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The Physics of Galileo

Galileo a great Italian astronomer, mathematician, and physicist. By his persistent investigation of natural laws, he laid foundations for modern experimental science, and by the construction of astronomical telescopes, he greatly enlarged humanity’s vision and conception of the universe. He gave a mathematical formulation to many physical laws. His mission was to study the chemical composition and physical state of the largest planet in the solar system, its atmosphere, and four of its moons, for almost two years.

The spacecraft encountered the asteroid 951 Gaspra on Oct. 29, 1991, and took the first close-up photographs ever of an asteroid in space. On Aug. 28, 1993, it passed by asteroid 243 Ida and took close-up photographs, which revealed that Ida has a tiny moon. Upon arrival at Jupiter, Galileo released a probe into the planet’s atmosphere that descended for 57 minutes before it was destroyed by the planet’s extreme temperature and pressure. In 1996, Galileo visited and photographed Jupiter’s large moons Io, Callisto, and Europa and made flybys of Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto in 1997. Galileo was named for the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who discovered the four great moons of Jupiter that were the major targets of this mission.

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Galileo initially worked with and established his expertise in the study of terrestrial dynamics. Galileo’s beginning experiments with the pendulum, and it’s movement, were what later spurred on the very important mid-17th-century development of the pendulum clock timepiece by Hautefeuille. If Galileo had only chosen to stick with his primary field of scientific endeavour, then he would have most likely gotten lost among a larger field of astronomers and inventors of his time and age.

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Galileo ended up fathering a brand new branch of astronomy, laying the building blocks of modern astronomy, and changing his own life and destiny forever. Galileo has often been credited with the invention of the telescope. However, this is not exactly correct. In 1609 Galileo heard of a Dutch spectacle-maker, Hans Lipperhey, who had combined a pair of lenses to magnify distant objects. Galileo then took this idea and created his own telescope for the purposes of gazing at the heavens and stars.

New ideas that threaten an established view are rarely received with open arms. Fearing the wrath of the Church and the Establishment, Nicholas Copernicus refused to have his findings published till after 1540, and only saw a finished copy of On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres when he was on his deathbed. A few decades later Copernicus’s caution proved to be justified. For in 1600, when the Hermetic philosopher Giordano Bruno dared to uphold some of Copernicus’s ideas, he was thrown in a Papal dungeon and eventually dragged in the streets to Campo Fiori in Rome and burnt alive at the stake by Dominican monks. In 1632, thirty-two years after the death of Bruno, the astronomer Galileo Galilei published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems — Ptolemaic and Copernican.

For having “held and taught” Copernican ideas in his book, Galileo spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest and was forced to ‘recant’ his theories in front of the Bishops of Rome — this after having been taken in the dark and damp dungeons of the Vatican and shown the instruments of torture that would be used on him. And more than two centuries later in 1859, when Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species, he was immediately and viciously attacked by the Church and fellow ‘scientists’. Also in Darwin’s case, the attack came from that entity we now loosely call the media. Darwin was ridiculed, insulted and his theory ‘debunked’ by ‘experts’ of the day.

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The Physics of Galileo. (2021, Mar 18). Retrieved August 19, 2022, from