onsdag 10. mars 2010

Galileo backed Copernicus in spite of the data

Of course Galileo Galilei has long been known to in error when backing the circular motion of the planets around the sun. However, now it seemes his own observations went against him also in other areas, as indicated by a new study using the same kind of telescope as Galileo.

Galileo Galilei was right: Earth moves around the Sun, just as Nicolaus Copernicus said it did in 1543. But had Galileo followed the results of his observations to their logical conclusion, he should have backed another system — the Tychonic view that Earth didn't move, and that everything else circled around it and the Sun, as developed by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in the sixteenth century.
In Brahe's view the earth was immobile at the centre of the universe (for alternative models, look here). The sun and moon moved around the earth, while the other planets moved around the sun.

This theory was more consistent with the observational data than Copernicus' model and was highly popular in the early 1600's. It's always been somewhat of an enigma why Galileo didn't argue for - or even against - it.

The article also shows the way Galileo discredited his opponents and bolstered arguments through omissions and only weakly support by data. Some data even went against him, as he kept insisting on circular motion and that the tides was due to the movement of the earth.

It seems if this analysis is correct that Galileo proposed his theory in the teeth of the evidence and scientific consensus.

If he is to be honored as a martyr for something it should perhaps as much be for stubbornness as for science.