Asymmetric Science Camp

spinning

There is going to be a science fair in Kentucky! It’s always great to see kids interested in science, and to see adults interested in their children’s intellectual development. Before we take a closer look at this science fair, I’d like to remind us of an important lesson in the history of science.

Back in the 14th century, there was considerable controversy over whether the Earth was spinning, or whether the Earth was actually stationary while the Sun and planets circled the Earth. A man named Nicole Oresme decided to assess this problem by critically examining all the arguments.

First, Oresme lists 3 of the strongest arguments of his day for a stationary Earth..

  1. Our senses experience the Sun and the planets rising and setting as if the Earth were the center of the universe. It is therefore most reasonable to believe our perceptions and conclude that the Earth is, in fact, spinning.
  2. If the Earth were actually spinning eastward, we should experience a constant wind from the east. We do not. Hence, the Earth is not spinning.
  3. When a man on a fast-moving ship shoots an arrow straight into the air, it will fall behind the ship close to point where it had been released. In the same way, if the Earth were spinning, an arrow shot straight into the air should fall at a point west of the point it was released. This does not happen, and therefore the earth is not spinning. (This argument was borrowed from Ptolemy.)

Next, Oresme Continue reading

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