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By JENNIFER OUELLETTE

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Extra resources for Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales of Pure Genius and Mad Science

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This was the first empirical support for Copernicus’s theory that the sun, not the Earth, was at the center of the solar system. Galileo published this startling observation in his book Sidereus nuncius (Starry Messenger), which appeared in Venice in March 1610, guaranteeing his fame and ensuring his place in scientific history. These and many other observations made with early telescopes eventually helped topple the misguided (and somewhat narcissistic) notion that everything revolved around the Earth.

Newton theorized that there had to be a force acting on the apple to cause its downward acceleration. And if that force reached the top of the highest tree, it probably also extended sufficiently out into space to affect the orbit of the moon. The only force that could account for this was gravity, a term which was by then in fairly common use among scientists. ” He concluded that as the moon orbits, it falls toward the GRAVITY’S GURU 37 Earth. But it is also moving forward, so it does not hit the Earth but it falls past, and gravity curves it around into a regular orbit.

Even if the Assyrians didn’t know it, they were practising the earliest known form of optical microscopy. The strange magnifying effects that so intrigued the ancient Assyrians owe less to magic, of course, than to the unique nature of light and its interaction with matter. Light is a peculiarly ephemeral substance that suffers from a chronic identity crisis. For centuries scientists have debated whether light is a particle or a wave; today we know it is neither, although it has properties of both, like an actor who moonlights as a waiter on the side, or who really just wants to direct.

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