It would be nice to know who first wrote about the acceleration of falling bodies. I know Isaac Newton's f=ma formula from high school physics; but was he the first to assert that a falling body gains more speed steadily, as time goes by? --Ed Poor
- No. It predates recorded history. RSchlafly 20:59, 20 November 2011 (EST)
- How would one know that certain knowledge predates record history?--Andy Schlafly 21:02, 20 November 2011 (EST)
- If you chase a mammoth over a small cliff, it won't hurt itself, if you chase it over a big cliff, you get a big splash, made by a fast mammoth. Our ancestors used this knowledge... :-)
- Aristotle knew this effect, too, but he didn't speculate whether the acceleration is constant.
- Galileo was AFAIK the first to say that the acceleration is constant. He used his experiments with a ramp to this effect. AugustO 11:17, 23 November 2011 (EST)
What I'm trying to track down is the claim that Aristotle and all those ancient Greek philosophers were so "theory-minded" that they never noticed falling objects gradually picking up speed. Any primitive boy watching a waterfall could see that the water falls faster and faster, the longer it falls. How could Galileo have been the first one to observe this?
- He might have been the first to record using a 10x telescope to look at Jupiter, but falling objects? Makes as much sense as dressing up your pomeranian as an elf! --Ed Poor Talk 21:29, 20 November 2011 (EST)
Dr. Michael Bumbulis wrote in his work Christianity and the birth of science: "To see the importance of linear thinking, consider how cyclical thinking stunted the birth of science in Greece. Let's consider one of the greatest Greek philosophers, Aristotle. Aristotle attempted to explain the world in typical Greek fashion. Aristotle postulated a law (in "On the Heavens") which stated that the rate of at which falling bodies speed toward the center of the earth, or its surface for that matter, was determined by their weight. Aristotle said that if two bodies were dropped from the same height, the one with twice the weight as the other would reach the ground twice as fast as the lighter one. This law was simply accepted. And how odd this is! Any construction worker would have observed that this was not true. Anyone could have tested Aristotle's claim with a very simple experiment -climb a house and drop two objects of differing weight. But no Greek ever seemed curious enough to simply test this claim! Why was this? Why were they so blind to such basic science?
Well, we have to understand Greek cosmology. For them, the universe existed as an eternal cycle of birth-life-death-rebirth. This cyclical view of nature prevented the birth of science. For one thing, the notion of an eternal universe went hand-in-hand with the notion of a necessary universe. Aristotelian physics was simply taken to be necessarily true and known through introspection. It seems intuitively obvious that heavier objects would fall faster than lighter objects. But the Greek mind never thought to test it. And what a simple test it is! Furthermore, the cyclical view of nature eliminates the perspective of progress. And without the belief in progress, there is no need to look further once you think you have it all figured out. Aristotle endorsed, in a manner-of-fact way, the idea of eternal cycles. One way he did this was to make reference to cultural history. He explicitly stated that inventions familiar to his contemporaries had been invented in innumerable times before. But he did add that the comfort provided by the technical brand of those inventions available in his time represented the highest level they are capable of providing. This attitude also hindered science. If reality exists as a series of eternal cycles, the tendency is to think either one is at the bottom, and a hopeless, inward perspective develops, or one is at the top (as Aristotle thought), and complacency develops. Greek success with mathematics, coupled to their cosmogony, led them to think they could deduce reality and questioning those deductions by silly experiments was unthought of.
Unfortunately for Christendom, Greek philosophy was merged with Christian theology. And this, more than anything else, is what caused the birth of modern science to be delayed. The break with Aristotle stemmed from Christian theologians who questioned Aristotle's self- evident truth of the eternal universe. Their theology taught otherwise, that the universe was created ex nihilo. This teaching was formally and solemnly declared in 1214 as the Fourth Lateran Council (although is was debated a long time prior). The declaration essentially stated the truth of our finite creation, but said we could only know this from revelation. This declaration freed Christian thinkers as they began to reinterpret the world simply by assuming as fact the temporality and contingency of the universe." Conservative 21:46, 20 November 2011 (EST)
- That's food for thought. Let's write about both (a) our Ancient Greek scientific heritage (like Ptolemy estimating the earth's radius) and (b) how Christian men propelled science to even greater heights (e.g., Galileo, a Catholic; Kepler; Newton; etc.)