Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Sleepwalkers By Arthur Koestler

The sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler deals with the life of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler and their scientific findings. As the book name implies, these great man where searching in the dark without seeing or knowing what they are after.
My Father In-laws recommended this book to me and I bought a second hand copy at my favorite online book shop: BetterWorld.
I was a little surprised to see that the book was written more than fifty years ago! But my in-laws told me that Kepler's life has not changed much in fifty years. Fair enough.
The book tells the story of cosmology from ancient times to Newton. Description of ancient theories developed concentrating on how the ancients almost reached the correct theory and discusses at length what had happened to the theory and why it was abandoned in favor of the geocentric concept. Of course, all these theories were based on thought alone. The first theory was based on Ptolemy, a theory that allowed predictions therefore became popular even though it was very complicated to use.
The book shatters many myths.Copernicus revolution was not really a revolution. Copernicus was not renewed almost nothing, and his famous  "On the Revolutions of the heavenly orbs" De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium is too complicated to read and mainly contains allegations without proof and without a set of rules. A few years ago out of a book "book nobody read"  Which is named after a sub chapter in our book.
The use of the Copernican system is even more complicated than those of Ptolemy. With all the changes Copernicus did he would not touch the last sacred cow of the ancient cosmology which is that the paths of the planets are perfect circles.
Perhaps Hebrew translation is justified because most of the book deals with Johannes Kepler who was the first to establish a scientific method, he found physical rules and formulas that allowed to predict the location of each planet in the sky (other simply ignored errors in their predictions). The author shows great sympathy for Kepler, which is the true hero in the affair, Kepler was a decent, loving science, and did not hesitate to retract his initial theory which tracks the movement of planets version is in accordance with perfect three-dimensional bodies. Kepler was open self-criticism, who collaborated with other scientists (although they did not pay him back and did not share their data with him) and his purpose was to reach the truth although the personal price of giving up glory and fame. From this perspective the book is doing a historical justice with Kepler. The book is full of quotations from letters and writings of Kepler which show his criticism of himself and how he admits he made mistakes. Modesty is not characteristic of other scientists at the time, even tough they knew they were wrong, but stood proudly behind their mistakes of other arguments against the request.
Just Such was Galileo. Galileo did not say the sentence "And yet it still move" Eppur si Muove but it was written on his tombstone. His trial court was quite staged, when he denies all the allegations against him and both he and the judges know he was lying, he was not tortured and didn't sat in jail even one day. Galileo was not fair because he completely ignored Kepler's laws which  were based and insisted on the incorrect teachings of Copernicus. Moreover, Galileo made his reputation by telescope observations in his book "Starry Messenger" Sidereus Nuncius. Even his own  the data were ignored and observations prove and show him that the teachings of Copernicus is wrong. Soon as Galileo insisted and insisted he wrote his book "Dialogues" with false evidence that was completely Otadtianio - "only fools can not see the truth identified. the church could not ignore his actions (although it is very probably that they want to ignore).

The book ends with a very brief discussion bout Newton and the unification of the theories he did. Kepler gave a set of rules for the movements of the objects in the sky while Galileo gave a system of dynamic traffic laws for objects on the ground (the subject is mentioned briefly and without detail in the book). Newton joined the two, how exactly did Newton? It's a matter of other books.

The book appears at the end of a long epilogue that is a manifest philosophy of science. Inside the book appears many citations with historical details about the families of Copernicus and Kepler, including full details of how Kepler chose his second wife out of 11 candidates. The book contains dozens of quotations footnotes, some of the most interesting (The full preface by
Osinaider to Copernicus book and the full sentence in Galileo).


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