Tag Archives: Galileo Galilei

How many great minds does it take to invent a telescope?

On 11 January 1672, the Fellows of the British Royal Society were treated to a demonstration of Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope, which formed images with mirrors rather than with the lenses that had been used since the time of Galileo. Afterward, the fellows hailed Newton as the inventor of this marvelous new instrument, an attribution that sticks to the present. However, this linear historical account obscures a far more interesting, convoluted story. Newton’s claim was immediately challenged on behalf of two other contenders, James Gregory, and Laurent Cassegrain. More confounding, the earliest known concept of using a curved mirror to focus light predated Newton by more than 1,500 years; the final realisation of a practical reflecting telescope post-dated him by more than a half century.

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Earth can be a model for detecting vegetation on exoplanets

Back in December 1990, during its flyby of Earth, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which studied the planet Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other Solar System bodies, pointed its instruments towards Earth, at the urging of Carl Sagan. And, it has found evidence of life on our planet. This can be a key to detect vegetation on exoplanets – which is a key to a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life.

In a paper published on Nature, researchers wrote “The Galileo spacecraft found evidence of abundant gaseous oxygen, a widely distributed surface pigment with a sharp absorption edge in the red part of the visible spectrum, and atmospheric methane in extreme thermodynamic disequilibrium. Together, these are strongly suggestive of life on Earth.”

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A Bowling Ball and Feather Falling in a Vacuum (video)

It’s one of the basic Newton laws: how fast something falls due to gravity is determined by a number known as the “acceleration of gravity”, which is 9.81 m/s2 at the surface of Earth. The acceleration of gravity, shortly “a” means that in one second, any object’s downward velocity will increase by 9.81 m/s because of gravity. The gravity accelerates everything at exactly the same rate.

This also means a heavy object like a bowling ball and a lightweight object like a feather should fall down with the same speed, regardless of their shapes. But we see this phenomenon very rarely in our daily lives. The reason is the air resistance. That’s why people (including Aristotle) thought that the heavier objects fall faster for thousands of years.

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