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Physics from Hell
January 16, 2011 4:04 AM   Subscribe

It's possible that Galileo arrived at basic laws of physics by studying Dante's Inferno. In 1588, Galileo gave two lectures questioning the scalability of Dante's Hell. A paper questions its importance.
posted by twoleftfeet (24 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Boston Globe put this behind a registration wall only minutes after this post was posted. Here is a substitute link for the first link, not quite as good.

The Man is trying to cover up the Galileo-Dante connection. There's no better way to explain it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:25 AM on January 16, 2011


Shit. Maybe here.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:30 AM on January 16, 2011


Christ, what a mess. I'm canceling my subscription to the Boston Globe.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:38 AM on January 16, 2011


So, wait, the foundation of all modern physics comes from someone who looked at the then-current idea and said "if only this solution was more scalable ..."
posted by kyrademon at 4:41 AM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


In 1588, Galileo gave two lectures questioning the scalability of Dante's Hell.

Galileo was just a professor looking for some sweet research money.
posted by parmanparman at 4:45 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Galileo was just a professor looking for some sweet research money.

At the time, Galileo was a 24-year-old unknown, a medical school dropout.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:58 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Atheists to the rescue!
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:02 AM on January 16, 2011


I think the lead sentence of the post overstates matters. The linked article plausibly advances the idea that Galileo advanced the use of mathematics for analysis of physics, and that he was motivated to do this by trying to understand The Divine Comedy. That's interesting enough, but you can't get laws of physics from Inferno itself.

Anyway, in my opinion this sentence is damning:
[...] as Peterson sees it, Galileo has more in common with today’s quantum theorists, whose work requires mad leaps of logic, than he does with the generations of by-the-numbers physicists he inspired.

It seems to indicate a complete lack of understanding of physics, in history or practice.
posted by Humanzee at 5:28 AM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


you can't get laws of physics from Inferno itself

I think he came up with some basic ideas about how things really are by comparison with how they were described in an authoritative text. It's somewhat akin to deducing that heaven is only 1500 miles square and realizing "holy shit! There's not enough room for all the saved!"
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:37 AM on January 16, 2011


Doesn't the 7th Circle of Hell reserve a place for astrologers?

Because that would be a good reason to perhaps consider the laws of nature.
posted by bwg at 6:58 AM on January 16, 2011


From the first linked article, it sounds like the claim is that Galileo honed his methodology with a thought experiment involving a work of fiction. This is a nice thing, but entirely unlike divining specific theories from an analysis of that same work of fiction.
posted by ~ at 7:00 AM on January 16, 2011


It's somewhat akin to deducing that heaven is only 1500 miles square and realizing "holy shit! There's not enough room for all the saved!"

Surely that depends on how many are actually to be saved.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:46 AM on January 16, 2011


I want to know the exact dimensions of Hell.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:58 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Proof that Hell is exothermic.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:10 AM on January 16, 2011


Surely that depends on how many are actually to be saved.

I have it on good authority that 144,000 will be saved. But there must be quite a few saved from before. That's the problem with eternal life in heaven; everybody who moved there before is still there. There's zero turnover. Given that real estate is finite, this pushes the cost of new housing up dramatically. If you get to heaven you're probably not going to have a nice space with a view.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:21 AM on January 16, 2011


I revere Galileo because his extraordinary ability to ignore Aristotle and received wisdom, perceive the correct relationships of physical phenomena, and reduce them to maths, makes him an exemplary scientist, arguably the greatest ever: but this confirms that he was also both a nerd and a lover of proto-SF.

*revere some more*
posted by Segundus at 8:55 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


So that's why my diorama broke!
posted by hammurderer at 9:25 AM on January 16, 2011


If you don't have a place with a view in Heaven, then it cannot be Heaven.

Perhaps in Heaven the Meta-Bible describes how to reach Meta-Heaven.
posted by zippy at 12:23 PM on January 16, 2011


In Heaven the Pauli exclusion principle is repealed.
posted by hattifattener at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2011


Bismillah, NO!
posted by longbaugh at 2:05 PM on January 16, 2011


THE RINGWORLD IS UN-STAAAABLE! THE RINGWORLD IS UN-STAAAABLE!
posted by straight at 3:08 PM on January 16, 2011


It's possible that Galileo arrived at basic laws of physics by studying Dante's Inferno.

This isn't really too too shocking.

From Carl Sagan's "Cosmos":"(Isaac Newton) was not immune to the superstitions of his day and had many encounters with mysticism. Indeed, much of Newton's intellectual development can be attributed to this tension between rationalism and mysticism. At the Stourbridge Fair in 1663, at the age of twenty, he purchased a book on astrology, 'out of a curiosity to see what was in it.' He read it until he came to an illustration which he could not understand, because he was ignorant of trigonometry. So he purchased a book on trigonometry but soon found himself unable to follow the geometrical arguments. So he found a copy of Euclid's Elements of Geometry, and began to read. Two years later he invented the differential calculus."
posted by IvoShandor at 9:07 PM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have it on good authority that 144,000 will be saved.

Okay, divide that by 1500 square miles at 27,878,400 feet per miles and we get 290,400 per person. Double that if you insist that there are already a few others and we get 145,200 square feet per person, which is respectively 96 or 192 people per square mile

So heaven is either Texas or North Carolina.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:36 AM on January 18, 2011


bwg: "Doesn't the 7th Circle of Hell reserve a place for astrologers?"

Eighth circle, fourth bolgia.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:31 PM on January 20, 2011


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