Tuesday, 25 February 2014
History - Galileo's discovery
It all started a long time ago in Italy when a man called Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) became a famous mathematician, physicist and philosopher. He was born in Pisa and often walked leaning sideways. When he eventually became famous the townsfolk built a tower in his honour and made it lean sideways to look just like him.
He achieved great distinction amongst society by doing his homework whilst at school and not wasting time watching TV or playing video games. This proved easy for him because at the time neither TV nor video games had been invented; so it was either a choice of doing homework or helping with the household chores.
Anyway, as he grew up Galileo used to think a lot. He would sit on a chair in the veranda for hours and just think rather than help his father work in the fields. One day he looked over the field at the people far away and wondered why they were small. "Do people shrink as they walk away from you?" he thought. "And how is it they grow up again the closer they get to you?"
It was a mystery which exercised his imagination until his friend Vidi Maximus suggested that he should invent the telescope.
It is worth noting here that Vidi Maximus was the second of the three Max Brothers - Veni, Vidi, Vici.
Vici was always fighting, whereas Vidi had great foresight as well as hindsigth because he had eyes at the back of his head. Not much is known of the elder brother Veni.
But I digress as I often do to add interest to my conversations and to check whether you're still paying attention or have fallen asleep.
So, using a few inner rolls of toilet paper Galileo stuck them together and made a long cardboard tube. He looked down one end and was disheartened to find that the men in the field were just as small as before.
It took Vidi Maximus quite a lot of patience to explain to Galileo that it would be better if he were to put some lenses in the tube first. And that's how Galileo invented the telescope.
One day as he was sitting in the veranda thinking, Galileo noticed that the shadow of a nearby tree moved every so often and it was not always in the same place. He looked up to the sun and was nearly blinded by its brilliance; so he cursed that he had not invented sunglasses as well as the telescope.
He figured out that either the sun is moving around and so giving the illusion that the shadow is moving, or the sun is standing still in one place and it was the earth which was moving.
He waited until nightfall and then he got his friend Vidi Maximus to walk in a big circle in the street holding a lit torch. To his delight he noticed that as Vidi walked around in a big circle the shadow of the tree moved round as well. This proved to Galileo that the earth moved around the tree ... until Vidi patiently once again pointed out that the earth moved around the sun not the tree.
Eventually, the slow Galileo saw the light, from the torch as well as in his head, and realised that the earth indeed moved round a stationary sun. They were both so excited by their great discovery that they stopped suddenly and cheered at the top of their voices. Unfortunately they were run over by a passing fast chariot.
The following day, dazed and bedraggled, Galileo got out of hospital and decided to go public with his discovery. He told everyone that the earth revolves around the sun. They all laughed at him.
Some church people said that this was all heresy and he should be arrested.
It was at this period, whilst challenged for his beliefs, that he is supposed to have said "Eppur si muove!"
This is a famous saying which in Italian means "and yet it moves".
This is believed to refer to the fact that he maintained at all times that the earth revolves around the sun; and has nothing to do with the notion that he was referring to his over-large mother-in-law who got up from her chair to make everyone a well deserved Expresso coffee.