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Did Kepler do science?

  1. Dec 10, 2003 #1

    marcus

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    On May 15 of 1618
    Kepler realized that the 3/2 power of an orbit's size tells you its period
    he kept a diary and recorded how he came to his ideas and when the insight occurred and what if felt like
    he says he had a premonition of it in March of that year and couldnt believe it and suppressed the idea and it came back to him on 15 May and he realized it really was true.
    In the 1618 book "Harmony of the World" where he published this idea
    he says a propos of this or some related idea:

    "Since I have attested it as true in my deepest soul,
    and since I contemplate its beauty with incredible
    and ravishing delight,..."

    He thought of it as the 3/2 power. The Latin for 3/2 is "sesqui" and he said that the period was the "sequipotence" of the mean distance from sun. I checked the Latin text of "Harmonice Mundi"

    We tend to rephrase this as "period squared proportional to semiaxis cubed" but that was not how he wrote it--he said one was 3/2 power of the other. Perhaps details like that dont matter. It works out in earth years and AU.

    What do you know about that period 1600-1620. Shakespeare, King James Bible translation, the Defenestration of Prague (where two Catholics were pushed out of a window---but they fell into the castle moat and just got wet). Later the religious controversy in central Europe got bloodier.

    Do you think Kepler was doing science (or something more basic) when he discovered this? Or was it a crackpot idea that just happened to be right?

    Kepler wrote poetry in Latin--I guess this was normal at the time. He taught the Virgil course at the first place he was hired. They hired him as a mathematicus but happened to need someone to teach classical Latin poetry so they had him do that the first semester.

    I do not think that "the scientific method" had been worked out or that people around Kepler had a clear idea of scientist. I think they did have a clear idea of what a mathematician was supposed to do, however. Mathematicians were supposed to cast horoscopes for people. Later in Kepler's life the Emperor in Prague hired him as official court mathematicus and his main duty was to do the horoscopes. Sometimes we think we know what it was like and we really dont. To me, thinking back, Kepler does not seem to be a scientist as we expect them to be. He doesnt think like one or talk like one or act like one. He was very intense though.

    They had witch burnings in those days and Kepler's mother almost got burned. Her aunt was, but she got off. They wanted to burn her but there was some legal difficulty so they just kept her in jail for a while trying to get a confession.
     
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  3. Dec 10, 2003 #2

    NateTG

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    Actually Keppler seems pretty well in line for what we consider science:

    1.Look at evidence
    2.Make theory
    3.Test theory

    Modern science doesn't really care where the theory comes from. (There are some politics/reputation issues, but those aren't considered part of the scientific process as such.)
     
  4. Dec 11, 2003 #3

    Kerrie

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    there is a college in lynwood washington named after kepler...it offers a BA and MA in the astrological sciences...
     
  5. Dec 11, 2003 #4

    selfAdjoint

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    In his latest TWF (#199) John Baez says this:

    "There's an easy way to make the spectrum of a commutative C*-algebra A into a topological space: we say xi -> x precisely when

    xi(a) -> x(a)

    for all elements a of A. With this topology any element a of A gives a continuous complex function on the spectrum, defined by this clever formula:
    a(x) = x(a).

    The physicist Chris Isham says he couldn't sleep all night when he first saw this formula, it's so darn clever! "

    Or consider Hamilton's reaction to finding the algebraic law for quaternions. It's easy to overestimate the mystical component of seventeenth century thought relative to more recent times. The point is not how they came by their ideas but what they then did with them.
     
  6. Dec 11, 2003 #5

    marcus

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    Good lord, the year Kep had that great insight, 1618, was
    the year the Thirty Years War started
    disease and famine as well as actual bloodshed reduced the
    population by HALF in parts of central Europe in those 30 years

    Yes selfAdjoint it looks to me that contemporary "scientists"
    are ALSO men. And do not exactly follow the approved scientific method which we are told they dispassionately do.
    In fact they are impelled by stormy aesthetical feelings such
    as keep Chris Isham awake all night. Heh heh

    But at Kepler time there was not even a codified set of rules
    of how you were supposed to go about doing science
    Especially among the barbarous germanic tribes of central Europe.

    Perhaps in England one could say something like "Science is what
    you are supposed to do if you want to eventually be elected to
    the Royal Society!" Maybe there were rules and expectations.

    But the whole thing was really being invented or re-invented right then and there! The whole Science enterprise had not yet emerged from chaos as a describable thing. Or so I think. And so I think of Kepler as a "pre-Scientist" or highly imperfect "prototype".

    Is it true he pulled a knife on Tycho Brahe one time, and almost stabbed him?
     
  7. Dec 11, 2003 #6

    marcus

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    The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge
    was founded in 1660.

    But there were weekly meetings about "Experimental Philosophy"
    (as it was called) in London as early as 1645

    It is in these voluntary associations of civil society that
    concepts like "Science" get defined---a certain style of discourse,
    certain etiquette about citing sources, certain standards, the practice of writing up papers and presenting them to one's fellows.
    I am skeptical that Science as a recognizable codified set of activities even exists without such social forms.

    I mean "Experimental Philosophy"-----the modern idea of Empirical Science. Greeks didnt do much by way of experiment though they did describe and generalize and do mathematics.

    Dont want to make some hard-and-fast distinction. Happy to leave it vague. But there is something there and they recognized it. Galileo called it the "New Science". he and the others were creating a new thing and they realized it. Or so I think

    And when Kepler got in he was still operating partly on an older basis because the new style hadnt quite gelled yet. Maybe its an obvious point
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2003
  8. Dec 11, 2003 #7

    selfAdjoint

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    Well, Marcus, as we have been noticing, there is still today plenty of disagreement about what constitutes "doing science".

    I am a great believer that science is done by people, and that people in former ages may have expressed themselves differently but they were still capable of "dong science" even if no one had come along to define it. I believe Nicole Oresme in the 13th century was doing science even though he was chaplain to the King of France and became a Bishop. And that unknown Hindu who found Mercator's series at about the same time.

    There is no doubt that the particular state of evolution Christianity was in in the 17th century affected nearly everyone, including the greatest scientists. Pascal and Newton in their separate ways were both religious fanatics, and in both cases heretics to the churches they nominally belonged to. Many worldly men, like Galileo, were privately pious. And superstitions like rosicrucianism flourished.

    Well we've seen plenty of superstition and intellectual/emotional traps for the unwary in our times too. Look at all the thinkers, many scientists too, who kissed Stalin's blood soaked feet or announced themselves Maoists in 1968. On the other hand look at the many scientists in the USSR. and doubtless China too, who kept on working the best they could in the face of purges and show trials and great leaps forward. All honor to those who were true to their science, no matter what words came out of them on other occasions.

    </humble end of rant>
     
  9. Dec 12, 2003 #8

    marcus

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    this is not a <rant> but a "pensee"
    Michel Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote cool short essays like that
     
  10. Dec 12, 2003 #9

    marcus

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    unfortunately I cannot stay online this morning
    because my wife requires a fresh seed-studded onion baguette
    thus I must go out and fetch one

    probably we are both pointing the same thing from different ends
    namely that discoverers are human and break scientific
    stereotypes in the normal course of breaking new scientific ground
    those are nice historical examples of the 17th century European madness

    starting in january we begin rehearsing a magnificat by Heinrich Schuetz (as well as the haydn mass dedicated to admiral nelson)
    did you ever hear any schuetz. born 1585 and writing music at the time
    Kepler glimpsed his ellipses
     
  11. Dec 12, 2003 #10

    selfAdjoint

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    Yes I have heard some compositions by Schuetz (hmm, maybe we should start using LaTeX for composer's names?). I used to listen constantly to radio station WFMT out of Chicago, the finest classical station is the WesternHemisphere, if not the world, and they played Shuetz every now and then. I like early modern music.

    What range do you sing? Or is it an instrument you play in these compositions?
     
  12. Dec 12, 2003 #11

    marcus

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    I sing bass

    the canon for me is:

    Bach Bminor
    Mozart Cminor
    Moz Req
    Schubert Eb Mass (no. 6, 1827)
    Beethoven C Mass (1808?, middle Beethoven)
    Haydn Nelson Mass (no. 3, Dminor)

    these are what I've found to be the most exciting
    choral works to sing,

    Bach Magnificat and Brahms Requiem run a close second
    to these but are not in my short list

    have also enjoyed singing works of Stravinsky,
    Handel, Gounod, Lauridsen, motets and madrigals by a dozen
    other people including PDQ Bach, for that matter even like to sing Christmas carols as long as it is 4-part harmony (so-called SATB
    for soprano/alto/tenor/bass)

    our group is 50 plus strong and we are lucky enough to have
    a good amateur orchestra to work with----the classical circa
    1800 Viennese choral works need an orchestra to sound right
    and this is a big logistic/economic limitation for amateur
    choruses no matter where. Who pays for the tympani, the oboe,
    the trombones? Right now we are doing paid gigs singing Xcarols
    at local chamber of commerce venues, to ease the cash flow a bit.
    We sang Ghirardelli Sq. in SF the day after Thanksgiving as part of
    the annual Lighting of the Tree ceremony---it is a place of tourists
    which I have heretofore avoided.
     
  13. Dec 12, 2003 #12

    selfAdjoint

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    Have you guys ever considered the St, Matthew Passion? For me, that is Bach's real masterpiece. Course it takes resources, you need a really good band, but the effect on performers and audience alike is outstanding.
     
  14. Dec 12, 2003 #13

    Nereid

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    Kepler to Bach; can we ask Escher and Gödel to join too?
     
  15. Dec 13, 2003 #14

    marcus

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    I can corroborate by hearsay only----I have sung the Bminor twice (once with an East Bay chorus, once with a SF chorus) each time the St Matthews was considered by the music director and/or the board's music committee as a follow on. Also I think the Passion according to St John was considered. But nothing came of it as far as I know. I dont entirely understand the inside workings of how people decide what to perform.

    You are in midwest I think. Some of those places have really well established music groups, and maybe it is different there. Amateur choruses where I live can do the Bminor and at a stretch the Beethoven Missa Solemnis. Beyond that (if the piece is much longer or more challenging) it takes a semi-professional organization.

    I dont know why none of the local (amateur) choruses have done
    Matthew or John Passions----maybe they are very long or very hard, or maybe most of the fun is had by the soloists and the main chorus doesnt get enough to do---no idea actually. I hear people urging one or the other, but the works dont seem to get performed much locally.

    My group is going to do Brahm's German Req. after the Haydn. It is popular--always easy to get people enthused about singing that one
    -------------------

    Nereid you referred to Doug Hofstadter's GEB.
    Hasnt he has been translating poetry in recent years
    Pushkin?
    some French poet too?
    Do you know what he's doing now?
     
  16. Dec 13, 2003 #15

    selfAdjoint

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    Yes, the Brahm's German Requiem is excellent music. It was what established Brahm's reputation in European music.

    On the St. Matthew Passion, it is indeed a dramatic work with major singing by the narrator ("evangelist") and by Christ, and not much full chorus.

    In Chicago we had a bunch of fine groups, including Music of the Baroque, and you could usually find a performance of the SMP somewhere around Easter time. And of course WFMT played classic performances of it frequently.
     
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