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The development of celestial mechanics

The development of celestial mechanics

This animation introduces the studies of astronomers and physicists whose works fundamentally changed our view of the universe.

Physics

Keywords

Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Newton, Einstein, Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Bruno, Giordano Bruno, astronomer, physicist, heliocentric, model of the universe, Solar System, Universe, elliptical path, day, planet, moon, Jupiter, Milky Way, Inquisition, focal point, law, infinite, burning at the stake, calculus, gravitation, law of force, relativity, theory of relativity, spacetime, speed of light, mechanics, astronomy, astrophysics, physics, scientist, observation

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Questions

  • By what method did Galileo Galilei revolutionize science?
  • An object presses against the ground with a force of 10N (2.25 lbf). With what force does the ground press against the object?
  • Two objects at rest, one weighing 1 kg (2.2 lb) and the other 10 kg (22 lb), are accelerated by equal forces. What is the acceleration of the objects?
  • Suppose we were moving towards the light source at half of the speed of light (150,000 km/s or 93,141 mi/s). What would be the measured speed of light?

Scenes

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) was a Polish astronomer who formulated the heliocentric or Sun-centered astronomical model. In the 3rd century B.C., the Greek astronomer Aristarchus had already proposed a heliocentric model, but instead of this, Ptolemy's geocentric model became widespread and served as the predominant cosmological system since the 2nd century A.D.

Copernicus developed his own heliocentric model, which was published in his book first printed in 1543. This model offered a better explanation of the motion of celestial bodies. However, for metaphysical reasons, Copernicus claimed that the bodies moved in perfect circles, which made his model extremely complicated. It was Kepler who later solved this problem by introducing the idea of elliptical orbits.


Copernicus however had an enormous influence, as he removed the Earth from its place as the center of the Universe. This had a fundamental impact on philosophy and science, a change that has come to be called the 'Copernican Revolution'.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) was a Danish scientist. It is primarily due to his precise astronomical observations and measurements that he became an important figure in the history of science. In 1572, his observation of a supernova explosion shook the general belief of his time that the heavens were eternal and unchanged. By calculating the orbit of a comet, he proved that comets are not atmospheric phenomena. In his astronomical model, planets orbit the Sun and the Earth is not a planet but the fixed center of the Universe.

In 1600, one year before his death, he took Johannes Kepler on as his assistant and handed over to him the results of his measurements and observations. Brahe's exact astronomical observations formed the basis for Kepler's three laws of planetary motion.

The Italian scientist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is considered one of the founders of modern scientific methodology. He laid the foundation for the experimental method which allows for studying phenomena under controlled and methodological conditions through repetition. During scientific research, hypotheses are formulated, the validity of which is verified through experiments and observations. If hypotheses are proved to be correct, they become theories.

Using telescopes to study the sky, he discovered the four moons of Jupiter in 1610. These are known as the Galilean moons. He also discovered the mountains and craters on the Moon, studied sunspots and concluded that the Milky Way is made up of stars.

Galileo advocated the Copernican heliocentric model. He enjoyed the support of high-ranking Church dignitaries. Among his admirers was Pope Paul V and later Pope Urban VIII who granted him an annuity. Galileo did not fulfill the Pope's request not to take an explicit position on the heliocentric model. In his book 'dialog', he put the official viewpoint of the Church in the mouth of one his characters called Simplicius, who was, as the name indicates, a simpleton. The Inquisition declared Galileo guilty for flouting the authority of the Pope. Forced to recant his views, Galileo spent the last years of his life under house arrest. Contrary to popular belief, he was never imprisoned and tortured, but continued to receive the annuity he had been granted even after his condemnation.

Galileo had significant results also in the field of physics. He proved that regardless of their mass, objects fall with the same acceleration, if air resistance is not taken into account. According to Galileo's principle of relativity, there is no mechanical device that can distinguish between objects moving with a uniform linear motion relative to each other. This means that this movement is relative, therefore one can either say that the first object moves relative to the second one, or that the second objects moves relative to the first one. It cannot be determined by experiment whether a ship moving across a completely flat sea is at rest or moving with a uniform linear motion. Einstein implemented Galileo's principle of relativity in his special theory of relativity and applied it to all the physical laws, including his mechanical laws.

Giordano Bruno (1548- 1600) was an Italian philosopher and scientist who further developed the Copernican heliocentric model. Copernicus placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the Universe. Giordano Bruno, however, went even further and asserted that, in fact, it is not the Sun that is at the center of the Universe, but that stars are also suns orbited by planets on which life may exist. In Giordano Bruno's view, the Universe is infinite. Apart from cosmology and philosophy, Bruno studied theology and magic. He was a follower of pantheism, claiming the oneness of God and nature. He believed in the transmigration of the soul, rejected the doctrine of trinity and considered Jesus to be a magician who was hanged. He was condemned to death by the Inquisition for heresy and burned at the stake in 1600.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German-born physicist and philosopher of science. He is considered to be one of the most important physicists of the 20th century. He developed the special theory of relativity, which revolutionized our understanding of space and time. According to this theory, the speed of light, 300,000 km/s (186,282.4 mi/s) is constant for all observers regardless of whether the observer is in motion or at rest relative to the light source. According to the special theory of relativity the speed of light is a cosmic speed limit, which moving bodies cannot exceed. If a body's speed approaches the speed of light, time slows down, the mass of the body increases and the length of the body becomes shorter. If two observers move relative to each other with uniform motion, each of them is considered to be at rest: motion is relative, therefore, on this basis and taking into account that the speed of light is constant, we can infer that distance, mass and time are also relative. For example, if two observers move relative to each other with uniform motion, both of them will notice that the other one's watch slows down. These relativistic effects become significant only at very high speeds, at speeds encountered in everyday life these effects can usually be ignored. However, in technology, their application is often necessary. One consequence of the special theory of relativity is Einstein's famous equation E=mc², according to which mass and energy are interconvertible. This principle is used in nuclear power plants or atomic bombs.

The general theory of relativity provides an explanation for gravity. According to this, due to their mass, bodies distort space-time; this distortion determines the path of bodies moving in the gravitational field.

Apart from elaborating the two theories of relativity, Einstein achieved other important scientific results as well. Among other things, by studying the Brownian motion, he proved the atomic structure of matter. Furthermore, by explaining the photoelectric effect, he demonstrated the particle nature of light and the existence of photons, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Narration

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who formulated the heliocentric or Sun-centered astronomical model. By doing so, Copernicus had an enormous influence, as he removed the Earth from its place as the center of the Universe. This had a fundamental impact on philosophy and science, a change that has come to be called the 'Copernican Revolution'.

Tycho Brahe was a Danish scientist who became an important figure in the history of science primarily due to his exact astronomical observations and measurements. He took Johannes Kepler on as his assistant and handed over to him the results of his measurements and observations. Brahe's exact astronomical observations formed the basis for Kepler's three laws of planetary motion.

Johannes Kepler was a German scientist who achieved a scientific breakthrough by describing planetary motion. For metaphysical reasons, Copernicus assumed that planets moved in circles. However, this assumption is not borne out by observation. It was Kepler, who later introduced the idea of elliptical orbits, which greatly simplified the heliocentric model. In elaborating the three laws of planetary motion, Kepler relied on the exact measurement data provided by Tycho Brahe.

Giordano Bruno was an Italian scientist who asserted that the Sun is not the center of the Universe, but that stars are also suns orbited by planets on which life may exist. Apart from cosmology, Bruno studied philosophy, theology and magic. He was condemned to death by the Inquisition for heresy and burned at the stake in 1600.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian scientist who is considered one of the founders of modern scientific methodology. He laid the foundations of the experimental method which allows for studying phenomena under controlled and methodological conditions through repetition. Galileo was a proponent of the Copernican heliocentric model. He proved that objects fall with the same acceleration regardless of their mass, if we do not take into account air resistance. He formulated the Galilean principle of relativity which Einstein implemented in the special theory of relativity and applied to all physical laws, including Galileo's mechanical laws.

Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist and philosopher who, by formulating the differential and integral calculus, laid the foundations of calculus. He studied optics and the nature of light, developed a type of telescope which was later named after him, formulated the law of gravity and laid the foundations of mechanics. He concluded that forces change the state of motion of objects, and that thus no force is required to maintain their motion. This view is contrary to the theory dating back to Aristotle. Newton assumed that the same force, i.e. gravity, that acts on earthly objects, also controls planetary motion. He thus unified celestial and earthly mechanics. Even today he is regarded as one of the most influential physicists and mathematicians as well as one of the founders of modern science.

Albert Einstein was a German-born physicist and philosopher of science who is considered to be one of the most important physicists of the 20th century. He developed the special theory of relativity, which revolutionized our understanding of space and time. According to the famous equation E=mc², mass and energy are interconvertible. This principle is used in nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs. The general theory of relativity provides an explanation for gravity. According to the theory, due to their mass, bodies distort space-time; this distortion determines the path of bodies moving in the gravitational field. By studying Brownian motion, Einstein proved the atomic structure of matter. In addition, by explaining the photoelectric effect, he demonstrated the particle nature of light and the presence of photons, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

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