Archives for posts with tag: Cosmology

The Science Geek

On 6 June 2012, a transit of Venus occurred. This rare astronomical event, when Venus passes directly in front of the Sun, and appears as a large black dot on its surface slowly moving from one side to the other in about 3 hours, has only happened eight times since the invention of the telescope (ref 1). This post talks about the transit of Venus and why it has been so important to the development of astronomy.

Transit of Venus 2012

The 2012 transit of Venus – Image from NASA. Venus is the large dot on the top left of the Sun’s surface.

Why transits of Venus are so rare.

The Earth takes slightly longer than 365 days, 365.256 days to be precise, to complete one orbit of the Sun. Venus, which is both closer to Sun and moves faster in its orbit, takes 224.701 days to complete one orbit. The point in time when Venus is closest to the Earth and…

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by guest contributor Nicholas Bellinson

One Bohemian night in 1608, the Imperial Mathematician gazed up at the moon and the stars. In the seven years since he had received that title, Johannes Kepler had discovered many things about these celestial bodies, some true and some (as Hesiod said) like the truth: that planets moved around the sun, not the earth; that they moved in ellipses, not perfect circles; that they were enormous magnets – to name a few. The following year, he would publish these discoveries as his New Astronomy, a book which would make his name a fixed star in the firmament of science. On this particular night, however, a different book was on Kepler’s mind. His curiosity had been aroused by popular historical comparisons to the current troubles between Emperor Rudolph and his brother, the Archduke Matthias; while investigating Bohemian legends, Kepler had come across the story…

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The Renaissance Mathematicus

There is a type of supporter of gnu atheism and/or scientism who takes a very black and white attitude to the definition of science and also to the history of science. For these people, and there are surprisingly many of them, theories are either right, and thus scientific, and help the progress of science or wrong, and thus not scientific, and hinder that progress. Of course from the point of view of the historian this attitude or stand point is one than can only be regarded with incredulity, as our gnu atheist proponent of scientism dismisses geocentrism, the phlogiston theory and Lamarckism as false and thus to be dumped in the trash can of history whilst acclaiming Copernicus, Lavoisier and Darwin as gods of science who led as out the valley of ignorance into the sunshine of rational thought.

I have addressed this situation before on more than one occasion…

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Roger Launius's Blog

Where did the solar system come from? Why and how? What accounts for its evolution over time? Those questions have plagued scientists, philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers from the point where humanity first realized that Earth was part of a large system of bodies all interacting with each other. It is also a subject I have been considering of late. Is anyone aware of a definitive work on this subject that can explain the evolution over time of this theme in the history of science?

The first attempts to explain in naturalistic terms the origins of the solar system some 500 years ago may seem rudimentary by today’s standards, but current explanations remain incomplete and some of their elements may well prove naïve as future scientists continue to investigate this subject. During the space age intensive efforts resulted in a revolution in knowledge gained about the solar system.

Using data newly…

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The Renaissance Mathematicus

When I was growing up in the dim and distant twentieth century spin-off was one of the most frequently used buzz words in the public discussion of science and technology; a spin-off being an unintended and unexpected positive product of scientific or technological research. Politicians would use the term to justify high levels of expenditure on political prestige projects claiming that the voters/taxpayers would benefit through the spin-offs from the research. The example that was almost always quoted by the media was that the non-stick coating for frying pans was a spin-off from the space programme. This is, like many popular stories in the history of science and technology, actually a myth but that is not the subject of this post.

Now spin-offs are not a modern phenomenon but have been turning up ever since humans first began hammering bits of stone to make tools and as the title of…

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Carl Sagan on the life of Johannes Kepler and the Somnium: