Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Errata: Myths of Galileo and Aristotle.

In an old set of posts I did about the BBC series "Did Darwin Kill God", I made a mistake by relaying a common misconception and set of myths about Galileo and Aristotle:

Aristotle was a proponent of science in one's own mind. The idea that one could rightly divine by thinking about an issue the correct answer. This idea may seem compelling, but it has always been wrong. It was wrong when Aristotle concluded that objects of different masses fall to Earth at different speeds, it was wrong when Galileo dropped different masses off the Tower of Pisa to see if they did, and it was wrong when the masses struck the ground at the same time.

Aristotle appears to have argued against that position. not in favor of it. Galileo appears to have actually just done that figuring in his mind and posing some thought experiments as to what happens when you tie a 1 pound weight to a 10 pound weight and likely didn't actually drop the weights from said tower and that story is likely apocryphal.


Vahram G. Diehl said...

Whether or not Galileo actually did drop the balls off the tower of Pisa, the point of his conclusion is that is can be tested, by anyone and anytime. Aristotle's words were taken on faith in his name alone, clearly no one ever tested it because they would have quickly realized that objects do indeed fall at the same rate.

It is an interesting anecdote though.

Tatarize said...

The problem is that Galileo just did it in his head, what was actually likely a notion not common in antiquity (there's some debate over whether a book says "harder" or "faster" and the translators might not have understood the significance).

Whereas Aristotle actually argued completely against that position and due to the limited corpus possessed by some they took the exact wrong conclusion and spread this misconception initially.

It's a bit like the whole slowly cooked frog in water anecdote in that it seems really useful and is pretty interesting but if you actually do it you notice the frog hops more and more and more the hotter the water gets. And it's completely false in reality.