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Astronomy: the first science
Posted: 09 April 2006 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The First Science: Astronomy

▄▄▄▄The oldest science is astronomy. There are records of astronomical observations from ancient countries—namely China, Babylonia, Egypt, and Mexico. However, the first astronomers were probably the ancient Greeks. They were the first to determine the size of the Earth; they were later proved to be fairly accurate in their calculations. They also concluded that the Earth was a sphere.
▄▄▄▄The most advanced star catalogs were created by a Greek named Hipparchus. Ptolemy wrote the Almagest, which gave a summary of Greek astronomy. Although the ancient Greeks still thought that the Earth was the center of the universe there were Greek philosophers who were skeptical of that claim. Some of them maintained that it was the Sun that was at the center. One of them was Aristarchus of Samos. Ptolemy’s geocentric theory, however, was generally accepted until Copernicus in the 16th century and Newton in the 17th demonstrated that the Sun and not the Earth is the center of the universe.
▄▄▄▄What motivated the ancients to study these celestial bodies was to create calendars. Calendars that would allow them to know things like when to plant and when to harvest. Of course the earliest calendars were crude, but they were of help to early farming communities. Star catalogs were important to the ancients because of the widespread belief in Astrology. Even today this pseudoscience is important to the lives of many people all over the planet.
▄▄▄▄Astronomy, the oldest and earliest of the sciences, has come a long way since its beginnings when ancient people looked up at the sky and wondered about the patterns that the stars made and the regularity of the motions and events that they observed. Today the Hubble Space Telescope can observe objects in the universe as distant as 14 billion light years away. With the recent upgrade it will be able to detect phenomena even farther away than that. And, the Next Generation Space Telescope may reveal wonders that will be beyond belief.
▄ Bob

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Posted: 09 April 2006 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Astronomy: the first science

The First Science Astronomy

  The oldest science is astronomy. There are records of astronomical observations from ancient countries—namely China, Babylonia, Egypt, and Mexico. However, the first astronomers were probably the ancient Greeks. They were the first to determine the size of the Earth; they were later proved to be fairly accurate in their calculations. They also concluded that the Earth was a sphere.
  The most advanced star catalogs were created by a Greek named Hipparchus. Ptolemy wrote the Almagest, which gave a summary of Greek astronomy. Although the ancient Greeks still thought that the Earth was the center of the universe there were Greek philosophers who were skeptical of that claim. Some of them maintained that it was the Sun that was at the center. One of them was Aristarchus of Samos. Ptolemy’s geocentric theory, however, was generally accepted until Copernicus in the 16th century and Newton in the 17th demonstrated that the Sun and not the Earth is the center of the universe.
  What motivated the ancients to study these celestial bodies was to create calendars. Calendars that would allow them to know things like when to plant and when to harvest. Of course the earliest calendars were crude, but they were of help to early farming communities. Star catalogs were important to the ancients because of the widespread belief in Astrology. Even today this pseudoscience is important to the lives of many people all over the planet.
  Astronomy, the oldest and earliest of the sciences, has come a long way since its beginnings when ancient people looked up at the sky and wondered about the patterns that the stars made and the regularity of the motions and events that they observed. Today the Hubble Space Telescope can observe objects in the universe as distant as 14 billion light years away. With the recent upgrade it will be able to detect phenomena even farther away than that. And, the Next Generation Space Telescope may reveal wonders that will be beyond belief.
Bob

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Posted: 09 April 2006 04:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks Bob! Some additions: I would definitely include Kepler and Galileo in any history of astronomy. Copernicus was very important, no doubt, but his “demonstration” was largely due to his infatuation with circular motion ... which he believed to be divine. Copernicus did no experimentation, but only looked theoretically at the Ptolemaic system and how to make it more elegant ...

Galileo’s experiments with the telescope revealed the phases of venus, giving evidence that Copernicus’s sun-centered system was correct. It also revealed the moons around Jupiter (now called the “Galilean Moons”), which again supported the idea of a larger body at the center surrounded by satellites.

Galileo’s spyglass also revealed that the sun was imperfect (it had spots!), which gave actual evidence that it was not somehow divine and incorruptible as some neo-Platonists had believed.

Kepler’s use of Tycho Brahe’s data for the orbit of Mars broke us away from the notion of circular motions in the heavens and so also gave evidence that the heavens were “imperfect” at least by naĹve Platonic standards. It bears repeating that Kepler was a huge fan of Copernicus and totally wedded to circular motion ... only his unwavering belief in the evidence (and trust in Brahe’s ability with measurement) led him to overthrow millennia of false beliefs with his new theory that planetary motions were elliptical with the sun at one focus.

All this on the basis of (as I recall) two or three of Brahe’s observations of Mars, at which the difference between circular and elliptical motion was nearly indistinguishable against the stars. It would have been supremely easy for Kepler to reject these observations as erroneous. That he didn’t—and that he found the right answer—testifies to his stature as a true scientist.

Newton’s theory depended essentially on the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler; I would argue, much more than they did on the theoretical insights of Copernicus ...

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Posted: 09 April 2006 08:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Kepler and Galileo

[quote author=“dougsmith”]Thanks Bob! Some additions I would definitely include Kepler and Galileo in any history of astronomy. Copernicus was very important, no doubt, but his “demonstration” was largely due to his infatuation with circular motion ... which he believed to be divine. Copernicus did no experimentation, but only looked theoretically at the Ptolemaic system and how to make it more elegant ...

Galileo’s experiments with the telescope revealed the phases of venus, giving evidence that Copernicus’s sun-centered system was correct. It also revealed the moons around Jupiter (now called the “Galilean Moons”), which again supported the idea of a larger body at the center surrounded by satellites.

Galileo’s spyglass also revealed that the sun was imperfect (it had spots!), which gave actual evidence that it was not somehow divine and incorruptible as some neo-Platonists had believed.

Kepler’s use of Tycho Brahe’s data for the orbit of Mars broke us away from the notion of circular motions in the heavens and so also gave evidence that the heavens were “imperfect” at least by naĹve Platonic standards. It bears repeating that Kepler was a huge fan of Copernicus and totally wedded to circular motion ... only his unwavering belief in the evidence (and trust in Brahe’s ability with measurement) led him to overthrow millennia of false beliefs with his new theory that planetary motions were elliptical with the sun at one focus.

All this on the basis of (as I recall) two or three of Brahe’s observations of Mars, at which the difference between circular and elliptical motion was nearly indistinguishable against the stars. It would have been supremely easy for Kepler to reject these observations as erroneous. That he didn’t—and that he found the right answer—testifies to his stature as a true scientist.

Newton’s theory depended essentially on the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler; I would argue, much more than they did on the theoretical insights of Copernicus ...

Doug,
Yes, I should have included Kepler and Galileo. Perhaps I’ll rewrite it someday.
You definitely are knowledgeable about astronomy. Are you an amateur astronomer?
Thanks for your comments.
Bob

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Posted: 09 April 2006 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Re: Kepler and Galileo

[quote author=“Bob”]Doug,
Yes, I should have included Kepler and Galileo. Perhaps I’ll rewrite it someday.
You definitely are knowledgeable about astronomy. Are you an amateur astronomer?
Thanks for your comments.
Bob

Well, Bob, I’ve been a very enthusiastic amateur astronomer ... even a member of the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) when I was in grad school. Problem is in NYC there is little opportunity to do interesting stargazing. When I get very “homesick” for astronomy I go to the evening talks at the Hayden Planetarium, which are amazing.

OTOH my post on Kepler and Galileo came partly from having done a bit of study of history of science. It’s a real passion of mine. Kepler and Galileo are two real heroes, so I didn’t want to leave them out.

:D

Also watched Cosmos again recently ... my wife got me the DVDs awhile back. Sagan is the greatest.

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Posted: 09 April 2006 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Stargazing in NYC, The Hayden Planetarium and Carl Sagan

dougsmith wrote,
“Well, Bob, I’ve been a very enthusiastic amateur astronomer ... even a member of the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) when I was in grad school. Problem is in NYC there is little opportunity to do interesting stargazing. When I get very “homesick” for astronomy I go to the evening talks at the Hayden Planetarium, which are amazing.”

Doug,
I know about the problem in NYC it’s called “light polution” or sky shine. I chat with an amateur astronomer who lives in a suburb of Fresno, CA. He has a couple of telescopes but usually uses a pair of powerful binoculars. I also have a pair of powerful binoculars but I never can see more than the Moon and a few of the brighter planets.
The Hayden Planetarium is a wonderful place. I haven’t been there in a long time. I hear it’s better than ever. I may be able to spend some time there when I go to see the Darwin exhibit.

Doug wrote,
“Also watched Cosmos again recently ... my wife got me the DVDs awhile back. Sagan is the greatest.”

Doug,
I’ve been thinking about getting the “Cosmos” DVD. Yes, Sagan is the greatest. I watched the movie “Contact” again recently. Have you seen it?
Bob

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Posted: 12 April 2006 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Re: "Cosmos" and the Darwin Exhibition

Doug wrote,
“Also watched Cosmos again recently ... my wife got me the DVDs awhile back. Sagan is the greatest.”

Doug,
I ordered the DVD of “Cosmos” from Amazon.com yesterday. I’m looking forward to watching the series again.
I’m going to try to see the Darwin exhibit as soon as possible. I wouldn’t want to miss it.
Bob

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Posted: 12 April 2006 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Re: "Cosmos" and the Darwin Exhibition

[quote author=“Bob”]Doug,
I ordered the DVD of “Cosmos” from Amazon.com yesterday. I’m looking forward to watching the series again.
I’m going to try to see the Darwin exhibit as soon as possible. I wouldn’t want to miss it.
Bob

Great! Please post about your feelings after seeing Cosmos again. I think I can guarantee it will get you enthusiastic all over again about science and reason.

Hope you enjoy the Darwin exhibit too. It’s very popular so you may want to get tickets in advance or go early in the day ... I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were there.

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Posted: 12 April 2006 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Re: "Cosmos" and the Darwin Exhibition

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Bob”]Doug,
I ordered the DVD of “Cosmos” from Amazon.com yesterday. I’m looking forward to watching the series again.
I’m going to try to see the Darwin exhibit as soon as possible. I wouldn’t want to miss it.
Bob

dougsmith wrote
“Great! Please post about your feelings after seeing Cosmos again. I think I can guarantee it will get you enthusiastic all over again about science and reason.”

doug,
I’ll keep you posted.
Bob

doug wrote,               
“Hope you enjoy the Darwin exhibit too. It’s very popular so you may want to get tickets in advance or go early in the day ... I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were there.”

doug,
I’m sure I’ll love it as I’m very much interested in evolution.
I want to remind anyone interested in the exhibition that it has been extended till August 20th, 2006.
Bob

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Posted: 18 April 2006 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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interesting*

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Fighting the evil belief that there is a god(s).

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Posted: 25 April 2006 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Re: "Cosmos"

dougsmith,
I received the DVDs of “Cosmos”  and have seen the first four episodes again. It’s truly an amazing series.
Just learned that Neil deGrasse Tyson will be hosting the “NOVA science NOW” programs on PBS.
Bob

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Posted: 25 April 2006 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Re: "Cosmos"

[quote author=“Bob”]dougsmith,
I received the DVDs of “Cosmos”  and have seen the first four episodes again. It’s truly an amazing series.
Just learned that Neil deGrasse Tyson will be hostng the “NOVA science NOW” programs on PBS.
Bob

Hey great news for Neil! Where did you hear that? Any idea when his episodes would be aired?

Much as I love Neil’s work, Cosmos is the benchmark for science documentaries. Sagan’s prose is amazing, and also his seemingly effortless ability to discus philosophy, history, and contemporary science all at the same time. It opens up to you the power of the scientific method and how it works, as well as the huge cornucopia of knowledge that science has produced, in all branches: astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry, and so on. And Sagan discusses everything.

Another thing that struck home last time I saw it is how the show just isn’t dated at all ... should be well over 20 years old by now, but even the most hypothetical and cutting-edge science Sagan discussed is all still with us. And whaddya know, it’s being rebroadcast on the Science Channel ... except for some 1970s/80s clothing and backgrounds, it could have been done last year ...

Really, Cosmos is a series to see (and broadcast) again and again ... I expect it may never get old ...

8)

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Posted: 25 April 2006 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Re: "Cosmos" and Neil deGrasse Tyson

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Bob”]dougsmith,
Just learned that Neil deGrasse Tyson will be hosting the “NOVA science NOW” programs on PBS.
Bob

doug wrote
“Hey great news for Neil! Where did you hear that? Any idea when his episodes would be aired?”

doug,
I read it in SI.
I think his first episode will air on May 9th. Yes, great news for Neil.
Bob

doug wrote,
“Much as I love Neil’s work, Cosmos is the benchmark for science documentaries. Sagan’s prose is amazing, and also his seemingly effortless ability to discus philosophy, history, and contemporary science all at the same time. It opens up to you the power of the scientific method and how it works, as well as the huge cornucopia of knowledge that science has produced, in all branches astronomy, physics, biology, chemistry, and so on. And Sagan discusses everything.

“Another thing that struck home last time I saw it is how the show just isn’t dated at all ... should be well over 20 years old by now, but even the most hypothetical and cutting-edge science Sagan discussed is all still with us.”

doug,
True, it’s not dated. And after each episode there are “updates” that bring things right up to the   present time. I intend to watch episde 5 today.
Bob

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Posted: 25 April 2006 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The two of you are amazing, I love astronomy but never have been anywhere the small telescope I own can be used at night efficiently. Now with the Hubble NASA produces daily picture of the Cosmos it is less and less enjoyable so I bought the sun filter and use it to view the sun whenever I like.

There is a website in Belgium that sends email notices of the sun’s activity. You can subscribe to their newsletter.

I totally agree about Sagan. If only he lived a little longer.

The software that reproduces the night sky where ever you are is a lazymans’ observatory. I have it and will be pleased to put it up as a torrent one of these days. I’ll let you know when I do.

WOW Just used the google toolbar spellchecker for the first time!
Jim

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Posted: 25 April 2006 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Hi Jim,

Astronomy is an amazing science. I’d say for me it’s the closest to “religion” in the deep feeling it can provide when looking at the vastness of space. Really awesome grandeur.

I recall years ago looking through a really nice refractor someone had set up with a hydrogen-alpha filter to look at solar prominences. That blew my mind. If I had a rooftop deck with a clear view I might be tempted, even in NYC, but as it is, it’s not worthwhile ...

Yes, Sagan is one of the few who should have lived at least 200 years.

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Posted: 27 April 2006 02:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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NASA celebrates 16 years of obsevation by the HST

[quote author=“dougsmith”]Hi Jim,

Astronomy is an amazing science. I’d say for me it’s the closest to “religion” in the deep feeling it can provide when looking at the vastness of space. Really awesome grandeur.”


Starburst Galaxy M82 by Hubble
Wed, 26 Apr 2006 - To celebrate 16 years of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA and ESA have released this image of galaxy M82 (aka the Cigar Galaxy). Located 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, it’s an amazing example of a starburst galaxy. New stars are being born at the heart of M82 at a rate of 10 times what we see in our own Milky Way galaxy. The combined solar winds from all these stars creates a galactic “superwind” that compresses gas further out in the disk and leads to even more star formation.—From universetoday.com

To see the image go to http://www.universetoday.com
Bob

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