Monday, May 03, 2021

Science that systematically produces progress only began in Galileo's time

Let me add a few words about the inability of the ancient Greeks and Romans to start the industrial revolution – a fact that is obvious but it is deliberately obfuscated by various retarded (in 2021) warriors against slavery.

These ancient civilizations and their thinkers-in-chief were really great and the seeds of many scientific disciplines were created by the ancient thinkers. I have surely often called their activity "science" a few times, too. However, one must understand that it wasn't a "full-blown science" that really works. The scientific method was introduced by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).



What the Greeks and Romans had was much more limited. Well, the Greeks were great in geometry – what Euclid, Pythagoras, and others did was "almost equivalent" to (not so) modern geometry. And their understanding of geometry was good enough so that they could have built structures such as the Colosseum (where up to 100,000 slaves had to work). However, 3D geometry is very limited as a "field of physics".



For a century, it's been kosher to strictly separate mathematics and physics – mathematics should be completely independent of our empirical observations and the laws of Nature deduced from these observations, it should be purely invented. But in the past, people didn't see this sharp boundary and physics overlapped with mathematics. In particular, as Einstein liked to say, the 3D geometry may be viewed as the oldest branch of physics – which studies the possible relationships between locations and shapes of perfectly solid bodies.

The ancient Greeks and Romans understood this part of physics. More generally, they understood the geometry of "incompressible materials" that also included liquids. Rome was full of water wheels but they were invented much earlier. Oldest references to water wheels go back 6000 years and the actual invention may be even older. There is something "intellectually simple" about the water wheels. We really observe "nearly equivalent" arrangements of wood and water that arise naturally. The river is able to move branches of trees. The path to a "somewhat more controllable and regular shape of the branches" is rather short.

Things are moving – so we can't say that the water wheel is just "statics" – but the values of the speed aren't very important and our understanding of what is going on may be replaced with snapshots of individual moments that are nearly independent of each other. The water wheel needs some "hydrodynamics" but it is a very rudimentary kind of "hydrodynamics", an adiabatic one. Another pair of words that may be relevant is "kinematics vs dynamics". The ancient science was enough to see how things evolve in time, the differences between the snapshots (kinematics is just the collection of statements that the water wheel has to move, otherwise the water wouldn't fit in) but they didn't understand anything about dynamics (the reasons why things are moving and changing – the quantification of forces).

The ancient folks weren't terribly good even in kinematics. In particular, they didn't know that objects move along parabolas in the gravitational field; that was only found by Galileo, too.

It is appropriate to say something about Galileo's life. His father was a lutenist (a small guitar player) and a music theorist – he made a useful enough intellectual environment for a kid scientist. Galileo had 5-6 siblings, about 50% reached adulthood. He was a deep believer (but had kids out of the wedlock) and always wanted to get a good education. He still cared about the money which is why he wanted to study medicine. But a captivating lecture about geometry changed his mind and he studied mathematics, astronomy, and related things instead. The Catholic infrastructure was good enough to provide him with the intellectual foundations for the giant leap.

In 1581, he saw a swinging chandelier (some wind made it swing). He could observe by his naked eyes that the frequency doesn't seem to depend on the amplitude. You could think – and he probably expected – that one cycle takes a longer time when the amplitude of the oscillation is larger (because the distance is greater). But the frequency doesn't drop with the amplitude, it is universal, Instead, the average speed increases when the amplitude grows larger. (The pendulum was only used as a clock almost a century later!) Think about the contrast: people already had very fancy chandeliers (the "statics" of the arrangement of expensive jewels is intellectually simple) but they still didn't understand basic facts about the harmonic oscillator (such as the independence of the frequency on the amplitude)! Galileo continued by doing the experiments with dropping marbles from the tower of Pisa; he invented the thermometer, a good telescope, and many other things.

There are two categories of aspects that made Galileo's contributions "a huge paradigm shift". One category of the aspects were the new particular "disciplines" (including laws of new kinds) that he basically pioneered; the other aspect is methodological, his way of thinking, his scientific culture. Both are important; the second thing, the actual scientific method, is arguably much more important than the first one, however.

Concerning the less important breakthroughs, the new disciplines, well, he finally studied kinematics in a controlled way – the actual trajectories (or histories) were being picked from many possible candidates. So he found out that the gravitational acceleration adds the same speed increment per unit time, not the same speed increment per unit distance, for example (the position would grow exponentially with time if this were the case...). These nontrivial findings made it irresistable for other thinkers (like Isaac Newton) to ask why the positions and speeds are changing in these particular ways. Newton could finally crack the first "laws of dynamics" (the acceleration is due to forces, \(F=ma\), that may be calculated from the mutual position of objects etc.).

But as I said, the scientific culture introduced by Galileo was more important. And in the previous sentence, the word "scientific" is being used in the narrow sense, as something that really works. So he was performing "many experiments" and had his "lab"; and, perhaps even more importantly, he was ready to abandon falsified hypotheses when they disagreed with the experiments, regardless of the pre-existing emotional attachment to these hypotheses that he could have possessed. Experiments or observations; and the elimination of the falsified hypotheses (and not the constant screaming "I and my progressive comrades own the science and everyone else is a heretic") are the two defining traits of the scientific method.

While the ancient Greeks and Romans were "analogous" to scientists in many ways, they simply weren't full-blown scientists in the narrow sense that I just mentioned. They didn't have this culture. They didn't operate labs in a systematic basis. And even more importantly, they weren't abandoning any hypotheses that disagreed with the observations. An ancient Greek thinker was supposed to be an anointed, smart man whose opinions count. And when he decided to have a certain opinion, the opinion was guaranteed to be important up to his death – and he almost never changed it. There was no strong enough incentive to change the opinion.

You know, this was not the scientific method yet. Needless to say, many people who use the word "science" aren't doing science, either. Instead, they want to assume that they have (or their favorite people have) some permanent authority that makes their opinions matter forever, even if these opinions were clearly discredited by the observations. The claims about the alleged "dangerous climate change" is an example of a pseudoscience that has nearly grown to a full-fledged discipline of pseudosciences, a totally nonsensical industry of pseudointellectual masturbation that has devoured tens of billions of dollars. This garbage keeps on existing because whole communities or nations don't have any scientific culture; and the bad people who maintain this junk have many motivations to do so. Instead of evidence, opinions of arrogant lying self-serving morons fraudulently using the word "science" is what matters to millions of people who don't get the meaning of "science" at all.

Galileo's scientific method was and is completely different. The elimination of claims has been turned to an everyday routine. Most of the particular enough claims about Nature just don't survive and an actual scientist is used to this "cemetery of ideas". He or she knows that the scientific method is really "natural selection" applied to ideas about the inner workings of the world. You need this selection to produce increasingly correct, accurate, universal ideas – just like the survival of the fittest is needed in Nature to conceive new, better species. And this selection of ideas should be "natural", not "societal" (i.e. based on the people's pre-existing authority), because only Nature, and not the society, knows which of the new cutting-edge ideas are correct.

Galileo's new method, new attitude to the truth immediately led to results. His numerous inventions – telescope, thermometer, proportional compass, pendulum clocks, micrometer, celatone, and many others – weren't just accidental inventions that randomly fell into one person's life; and they weren't purely results of Galileo's being much smarter than almost everyone else, either (although he was much smarter than his contemporaries). They were first testimonies of the potency of his new approach to the truth, the scientific method, which acknowledges the uncertainty and is ready to say "this was wrong", and very often so.

It is this new spirit, the scientific method, that allowed the new insights and inventions to explode. They were mostly inventions in fields named something-dynamics, exactly the fields that the ancient Greeks and Romans knew almost nothing about. Isaac Newton was born in 1642, exactly in the year when Galileo died. He made these physical sciences even more quantitative and dependent on nontrivial mathematics. Newton's list of inventions was otherwise comparable to Galileo's. But it was the approximate epoch of these two men that started gravitational dynamics, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics... and made electrodynamics possible as a matter of analogies. In particular, you may think about another "similar genius", Leonardo DaVinci. That guy lived before Galileo and correspondingly, he only had the "science" of the ancient Roman type (perhaps just a little bit better one). And that just wasn't enough for his airplanes to fly; in this sense, Leonardo really was just an artist, not a scientist or an engineer!

Gas laws are important enough for the heat engines and the industrial revolution in general. You may check that Robert Boyle found the oldest law, Boyle's law \(pV = {\rm const}\), in 1662 – when Newton was 20. Charles' law, Gay-Lussac's law, and Avogadro's law followed later or much later. But you should think about the conditions for these discoveries a little bit. If you do it right, you will see that they depended on some particular inventions by Galileo and others; and even more importantly, they depended on the new culture, the scientific method, that Galileo brought us.

It was only the full-blown, Galileo's, scientific method that made it possible to systematically find new laws (and create new inventions) that actually work. Only after Galileo's contributions, it became sensible to expect "persistent scientific and technological progress". This progress wasn't really present and wasn't expected in ancient Greece and Rome. They may have been improving their water wheel a little bit after a few centuries but none of these improvements was a true paradigm shift; all of them could have been imagined as simple results of their societies' getting wealthier. Only Galileo made it possible to bring new scientific paradigm shifts – and made it reasonable to expect them.

Let me return to the pressure. Boyle was that the pressure was inversely proportional to the volume in 1662. Previously, in 1643 when Newton was 1-year-old and Galileo had been gone for 1 year, Evangelista Torricelli's did his experiment. He created the first vacuum in the lab and understood that the vacuum sucks the fluids because of the absence of the atmospheric pressure. Try to think what people believed about the relationship between the vacuum and the atmosphere before Torricelli; they just couldn't really distinguish the air and the vacuum. When you were a small enough kid, you couldn't, either. It's confusing because neither air nor the vacuum is visible to the naked eyes.

There are lots of insights, even rather basic insights in physics, that are simply not intuitive, that surprise a kid. For example, I prefer to ride a bike with no hands. Many kids are shocked that it is possible, it looks like some kind of magic. I vaguely remember the time when I was 5 and it still looked like a miracle, too. (The expectation that the bike "must fall" exactly follows from the "statics" reduction of physics which overlooks all the truly "dynamical", especially speed-dependent, forces.) Some conservation of the angular momentum is a part of the sensible explanations why it's possible. But this is already an idea belonging to "dynamics" that simply goes beyond the "adiabatic dynamics" that the ancient builders of the water wheels have (partially) mastered.

Or think about lots of facts about the temperature, phase transitions, and forces created by them. They're not obvious to a human that has just evolved from a stupid monkey (and they weren't obvious to most of us when we were kids). Two objects like to reach the same temperature. The temperature may be measured by various thermometers; they produce nearly equivalent results. Boiling water doesn't just annoyingly sizzle; the sound is a sign of a force that may be increased and that may be useful, e.g. in the steam engine. It looks obvious to us today but such claims just weren't obvious to the people who weren't systematically dividing hypotheses to wrong ones and viable ones by the experiments and observations. These ideas couldn't have been obvious to ancient Greeks and Romans because those didn't have the full-blown scientific method which is why they couldn't do and expect qualitative advances in science and technology.

No comments:

Post a Comment