Celestial and Classical Mechanics

The Development of Modern Astronomy, Celestial Mechanics, and Classical Mechanics in Europe
Sunday, May 17, 2009

[Slide 1]: Title slide. The Development of Modern Astronomy, Celestial Mechanics, and Classical Mechanics in Europe.
Welcome to lecture Six of The Heaven’s Revolve. My name is Stephen Friberg, and this lecture is the second of three lectures on celestial and classical mechanics. This lecture will review the big changes that happened in Europe when the ancient models of astronomy of the Hellenistic world were challenged and replaced by new models and new mathematics.

[Slide 2]: Outline. Copernicus and the Heliocentric Universe.
In this lecture, we will start by reviewing the acquisition of Islamic learning in Europe, and European Astronomy th before Copernicus and the 16 century. We will then talk about the Polish thinker and astronomer Copernicus and his proposal that the earth rotated around the sun rather than the sun rotating around the earth. This was a big change from the Ptolemaic system. We will then briefly review the life and work of two important astronomers that followed Copernicus – Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Brahe built an observatory that made highly accurate measurements of the movements of the planets. Kepler developed a mathematical model that fitted to Brahe’s data. The mathematical model used ellipses rather than circles, revolutionizing astronomy. We then review the contributions of the two most famous and important early European scientific thinkers: Galileo and Newton. Galileo used a new astronomical instrument – the telescope – to observe the planets, the moon, and the sun. He found that the moon and sun were imperfect and that some of the planets had moons. Newton took the mathematical models of Kepler and developed the theory of gravity and physical forces that we now call classical mechanics. The combined impact of the work of Galileo and Newton created modern astronomy and modern science.

[Slide 3]: Islamic Learning and Europe
Let’s look at the map of Europe and Islam around the year 750. The Islamic Empire under the Umayyad dynasty extended from Spain in the west to India and China in the east. Under the Umayyad and the Abbasid caliphs, learning expanded and grew, bringing together contributions from Hellenistic, Persian, Byzantium, Indian, and Chinese sources. Western Europe – except in Islamic Spain and Sicily - was poor, backward, rural, uneducated, and HAD no great cities.

[Slide 4]: Islamic Learning and Europe: The Revival of European Learning
By the year 1000, Europe was starting to change and advance, and part of that change was a growing interest in Islamic learning, especially astrology, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine.

Celestial and Classical Mechanics: The Classical Universe 500 B.C.E. to 1500 C.E.

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Gerbert d’Aurillac, who lived from 943 to 1003 and became the Pope Sylvester II, is the first major figure of this movement. He studied in Northern Spain and introduced Arabic arithmetic, mathematics, astronomy, and calculating engines to Europe. Constantine the African (1020- 1085) was a great translator of Islamic and Jewish medical texts. Adelard of Bath (1080-1152) traveled throughout the Islamic world, translating the work of alKhwarizmi and other great Islamic astronomers and mathematicians into Latin.

[Slide 5]: Islamic Learning and Europe: A Century of Translation
In 1072 and 1085, Christian military forces captured Palermo in Sicily and Toledo in Spain from Muslim rulers and both cities became major centers of translation for more than a century. Cordoba, the great Islamic capital of Muslim Spain became a center of discussion and study where Moslem, Jewish, and Christian scholars worked together to produce some of the greatest philosophical, mathematical, and medical flowerings of the Islamic civilization. The century of study and translation in these cities provided Europe with knowledge of Islamic astronomy, mathematics, engineering, philosophy, medicine and science that supplied the basic textbooks that were used in European universities for the next 500 years. During that time, Islamic learning – and with it, knowledge of the Hellenistic world of the distant past – was studied and absorbed. These studies were the starting point of scholasticism, which you studied in Lecture 5, and the European understanding of the universe.

[Slide 6]: European Understanding of the Universe before Copernicus
Islamic learning, and after that, Greek learning from the Byzantium empire fed the growth of European scholarship in medicine, logic, the natural sciences, and astronomy. By 1300, there were twenty universities in Europe. By 1500, there were 80. Islamic science, technology, medicine and mathematics and Aristotle’s works were the basis for the studies at most of these universities. In astronomy, the Ptolemaic model of the universe and the astronomical texts of the great Islamic astronomers and mathematicians were universally accepted. This was due to its origins in the teachings of Aristotle, the great authority extended to Aristotle, and because it was endorsed by all the Islamic sources. By 1500, European astronomy was probably at the same level as Islamic astronomy, although important mathematical techniques continued to arrive from Maragha and Samarkand.

[Slide 7]: Copernicus and the Heliocentric Theory of the Solar System: 1
Around 1505, a major shift occurred in European astronomy, a shift that not only began a new era in astronomy, but started new developments in science and almost all aspects of organized social life as well. That shift was the emergence of a new theory of the structure of the universe, the idea that the universe was not centered on the earth as taught by Aristotle and Ptolemy. That idea, the geocentric system, was taught by all the great astronomers and mathematicians of Islam and the whole of the scientific and religious establishment of Eastern and Western Europe. The new theory, proposed by the Polish astronomer and thinker Nicolaus Copernicus, held that the Sun – not the earth – was at the center of the universe and that the earth revolved around the sun, rather than the sun revolving around the earth. It took 200 years to be accepted, but the results of its acceptance were powerful. One result was the overthrow of the authority of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and the science of the past. They were wrong about one of the most important scientific matter of all – the nature of the Universe. That meant that they were likely to be wrong about many other things as well. The authority of Greek science was overthrown.

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Another result was the overthrow of the authority of the Catholic Church and its scholastic system of knowledge, a system built on the authority of Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic philosophy. The third result, which we will explore in the rest of this lecture, is the astronomical and scientific revolutions that the Copernican model started.

[Slide 8]: Copernicus and Europe in 1500
Copernicus was born in Northern Poland in the town of Torun, or modern Thorn, in a family of rich and influential merchants. He went to the university first in Krakow and then in Italy where he studied at the famous universities of Bologna and Padua. He returned to Poland in 1503 and worked as a high religious official and diplomat until he died in 1543. He was both an outstanding thinker and accomplished man of action. Let me quote Wikipedia: Among the great polymaths of the Renaissance, Copernicus was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, classical scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, jurist, governor, military leader, diplomat and economist. Astronomy was almost a hobby for him. But it is for his contributions to astronomy that he is remembered.

[Slide 9]: Copernicus’s Publications
Copernicus sent a letter to his friends around 1514 describing his thinking about the sun-centered universe and outlining his basic assumptions. His central point was that the sun was the center of the universe. He spent the next 30 years preparing a full description of his model, and it was published in 1543 as he lay on his deathbed. In six volumes, it outlined his general vision of the heliocentric theory, described mathematical principles of his astronomy, described the movements of the sun, the moon, and the planets, and showed how to calculate celestial motions using his system. Like Aristotle, he saw heavenly motions as circular and eternal. But in almost all other things, he differed greatly.

[Slide 10]: Ptolemaic vs. Copernican Models of the Universe
Ptolemy’s model of the Universe is shown on the left. The moon, the planets, and the sun all revolved around the earth. There are epicycles – motions of little circles moving with the big circles – to account for retrograde motion. Copernicus’s model is on the right. The sun is at or near the center, and the earth is the third planet from the sun. The moon still orbits around the earth and there are still epicycles (which are not shown). As Copernicus kept the system of circular motion of Aristotle and Ptolemy, he had to include a very complicated system of epicycles using what are now called Tusi couples to make his system agree with observed planetary motions.

[Slide 11]: The Reaction to Copernicus’s Heliocentric Theory
Copernicus’s book describing his theory was published with a foreword by the Lutheran philosopher Andreas Osiander saying that the heliocentric model was a hypothesis and a set of mathematical models. Because of this, the threat of the book’s new ideas were greatly reduced and, and it was not attacked severely at first. Many

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astronomers supported it. One astronomer who didn’t support it was Tycho Brahe, the greatest astronomer of the th 16 century.

[Slide 12]: Tycho Brahe and Advances in European Astronomy: 1
Tycho Brahe was from a rich and powerful landholding family in Denmark. He was born in what is now part of southern Sweden. During his universities studies, he developed a passion for astronomy after observing an eclipse in 1560 and became determined to carry out new and more accurate measurements. After his university education he observed a supernova – the explosion of a star – and wrote a book about it. In 1576, the King of Denmark gave him an island and the money to build an observatory. He then built Uraniborg. At first, he put his measuring instruments high in a castle. Later, when he realized that wind was disturbing them and destroying their precision, he relocated them in a new observatory underground.

[Slide 13]: Tycho Brahe and Advances in European Astronomy: 2
Tycho Brahe made three major contributions to astronomy, moving European astronomical observations to the forefront. He observed a supernova in 1572 and determined that it was in the celestial sphere – that it was out among the stars. This proved, he argued, that the celestial sphere was not eternal and unchanging as Aristotle had said. In 1577, he observed a comet and showed that its orbit brought it through the spheres of the planets. This showed that there was no real substance to the spheres or otherwise they would have stopped the comet. Again, this challenged Aristotle. Most importantly, he made highly accurate measurements of the movements of the planets over very long period of time, providing the data that could distinguish between the Copernican and the Ptolemaic models of the universe. While it is not clear that his observatory was more accurate than those that existed at the same time in Samarkand, Istanbul, and Jaipur, the long years of observation gave him an advantage. Finally, he hired a genius – Johannes Kepler – to process and understand his planetary data.

[Slide 14]: From Circles to Ellipses: Kepler and New Motions of the Planets 1
Johannes Kepler was born near Stuttgart, Germany in 1517. As a child, he was week, sickly and astonishingly good at mathematics. He seems to have fallen in love with astronomy at an early age. He observed Brahe’s comet when he was six and watched an eclipse of the moon when he was nine. He initially studied theology at the University of Tübingen, but accepted a job teaching mathematics and astronomy when he left the university in 1594. His greatest work as an astronomer was to analyze Tycho Brahe’s planetary data and to find a mathematical fit to it. What he discovered, apparently in 1605, are now called Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion. One of them is diagrammed on the right. These laws made it possible for Newton in 1687 to derive the laws of gravity, of dynamics and of motion, the most significant discoveries of the European scientific revolution.

[Slide 15]: From Circles to Ellipses: Kepler and New Motions of the Planets 2
Kepler’s first model of the motions of the planets was based on the ancient Greek concept of the Platonic Solids. Highly mystical, it described the motion of the planets as nested spheres. He exchanged letters with Brahe, criticizing Brahe’s model of the universe, supporting Copernicus. Brahe had the sun and moon rotating around the earth and the planets rotating around the sun. Brahe asked Kepler to analyze

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his data on the motions of the Planet Mars and invited him to Prague where he had just been appointed court astronomer to Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. When Brahe died that year, Kepler replaced him as the court astronomer.

[Slide 16]: From Circles to Ellipses: Kepler and New Motions of the Planets 3
After years of hard work, Kepler published his analysis of Brahe’s data. He proposed three laws of planetary motion: 1. The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the sun at a focus. 2. A line joining a planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time, and 3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit. These were big challenges to Aristotle and Ptolemy. Ellipses, not perfect circles, were used to describe the motion of the planets. There were no epicycles, and the speed of the planets changed.

[Slide 17]: The Invention of the Telescope
Around the same time that Kepler was analyzing Brahe’s data, a new invention appeared that transformed astronomy. The telescope was discovered and it made it possible to look at the sky in much more detail.

[Slide 18]: Galileo’s Telescope
The first telescopes appeared in the Netherlands in 1608, although it is not clear who invented them. At first, they were of low power with magnifications of 3 or so. They rapidly became popular and were sold all over Europe. A friend of Galileo’s told him about then in 1609, and he quickly started building his own, grinding his own lenses. He greatly improved the telescope, giving it much better image quality and much higher magnification. He eventually built telescopes with magnifications of 30 times. He then turned his telescope to the heavens for scientific astronomy.

[Slide 19]: Galileo’s Galilei
Galileo is one of the most famous scientists that ever lived, and for good reasons. His work on physics transformed the science and began the process that Newton completed. His work with telescopes and astronomy revolutionized the way we see the heavens and provided strong support for the Copernican heliocentric theory. And, in one of the most famous historical event in the history of science, he was convicted of heresy – denying truth and God – for denying the validity of Ptolemy’s model of the universe by the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church. And, yes, he was an extremely interesting person and a good communicator.

[Slide 20]: Galileo’s New Science
Modern scientists view Galileo as the "father of modern astronomy", the "father of modern physics", and "the father of modern science”. In describing how science should work, he was very influential; teaching that the laws of nature are mathematical, and that experiment, not authority, was what determined the truth. This brought him into conflict with the church.

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He made major contributions to physics, showing that heavy and light objects fall at the same speed, contradicting Aristotle. He also discovered the principle of inertia, the idea that a mass, once moving, would keep on moving in a straight line unless stopped, again contradicting Aristotle. He also invented a number of measurement tools, including pendulum clocks, thermometers, and other useful devices.

[Slide 21]: Galileo’s Observations of the Heavens
Shortly after building improved telescopes, Galileo turned them towards the night sky. In 1610, he observed what appeared at first as moving stars near the planet Jupiter and realized that they were moons. The same year, he observed that Venus had phases like our moon. This was proof, Galileo said, that Venus orbited the sun. He also observed that there were mountain and craters on the moon, sunspots on the sun, and a large number of stars in the Milky Way. Clearly, the heavens were not as Aristotle described them.

[Slide 22]: Galileo’s Support for Copernicus and Heliocentrism
In 1632, after being urged the Pope, Galileo wrote The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. In it, he compared the Copernican and Ptolemaic system. It is written as a discussion between the philosopher Salviati, who supports Copernicus, the philosopher Simplicio who supports Ptolemy and Aristotle, and Sagredo, an intelligent citizen. In the book, Galileo answered questions about the Copernican system, described his observations which supported Copernicus and showed how Ptolemy’s system could not explain his new telescope data.

[Slide 23]: Galileo’s Censure by the Catholic Church
In the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, it says that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved," and that "the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.” This led many to view Galileo’s support of the Copernican theory as heresy – as against Biblical teachings. In 1616, Cardinal Bellarmine, a leading church intellectual, ordered Galileo not to "hold or defend" the heliocentric point of view. Galileo did as ordered for several years. But, in 1632 Galileo wrote The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems at the request of the pope. The Pope was angered by the work, and Galileo was tried for heresy. He was found guilty of “having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture: that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west, and the earth moves and is not the center of the world.” . He was arrested and his publications were banned, along with other books on heliocentrism.

[Slide 24]: Isaac Newton
Galileo died in 1642. The next year, Isaac Newton, a scientist who is thought even greater than Galileo, was born in England. England had had a long tradition of interest in the sciences. It also was Protestant and out of reach of the authority of the Catholic Church. With the help of Newton and a small group of extremely capable scientists, it was about to take the leading role in the development of European science.

[Slide 25]: Isaac Newton’s Life

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Newton was born in the English countryside in 1643. He attended Cambridge University, but apparently his genius only became apparent after he graduated. He was made a fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge in 1667, and stayed there until 1696. In 1696, he was appointed warden and master of the Royal Mint, elected several times to parliament, and elected head of the prestigious Royal Society of London many times over. Newton is universally considered the world’s greatest scientist. He discovered the laws of gravity, the basic laws of physics, invented calculus, explained color, and did much else besides. In astronomy, Newton showed that the force of gravity is the same on earth as it is in the heavens and explained the motions of the planets in agreement with Kepler’s laws. He also invented the reflector telescope that is widely used today for optical astronomy.

[Slide 26]: Newton’s Laws
Newton first studied the motion of the planets and the nature of gravity in 1665 –1667 after he finished at the university. In 1677, he returned to the subject by studying Kepler's laws of planetary motion. He further developed his work on gravity and his theory of motion. In 1687, he described his three laws of motion and the law of gravity in the book usually called the Principia.

[Slide 27]: Newton’s Law of Gravity
Newton’s law of gravity is written on the left in equation form. What it says is illustrated on the right: “All objects attract other objects by a force proportional to the product of their mass and inversely proportional to their distance squared.” Or, to say it another way, Newton’s law of gravity says that the force between two objects –say, the sun and the earth –is inversely proportional to the distance between their centers. If the distance is two times larger, the force is four times smaller. Newton’s law of gravity also says that gravity is a force that works at a distance. It doesn’t need a direct physical connection. This was highly controversial when he proposed it, and is even puzzling today. The bottom part of the slide shows a picture of a planet orbiting in an ellipse around the sun. Newton’s laws explained the motion perfectly and allowed for any needed corrections from the gravity of other planets.

[Slide 28]: Isaac Newton Three Laws of Motion
Let’s briefly review Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. The first law: “A moving object continues to move and a resting object continues to rest unless acted on by an external force. “ This is basically what Galileo discovered. The second law: F=ma “Force equals mass times acceleration. The acceleration of an object is proportional to the applied force and inversely proportional to its mass. “ This basically states the bigger masses are harder to move than smaller masses The third law:

Celestial and Classical Mechanics: The Classical Universe 500 B.C.E. to 1500 C.E. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These simple and basic laws are the foundations of physics.

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[Slide 29]: Newton’s Universe
Let’s take a quick look at what the universe looked like after Newton’s laws. It is basically the heliocentric universe of Copernicus with the elliptical orbits of Kepler. It is our modern view of the solar system with the sun at the center. But, with the invention of the telescope, the universe was growing rapidly and the sun was not to stay at its center for very long.

[Slide 30]: The Implications of Newton’s Laws
We will end this lecture by looking at the implication of Newton’s Laws. These are just some of them. In astronomy, they resolved the 2000 year old question about the structure of the universe. They provided the mathematical and physical methods to model celestial phenomena with extremely high accuracy. And they provided new and powerful methods to understand the stars, the galaxies, and even the beginning of the universe. In science, they firmly established that science was a powerful inductive/deductive/empirical method for understanding the world. They established that science and its methods were a leading, if not the leading, method to determine the truth. They established the success of and the completion of the scientific revolution. In society, their success provided the foundation for the Enlightenment, the influential European movement that held that scientific-based rationality would transform the world. They established that science was a necessary part of the advancement of a country’s economy and social development. And, yes, they threw the validity of religious belief into doubt.

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