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Physical science, like all the natural sciences, is concerned with describing and relating to one another those experiences of the surrounding world that are shared by different observers and whose description can be agreed upon.
One of its principal fields, physics, deals with the most… Heritage of antiquity and the Middle Ages The physical sciences ultimately derive from the rationalistic materialism that emerged in classical Greeceitself an outgrowth of magical and mythical views of the world.
The Greek philosophers of the 6th and 5th centuries bce abandoned the animism of the poets and explained the world in terms of ordinarily observable natural processes. These early philosophers posed the broad questions that still underlie science: How did the world order emerge from chaos?
What is the origin of multitude and variety in the world? How can motion and change be accounted for? What is the underlying relation between form and matter? Greek philosophy answered these questions in terms that provided the framework for science for approximately 2, years.
Egyptian astronomy, which was neither a very well-developed nor an influential study, was largely concerned with time reckoning. Its main lasting contribution was the civil calendar of days, consisting of 12 months of 30 days each and five additional festival days at the end of each year.
This calendar played an important role in the history of astronomyallowing astronomers to calculate the number of days between any two sets of observations. Babylonian astronomy, dating back to about bce, constitutes one of the earliest systematic, scientific treatments of the physical world.
In contrast to the Egyptians, the Babylonians were interested in the accurate prediction of astronomical phenomena, especially the first appearance of the new Moon.
Using the zodiac as a reference, by the 4th century bce, they developed a complex system of arithmetic progressions and methods of approximation by which they were able to predict first appearances. The mass of observations they collected and their mathematical methods were important contributions to the later flowering of astronomy among the Greeks.
The Pythagoreans 5th century bce were responsible for one of the first Greek astronomical theories. Believing that the order of the cosmos is fundamentally mathematical, they held that it is possible to discover the harmonies of the universe by contemplating the regular motions of the heavens.
Postulating a central fire about which all the heavenly bodies including Earth and the Sun revolve, they constructed the first physical model of the solar system. That is to say, he urged them to develop predictively accurate theories using only combinations of uniform circular motion.
As a result, Greek astronomers never regarded their geometric models as true or as being physical descriptions of the machinery of the heavens. They regarded them simply as tools for predicting planetary positions. He developed a theory of homocentric spheresa model that represented the universe by sets of nesting concentric spheres the motions of which combined to produce the planetary and other celestial motions.
His theory required four homocentric spheres for each planet and three each for the Sun and Moon. The system was modified by Callippusa student of Eudoxus, who added spheres to improve the theory, especially for Mercury and Venus. The Aristotelian cosmos was like an onion consisting of a series of some 55 spheres nested about Earth, which was fixed at the centre.
Discussion of four attempts to explain the structure of the solar system, from Aristotle to Johannes Kepler.
The theory of homocentric spheres failed to account for two sets of observations: Heracleides of Pontus 4th century bce attempted to solve these problems by having Venus and Mercury revolve about the Sun, rather than Earth, and having the Sun and other planets revolve in turn about Earth, which he placed at the centre.
In addition, to account for the daily motions of the heavens, he held that Earth rotates on its axis. Hipparchus flourished bce made extensive contributions to both theoretical and observational astronomy.
Basing his theories on an impressive mass of observations, he was able to work out theories of the Sun and Moon that were more successful than those of any of his predecessors.
His primary conceptual tool was the eccentric circle, a circle in which Earth is at some point eccentric to the geometric centre.First published in , Nature is the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal.
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