The Harmony of the World

October 3, 2017

Johannes Kepler transformed astronomy in the early years of the 17th century. His revolution was built on accurate observations of the planets compiled over many years by Tycho Brahe. The New Astronomy Kepler published his findings in 1609 in a book called Astronomia Nova (The New Astronomy), which includes two laws describing how planets travel around […]

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Sieving for Numbers

October 1, 2017

Alexander’s general Ptolemy I Soter became the first pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt following Alexander’s death in 323 BC. Ptolemy founded the famous Library of Alexandria. Dedicated to the muses, the nine goddesses of the arts, it was the original museum. During the Ptolomaic era Alexandria would replace Athens as the leading cultural centre in […]

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The Oracle

October 1, 2017

Plato believed we have an innate knowledge of geometry and much else besides. While this might be true up to a point, his argument is not totally convincing. Plato presents the idea in his dialogue The Meno, which takes the form of a discussion between the philosopher Socrates and a slave-owning aristocrat called Meno. Socrates demonstrates […]

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The Laws of Thought

September 30, 2017

George Boole was the son of a cobbler. Born in 1815 in Lincoln, he was largely self-taught, with little more than a primary school education. Despite these humble beginnings, Boole would become one of the leading mathematicians of his day. He founded a school in Waddington near Lincoln when just 19. Soon he was exchanging letters […]

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The Alchemists’ Dream

September 23, 2017

The alchemists’ dream was to understand and control the structure of matter and to turn base metal into gold. Modern physicists are equally curious, but hopefully rather less avaricious. Four Forces The 20th century saw the development of machines to delve deep into the structure of matter. John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton constructed the first particle accelerator […]

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Alchemical Furnaces of the Cosmos

September 21, 2017

Arthur Eddington was raised in a Quaker family in northern England. After studying in Manchester, he won a scholarship to Cambridge University and by the 1920s he established himself as the world’s leading astrophysicist. Eddington developed models of the structure and evolution of stars that form the foundations of the subject even today. The key […]

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From the Leviathan to the Behemoth

September 19, 2017

The Leviathan William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, built a monster telescope with a six-foot or 1.8 metre mirror weighing almost three tons at his home in Birr Castle in county Offaly, Ireland. Construction was completed in 1845. The Leviathan of Parsonstown, as it is known, remained in use until the end of the […]

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The Battle for the Cosmos!

August 20, 2017

Following the Second World War, a battle for the origin of the universe was waged by two teams of nuclear physicists; one led by George Gamow, the other by Fred Hoyle. Both would be incredibly successful, but not quite in the ways they expected. Gamow was a brilliant physicist from Russia who gained international acclaim […]

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Life, But Not As We Know It!

August 18, 2017

I remember many years ago watching an episode of Star Trek called The Devil in the Dark. The Starship Enterprise visits a mining community on the planet Janus VI where an unknown lifeform is playing havoc with the mining operations. The crew eventually track down the source of the disruption – a strange creature that […]

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Lovely LISA

August 15, 2017

One of the amazing ideas to emerge from Einstein’s theory of general relativity was the possibility of gravitational waves rippling their way across the cosmos. It took a century to verify this prediction. Their existence was finally confirmed by LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) in September 2015, as described in this post: Cosmic Ripples. What’s […]

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