Thursday, February 14, 2019

An orbit is a perpetual fall, said in 1614

Christopher M. Graney writes:
In 1614 Johann Georg Locher, a student of the Jesuit astronomer Christoph Scheiner, proposed a physical mechanism to explain how the Earth could orbit the sun. An orbit, Locher said, is a perpetual fall. He proposed this despite the fact that he rejected the Copernican system, citing problems with falling bodies and the sizes of stars under that system. In 1651 and again in 1680, Jesuit writers Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Athanasius Kircher, respectively, considered and rejected outright Locher's idea of an orbit as a perpetual fall.
This is interesting because it is widely assumed that medieval geocentrists suffered from too much religion or a lack of imagination or a refusal to consider scientific arguments.

In fact, someone had a model of Earth's orbit that was conceptually similar to Newton's. Earth is in free fall towards the Sun.

Like Tycho Brahe, Locher accepted that the other planets revolved around the Sun. He didn't think that Earth moved because of the failure to observe the Coriolis force, among other reasons.

The Coriolis force was demonstrated a couple of centuries later.

Occasionally someone says Copernicus or Galileo created modern science, as the previous geocentrism was completely unscientific. This is nonsense. In 1600, there were legitimate scientific arguments for and against geocentrism.

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