This development of ideas was propelled by genius, persistence and tenacity, coupled with flashes of insight into the nature of the universe. We see that this development is tied closely to the ability to free the teathers of erroneous paradigms and build better models of the universe in their place. We will be concerned, principally, with the development of physics. Einstein wrote the following on the definition of physics: “What we call physics comprises that group of natural sciences which base their concepts on measurements; and whose concepts and propositions lend themselves to mathematical formulation. ” (Weaver, 78) Although physics today is more focused, this is the basis of all science.
One of the first groups of people to freely think about the universe and make an attempt to explain their world scientifically were the Greeks. II. The Greek Ideology The Greek’s investigation of science demonstrate that their minds were on par with the best of this era, specifically Aristotle (384 – 322 B. C. ), who formed many brilliant theories.
He, along with others, put the theories into sophisticated form that created the basis of scientific thought for close to two millennia. In his universe were four “elements”: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. The Earth was the common center of all the solid materials and had a natural place as the center of the universe. If all the solid material sought a location as close to the center as possible, then the Earth had to be a sphere. He had likewise ordered the other “elements” into spheres.
Water had its natural place on the surface of the sphere Earth. Air had its natural place on the surface of the sphere Water. Fire had its natural place outside the sphere of Air. Observations corresponded to this view of the universe. However, he performed no experiments. He stated that heavier objects would want to move faster toward their respective spheres than lighter objects.
It is regrettable that he did not perform any of a number of simple experiments to prove or disprove his ideas. These Greek philosophers worked to explain the motion of matter. Their ordering of the universe defined what happened when an element found itself outside of its sphere. It simply sought its correct sphere.
They also did well with basic types of motion, stating that when one object had contact with another it would create motion in that object. There were other types of motion they had trouble with. For instance, why does a ball keep rolling even after your hand no longer has contact with it? Another problem that arises from the Aristotelian classification is how would two objects affect each other in a vacuum? Aristotle had theorized that vacuums would create difficulties, but in his day they were only considered a philosophical abstraction. The problem did not need to be dealt with seriously.
Nevertheless, motion in the absence of the element Air was unthinkable. For them, Air had inherent physical properties. Also, it encompassed everything that could possibly have motion. The absence of Air meant the absence of motion.
Before we can answer these questions, however, we must look at when and how observation combined with experimentation. III. Unifying Observation and Thought with Experimentation The Aristotelian universe was generally accepted for about 1600 years. During the late Middle Ages the view began to change slowly. Scholars began to view experimenting as a method of testing theories.
The following passage explains the beginning of the change in ideas when scientists used experimentation methodically. “Historically we may say the revolution in ideas began with Copernicus and his heliocentric theory of the solar system, but Kepler’s work is much closer to modern science than that of Copernicus, for in formulating his three laws of planetary motion, Kepler proceeded much the .