. Simultaneous to the deliverance of this knowledge, I knew I was in the presence of God. I never wanted to leave, never.”
    Judeo-Christian Near Death Experience Testimony

    Evanescence – My Heart Is Broken
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/evan.....WV41100052

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