Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Galileo got ship relativity from Bruno

I have posted many times on the origin of special relativity, but this is a new one to me. A new paper credits Bruno in 1584:
The trial and condemnation of Giordano Bruno was mainly based on arguments of philosophical and theological nature, and therefore different from Galilei's. Such elements contribute to unfairly devalue the scientific contribution of Bruno and do not properly account in particular for his contribution to physics. This paper discusses the contribution of Bruno to the principle of relativity. According to common knowledge, the special principle of relativity was first enunciated in 1632 by Galileo Galilei in his Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems), using the metaphor today known as "Galileo's ship": in a boat moving at constant speed, the mechanical phenomena can be described by the same laws holding on Earth. We shall show that the same metaphor and some of the examples in Galilei's book were already contained in the dialogue La cena de le Ceneri (The Ash Wednesday Supper) published by Giordano Bruno in 1584. In fact, Giordano Bruno largely anticipated the arguments of Galilei on the relativity principle. It is likely that Galilei was aware of Bruno's work, and it is possible that the young Galilei discussed with Bruno, since they both stayed in Venezia for long periods in 1592.
I knew that Bruno was a Catholic monk who denied the divinity of Jesus and argued for many other heresies, and was executed. And I knew that he speculated about an infinity of worlds. But I did not that he had any legitimate scientific contributions.

There were ancient Greeks who argued for the motion of the Earth, such as Aristarchus of Samos, but his works have been lost and we don't know his arguments. Since we do not feel the motion of the Earth, he surely must have argued for some sort of relativity principle. Aristotle argued that our failure to feel the motion suggests that the Earth is not moving. So I do not see how the principle can possibly be due to Bruno or anyone of that time period.

This paper does show that Galileo could have met Bruno and gotten important ideas from him, including the relativity of a moving ship.

Modern relativity got started when James Clerk Maxwell observed that his theory of electromagnetism appeared to be incompatible with the relativity principle. He coined the word "relativity", and suggested an experimental test.


  1. Gee, another food fight is going on in science

    with a call for that string theory con artist Motl to clear the air...LOL.

    Whats really funny is the admission that that garbage rag called PRL is filled with fabricated papers.

  2. Sabine Hossenfelder: "but my point is that the way theory papers are treated right now, once your stuff got published, it's basically untouchable and it doesn't matter whatsoever whether it's wrong or not."

    But wait, I thought science was about experimental verification...Gee Roger, I guess science is mostly about monetization of worthless papers for the insider crooks. The high impact journals are all about high frequency fraud.

  3. Woit has just admitted that Physics is Dead. There is no longer any interest at all in public funding in actually describing the natural world as it it is about criminal enterprises and the disenfranchising of the stupid masses. The sorry ass physicists of today are selling out to the money whores.

    Woit: "But I think people need to be aware of the changes going on. The shift from public funding to funding by wealthy donors is very real and there should be awareness that this is happening, who the donors are, and what their agenda is. When you see lots of activity going on in the field related to the multiverse, you should keep in mind that there may be more to the story of why it is happening than “physicists are excited about the multiverse” ."

  4. Good news everybody...according to Lubos, tomorrow is when Marxist Greece finally enters the domain of being a 3rd world country.

  5. Roger,

    I didn't know that it was Maxwell who coined the term relativity. Thanks for letting us know, but is there an easily citable reference that supports this claim (just for the keeps, as an item of general interest)?


    1. Maxwell is the earliest user of the term that I could find. I added a link to my posting on the matter.