Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]

For the Week of 11/5/08

Assignment 10


Galileo & Newton, and friends…

It is Tuesday night and you finally have gotten this far in the assignment page……

Tuesday!  Guess where you should be right now!  You could read your assignments while waiting in line.


Tuesday is the election. 

If you want the right to complain for the next 2, 4, or 6 years, this is the ticket.


Spock Defeats Kirk

Read McClellan and Dorn: Chapters 12 and 13 (11 and 12 in older editions), “The Crime and Punishment of Galileo” and “God said, ‘Let Newton Be!”


Look at all the other material I have posted below.


Write an essay relating to the readings and try to draw upon as much from previous class readings as you can.  E.g. Compare Galileo and Newton to Ptolemy and Aristotle or Ibn Tufayl…


Galilean materials:


View movie of Medician moons: GalileoMediceanMoonspseudoanimation.pdf [67KB] To make this work, view it in Acrobat (or similar) in single page view (not scroll view) and hit the next page button over and over again.  It’s not a good animation, but it represents what Galileo had to work with.  I have no evidence that Galileo ever made a flip-card animation similar to this one.  These drawings appear inline in his text (see image below) and cannot work as an animation the way they are arranged on the pages.  In fact, I am unaware of any flip-card animations existing until the 19th century, but this in no way means that similar animation techniques didn’t exist earlier.  I have never looked into it.  Feel free to explore this question.


Pages from Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius (1610)


This is a photograph taken through a Galilean-style

telescope of Jupiter and its largest moons. (I enhanced the contrast.)


Newtonian materials:


Dark Side of the ... 

This is a diagram from Newton’s Opticks from 1704. 

I have added some interpretive images and a new title.



Newton drew this for a French ed. of Opticks.  It says, “Light doesn’t vary color when refracted.”

Nec variat lux fracta colorem.  More literally: Light doesn’t change when broken into color.

I colorized it to for clarity. Some of the light from the hole in the window-covering on the left (focused by that big lens) is intercepted by the prism, and some of it continues on to hit the lower part of the screen. The prism emits a rainbow.  The red-part of the rainbow then passes through a hole in the screen and into another prism where it is not broken up anymore, proving that…

Nec variat lux fracta colorem – Light doesn’t change when broken into color

Read this.

From Newton’s Opticks, 1st ed. 1704.  Read this.




Above is a diagram from Newton’s Opticks (1704) which I have colorized for clarity.

Notice that he is suggesting that the rainbow is divided into 7 colors

just as the string of a monochord is divided into 7 intervals, the seven intervals of our major scale: Do, re, mi, fa… etc.

Newton even gives the Pythagorean-style intervals: 8/9, 3/4, 2/3, 1/2….

Below I have added to his diagram the profile of a monochord/guitar with the Pythagorean intervals shown below. 



Interesting trivia… (extracted from a paper I once wrote…)


Leibniz, the German/French counterpart to Newton, after having read Newton’s Opticks, wrote, “Sir Isaac Newton says, that space is an organ, which God makes use of to perceive things by.”  [from Clarke, Leibniz, Newton and Alexander, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence: Together with Extracts From Newton's Principia and Opticks. Philosophical Classics (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1956), p. 11.]


What Leibniz was responding to was this (in the Latin edition of Opticks that Leibniz was reading), “Universal Space is the Sensorium of the Incorporeal, Living, and Intelligent Being;…”  Newton had actually corrected this passage by making it clear that he was making an analogy, but Leibniz somehow had gotten an uncorrected edition.


What Newton means is this: Perception occurs by exposing  “sensing substance” [What he calls “substantia sentiens” in Latin] to the  “sensible species of things” [“sensibiles rerum species”], which are gathered and brought to the brain where this “sensing substance” is located.  This description needs almost no modification to be a Galenic/Avicennic description of sensory perception based on spiritus animalis, which we have discussed in previous classes. I find it quite interesting that Newton is still operating on this theory of perception.


Newton goes on in the corrected passage to suggest that God, being omnipresent, perceives the entire universe merely by being present throughout all space.  It is not so much that the all of space is God’s sensorium, but that God is everywhere and acts as if [tanquam] He were the spiritus animalis of human perception. Unlike humans, who need spiritus or “sensing substance” to connect their souls to the world, God needs no intermediary for the perception of the world.   He is Himself, as it were, the intermediary, the spiritus.  After all, what do you think the Holy Spirit is? 


Put another way: It would be like saying that God is the machine code (or perhaps the system software) of the universal computer that we call reality.  He permeates everything and is everywhere.  Nothing is instigated or caused without His 0s and 1s.  For Him, causing and perceiving are one and the same activity.  Freaky. 


Disclaimer: Newton had a rather radical opinion of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He was secretly an anti-Trinitarian and a follower of the teachings of Arius from the early 4th century AD, who proposed that the Son was not coeternal with God but had actually been created by God in time. This issue is directly addressed in the Nicaean Creed, which makes the Trinity “one in being.”  It was written very specifically against Arius who was then excommunicated for his heretical ideas.  The Council of Nicaea (the meeting that wrote the creed) was largely instigated by the Emperor Constantine and can quite easily be seen as a political exercise whereby a certain group of theologians seized control and solidified their power by officially making their adversaries heretics.  It is not much of a surprise that the winners of this controversy were the ones backed by the Emperor Constantine.  Christianity in the first couple hundred years was theologically very diverse, but when the Roman Emperor got involved such variety was no longer acceptable. Power from the top down became the structure.  After all, the Roman Catholic Church is Roman, as in Roman Empire. 


Newton, an avid Biblical scholar, and probably several other major players in the later Scientific Revolution were secretly followers of Arius.  Secretly, because even after fourteen-hundred years, Arius was still considered a threat to both Catholic and Protestant theologians.  To be perfectly honest, I have tried to understand this issue, but have never really figured it out.  It is very complicated and esoteric and seems to be concerned with theological details that I simply don’t find all that critical.  But this probably means that I simply haven’t tried hard enough to understand. 


If anybody is interested, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on Arius and Arianism and the Arian controversy.  I can also hook you up with more stuff if you want.  Just email me.


I looked up the word sensorium to try to figure out what Newton meant.  It actually is not a Latin word, but an English word with a Latin root.


Here is an extract from Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language; 4th ed. (1773)

Sensorium, Sensory n.s. [Latin]--  1) The part where the senses transmit their perceptions to the mind; seat of sense; 2) Organ of sensation


Selected Examples given by Johnson:

-Bacon:  “Spiritual species, both visible and audible, will work upon the sensories, though they move not any other body.”

-Newton:  “As found in a bell or musical string, or other sounding body, is nothing but a trembling motion, and the air nothing but that motion propagated from the object, in the sensorium ‘tis a sense of that motion under the form of sound.”

-Newton from Query 28:  “Is not the Sensory  of Animals that place to which the sensitive Substance is present, and into which  the sensible Species of Things are carried through the Nerves and Brain, that there they may be perceived by their immediate presence to that Substance?”




Newton supposedly drew a portrait of Donne on the wall of his domicile in Grantham, while in grammar school.

Donne wrote the original “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

It’s a nice poem if you need a break.  The whole idea of collective humanity reminds me of Averroestic or Platonic world-soul stuff that we discussed several weeks ago.


John Donne (1572-1631): Meditation 17: Bell Tolls

Here are the citations for the above works:


Figala, Karen. "Newton's Alchemy." In The Cambridge Companion to Newton, ed. I. Bernard Cohen and George E. Smith, pp. 370-486. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


Jardine, Lisa. Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution. Anchor Books, 2000. 


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Munitz, Milton Karl, ed. Theories of the Universe; from Babylonian Myth to Modern Science, The Library of Scientific Thought. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1965.





Back to Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]


Me –

News of Note:


Notice how the Copernican heliocentric paradigm is the only one entertained today. 

What is the reason that a Ptolemaic/Platonic/Aristotelian-Geocentric model is not even considered?

Madrigal-Wired-2008-Nearby Solar System Looks Like Our Own at Time Life Formed



This article courtesy of Gregory Hollin

Scientists Record Music of the Stars

People still think this is worth pursuing.

First: Sound cannot travel through the “vacuum” of space, therefore what we are hearing is certainly based on some other vibratory phenomenon.  Now, when translating generic vibratory information into an audio track, you have to decide what sort of instrument to play it on.  So my question is: Why wouldn’t it sound like a Star Trek sound effect?  For that matter why not an 18th-century orchestra or a band of kazoos?


Here is a really interesting animation of the heart in action:

The second video is particularly good.  This second video is also available at the following sites:

Here is a link Glassworks site. Click on “Play” to see another

 Here is the Heartworks site: Heartworks


Exam review materials.

Both of these PDFs contain more information than I actually lectured on.

This web page, in and of itself, contains significant review materials.






Posted: 12/5/08 3:27 PM