- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Paperbacks; 1 edition (Feb. 22 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143034766
- ISBN-13: 978-0143034766
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 249 g
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #974,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Book Nobody Read Paperback – Feb 22 2005
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About the Author
Owen Gingerich is senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and research professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard University.
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Gingerich's book may be of more interest to library scientists than to astronomers. However, I did find the chapter on the geocentric Ptolemaic system vs. the Copernican heliocentric system fascinating. The author dispels the myth that the Ptolemaic system needed an unmanageable number of epicycles to match calculations with observations.. He shows that the two systems yielded equivalent predictions using about the same order of complexity. As a physicist, I would argue that you can work in any coordinate system that you choose, even one in which the Earth is stationary. However, the Copernican system did simplify the calculations and more importantly does more closely express the physical reality of the solar system. The work of Copernicus paved the way for Kepler's laws including the discovery of the elliptical nature of planetary orbits. Both the geocentric and heliocentric models were based upon the theory that the orbits of celestial bodies were fundamentally circular. This was a good first approximation for matching the precision of the existing observations. It was another century and a half after Copernicus that Newton formulated a theoretical basis for explaining planetary mechanics.
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