Father of modern Astonomy, Father of modern Physics, Father of modern Science.
Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. His achievements include the first systematic studies of uniformly accelerated motion, improvements to the telescope, a variety of astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo's experiment-based work is a significant break from the abstract approach of Aristotle. Galileo is often referred to as the "father of modern astronomy," as the "father of modern physics", and as the "father of science". The motion of uniformly accelerated objects, treated in nearly all high school and introductory college physics courses, was studied by Galileo as the subject of kinematics.
Galileo Galilei pioneered the use of quantitative experiments whose results could be analyzed with mathematical precision. (More typical of science at the time were the qualitative studies of William Gilbert, on magnetism and electricity.) Galileo's father, Vincenzo Galilei, a lutenist and music theorist, had performed experiments establishing perhaps the oldest known non-linear relation in physics: for a stretched string, the pitch varies as the square of the tension. These observations lay within the framework of the Pythagorean tradition of music, well-known to instrument makers, which included the fact that subdividing a string by a whole number produces a harmonious scale. Thus, a limited amount of mathematics had long related music and physical science, and young Galileo could see his own father's observations expand on that tradition. Galileo is perhaps the first to clearly state that the laws of nature are mathematical, writing that "the language of God is mathematics." His mathematical analyses are a further development of a tradition employed by late scholastic natural philosophers, which Galileo learned when he studied philosophy.
Although he tried to remain loyal to the Catholic Church, Galileo's adherence to experimental results, and their most honest interpretation, led to his rejection of blind allegiance to authority, both philosophical and religious, in matters of science. In broader terms, this helped separate science from both philosophy and religion, a major development in human thought.
By the standards of his own time, Galileo was often willing to change his views in accordance with observation. Philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend also noted the supposedly improper aspects of Galileo's methodology, but he argued that Galileo's methods could be justified retroactively by their results. The bulk of Feyerabend's major work, Against Method (1975), was devoted to an analysis of Galileo, using his astronomical research as a case study to support Feyerabend's own anarchistic theory of scientific method. As he put it: 'Aristotelians [...] demanded strong empirical support while the Galileans were content with far-reaching, unsupported and partially refuted theories. I do not criticize them for that; on the contrary, I favour Niels Bohr's "this is not crazy enough."
In order to perform his experiments, Galileo had to set up standards of length and time, so that measurements made on different days and in different laboratories could be compared in a reproducible fashion. For measurements of particularly short intervals of time, Galileo sang songs with whose timing he was familiar.
Galileo also attempted to measure the speed of light, wisely concluding that his measurement technique was too imprecise to accurately determine its value. He climbed one hill and had an assistant to climb another hill; both had lanterns with shutters, initially closed. He then opened the shutter of his lantern. His assistant was instructed to open his own shutter upon seeing Galileo's lantern. Galileo then measured the time interval for his assistant's shutter to open. Knowing the time interval and the separation between the hills, he determined the apparent speed of light. On repeating the experiment with more distant hills, Galileo obtained the same time lapse, concluding that the time for the light to travel was much less than his and his assistant's reaction time, and therefore that the actual speed of light was beyond the sensitivity of his measurement techniques.
Galileo showed a remarkably modern appreciation for the proper relationship between mathematics, theoretical physics, and experimental physics. For example:
He understood the parabola, both in terms of conic sections and in terms of the ordinate (y) varying as the square of the abscissa (x).
He asserted that the parabola was the theoretically-ideal trajectory for uniformly accelerated motion, in the absence of friction and other disturbances. Further, he noted that there are limits to the validity of this theory, stating that it was appropriate only for laboratory-scale and battlefield-scale trajectories, and noting on theoretical grounds that the parabola could not possibly apply to a trajectory so large as to be comparable to the size of the planet.
He recognized that his experimental data would never agree exactly with any theoretical or mathematical form, because of the imprecision of measurement, irreducible friction, and other factors.
Albert Einstein, in appreciation, called Galileo the "father of modern science". According to Stephen Hawking, Galileo probably contributed more to the creation of the modern natural sciences than anybody else.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO PHYSICS
Galileo's theoretical and experimental work on the motions of bodies, along with the largely independent work of Kepler and René Descartes, was a precursor of the classical mechanics developed by Sir Isaac Newton. He was a pioneer, at least in the European tradition, in performing rigorous experiments and insisting on a mathematical description of the laws of nature.
Galileo is said to have dropped balls of different masses from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate that their time of descent was independent of their mass (excluding the limited effect of air resistance). This was contrary to what Aristotle had taught: that heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones, in direct proportion to weight. Although the story of the tower first appeared in a biography by Galileo's pupil Vincenzo Viviani, it is not now generally accepted as true. Moreover, Giambattista Benedetti had reached the same scientific conclusion years before, in 1553. However, Galileo did perform experiments involving rolling balls down inclined planes, one of which is in Florence, called the bell and ball experiment, which proved the same thing: falling or rolling objects (rolling is a slower version of falling, as long as the distribution of mass in the objects is the same) are accelerated independently of their mass. (Although Galileo was the first person to demonstrate this via experiment, he was not—contrary to popular belief—the first to argue that it was true. John Philoponus had argued this centuries earlier: see the Oxford Calculators).
Galileo determined the correct mathematical law for acceleration: the total distance covered, starting from rest, is proportional to the square of the time (). He expressed this law using geometrical constructions and mathematically-precise words, adhering to the standards of the day. (It remained for others to re-express the law in algebraic terms.) He also concluded that objects retain their velocity unless a force—often friction—acts upon them, refuting the generally accepted Aristotelian hypothesis that objects "naturally" slow down and stop unless a force acts upon them (again this was not a new idea: Ibn al-Haitham had proposed it centuries earlier, as had Jean Buridan, and according to Joseph Needham, Mo Tzu had proposed it centuries before either of them, but this was the first time that it had been mathematically expressed). Galileo's Principle of Inertia stated: "A body moving on a level surface will continue in the same direction at constant speed unless disturbed." This principle was incorporated into Newton's laws of motion (first law).
Dome of the cathedral of Pisa with the "lamp of Galileo".Galileo also noted that a pendulum's swings always take the same amount of time, independently of the amplitude. The story goes that he came to this conclusion by watching the swings of the bronze chandelier in the cathedral of Pisa, using his pulse to time it. While Galileo believed this equality of period to be exact, it is only an approximation appropriate to small amplitudes. It is good enough to regulate a clock, however, as Galileo may have been the first to realize. (See Technology below)
In the early 1600s, Galileo and an assistant tried to measure the speed of light. They stood on different hilltops, each holding a shuttered lantern. Galileo would open his shutter, and, as soon as his assistant saw the flash, he would open his shutter. At a distance of less than a mile, Galileo could detect no delay in the round-trip time greater than when he and the assistant were only a few yards apart. While he could reach no conclusion on whether light propagated instantaneously, he recognized that the distance between the hilltops was perhaps too small for a good measurement.
Galileo is lesser known for, yet still credited with, being one of the first to understand sound frequency. By scraping a chisel at different speeds, he linked the pitch of the sound produced to the spacing of the chisel's skips, a measure of frequency.
In his 1632 Dialogue Galileo presented a physical theory to account for tides, based on the motion of the Earth. If correct, this would have been a strong argument for the reality of the Earth's motion. (The original title for the book, in fact, described it as a dialogue on the tides; the reference to tides was removed by order of the Inquisition.) His theory gave the first insight into the importance of the shapes of ocean basins in the size and timing of tides; he correctly accounted, for instance, for the negligible tides halfway along the Adriatic Sea compared to those at the ends. As a general account of the cause of tides, however, his theory was a failure. Kepler and others correctly associated the Moon with an influence over the tides, based on empirical data; a proper physical theory of the tides, however, was not available until Newton.
Galileo also put forward the basic principle of relativity, that the laws of physics are the same in any system that is moving at a constant speed in a straight line, regardless of its particular speed or direction. Hence, there is no absolute motion or absolute rest. This principle provided the basic framework for Newton's laws of motion and is the infinite speed of light approximation to Einstein's special theory of relativity.
By: jwspackerfan - 2007-05-22 14:52:58