Monday, October 24, 2016

And Yet It Moves: Gravitational Waves

"The moment he was set at liberty, he looked up to the sky and down to the ground, and, stamping with his foot, in a contemplative mood, said, Eppur si muove [And yet it moves], meaning the earth."1
Giuseppe Baretti, on Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei knew the Earth revolved around the Sun and that it wasn't, as the Catholic Church would have him believe, some unmoving object around which everything else revolved. Despite religious pressure to acquiesce, he refused. Nearly 70 years prior to this "Galileo affair" as it has come to be known, Copernicus had published the first mathematical, geometric system to place the sun at the center of the solar system in his widely circulated book entitled On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543). Galileo, using a new invention called a telescope, was able to confirm these mathematical computations through observation, albeit indirectly. Although he was later confined to his house by order of the church for challenging the Bible's teaching in Chronicles 16:30, which states "the world is firmly established; it cannot be moved", he remained resolute, stating "and yet it moves".

In effect, Copernicus and Galileo demonstrated a common approach to the accumulation of scientific knowledge, that is, through mathematical prediction and observation - and the obstacles that must be overcome to bring this knowledge to light. Likewise, gravitational waves were also predicted by mathematics, but in the early 20th century, nobody knew how to measure them. On Feb. 11, 2016, after a long struggle and costing over half a billion dollars, our perception of reality was fundamentally altered when gravitational waves were announced to have finally been directly observed.

This article was written by Patrick Rhodes and published on January 12, 2016. Click here to read the rest of the article.
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