onsdag 26. september 2007

Buridan is da man!

Hear all ye people, hearken to the advice from Bedes Journal about Medieval Science Fiction. Or more precise, Medieval Science.
SF author Michael Flynn has written a novella about Paris in the late 1340s. The rector of the university, John Buridan (1300-58) and two famous students - Nicole Oresme (1323-82, later also rector in Paris) and Albert of Saxony (1316-90) - decide to carry out Galileo's experiments on falling weights (from nearly two hundred years later).

This was an important step. One of the biggest hinders to overcome for modern science to develop at all, was Aristotelian theory of motion, which e.g. insisted that heavier bodies would fall faster than lighter.

Naturally, Flynn is aware of an even earlier forerunner who today is overlooked in many circles. The Alexandrian John Philoponus (490-570) had done "falling weights" as a thought experiment, arriving at the same conclusion as Galilei (in opposition to Aristotle) would do more than thousand years later.

Unfortunately events placed Philoponus on the sideline. Not only for muslim natural philosophers, also christian Europe forgot him until the 1200's. And even then he was perceived too much a lone and heretic figure. Until Buridan and his students start reconsidering in Flynn's novella.

The story is fun, interesting and eyeopening. It imagines an alternative scientific revolution in the fourteenth century, within Thomistic and Aristotelian concepts. And Flynn makes it plausible, based on a solid and sensible understanding of medieval natural philosophy.

The story is followed by a thesis, based on Standard Medieval Dialectic with 1) the question to be determined, 2) objections, 3) arguments, 4) the determination of the answer and 5) replies. In short, just like discussion foras on the web. Or how they should have been.

You can get the magazine as an e-book here. Or just approach your nearest Medieval Science Fiction Sales Guild.