Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy 450th Birthday to Galileo

Today, Feb 15th 2014 is 450 years since the birth of Galileo Galilei.

By chance, last week I had the opportunity to visit the house Galileo lived in in the last years of his life near Arcetri Observatory in Florence.

I was actually visiting the Observatory where I had been invited to give a seminar.

Here's the explanation (in English) of the historic nature of the site. 

From the roof of the observatory you can see across the valley to the Villa il Gioiello where Galileo lived from 1631-1642. It's the yellowish building just left of centre.

Simone Bianchi was my host at Arcetri, and was kind enough to offer to take me over to the house. The house is not regularly open to the public, and the details of its future use are still being debated. 

A famous number by the front door. 

Here's an 18th century monument to Galileo from when the house was first becoming famous.

A plaque above the door from the time the University of Florence bought the house. The house has been under renovation for some time and is currently very nicely kept (but almost completely empty). 

Here's me in the room which is believed to have been Galileo's study during the time he was working on the proofs of his last book "Discourse and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences"

Here's the view from the upper balcony. This level was through to house the household staff at the time of Galileo. 

The walk between the observatory and the house was partly along a beautiful planet walk installed by the observatory. They host regular public tours when visitors can explore this walk, as well as the historic telescope and other instruments on the site (although unfortunately not the Galileo house). 

It was a nice visit, and has inspired me to re-read Dava Sobel's "Galileo's Daughter" which is about his time in this house, and well worth a read. 

1 comment:

  1. What is Galileo is doing tonight? My hope would be that the great man is resting in peace and that his head is not spinning in his grave. How, now, can Galileo possibly have peace? So few scientists speak out clearly and loudly regarding whatsoever they believe to be true about at least one root cause of the distinctly human-driven global predicament looming so ominously before humanity: human population dynamics/overpopulation of Earth. The human community could soon be confronted by multiple global ecological threats to future human wellbeing and environmental health that appear to result directly from the unbridled overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species now overspreading the Earth and threatening to ravage the planetary home we are blessed us to inhabit? Many too many leaders and a predominant coterie of the 'brightest and best’ experts are choosing to remain silent rather than acknowledge science. Please consider how the elective mutism of so many of the most fortunate and knowledgeable elders among us could be contributing mightily to the ruination of Earth and its environs as a fit place for human habitation.

    Where are the intelligent leaders and established professionals with appropriate expertise who will stop colluding in silence, who are willing to examine and report on science that exists in the form of solid, uncontested research? Look at the dismaying disarray in which we find ourselves now and how far we have to travel in a short time to move the human family away from precipitating some unimaginable sort of global ecological wreckage. What would the world we inhabit look like if scientists like Galileo had chosen not to disclose science and instead adopt a code of silence? In such circumstances Galileo as well as scientists today would speak only about scientific evidence that the super-rich and most powerful people of the day believe to be politically convenient, religiously tolerable, economically expedient, socially correct and culturally prescribed. By so doing, Galileo and modern-day scientists would effectively breach their responsibilities to science and duties to humanity to tell the truth as they see it, as best they can report it.

    Heretofore hesitant and inert scientists are called upon now to follow the good example of Galileo. The politically correct silence of so many knowledgeable but apparently dumbstruck experts on one hand as well as the incessant mass media jabber of sycophants and other minions of wealthy power brokers on the other hand could be killing the world we inhabit as well as life as we know it. Most scientists have not actively engaged in inimical ‘sins of commission’, as have many too many deceitful, chattering experts; and yet too many scientists on our watch have chosen to maintain their silence by not speaking out ‘as if each one was a million voices’. It appears scientists have been and continue willfully to deny the best available scientific evidence that specifically relates to human population dynamics. Is their collusion to remain electively mute correctly described as a sin of omission or a lie of silence? If science does not overcome silence, then much of the world the human community believes we are preserving and protecting will be irreversibly degraded and relentlessly dissipated, if not destroyed outright. Surely, truthful empirical reports from intellectually honest and moral courageous scientists regarding the population dynamics of the human species and the human overpopulation of Earth will give Galileo Galilei peace.

    Steven Earl Salmony