chapter  6
59 Pages

Spherical Models: Scaling the Cosmos

As with the study of motion, as with the composition of matter, Greeks were the first to postulate the existence of rational organizing principles behind the celestial drama taking place in the night sky. They searched for a system in the paths of the sun, moon, planets and stars. They asked questions about celestial motion similar to their queries about the substance of the universe and the reasons for its diversity. Is there some unifying principle to the various motions of heavenly bodies? Is there a grand order that organizes the universe? In seeking answers, they were guided by fundamental aesthetic principles. Nature is beautiful; explanations for motions of heavenly bodies must be elegant. They searched for order and symmetry in nature’s operations. Speculation, observation, reason and

insight all played crucial roles in the advance from gathering knowledge to genuine understanding. Living in a culture that accentuated geometry in art and architecture, they used geometry to synthesize astronomical lore gained from Egypt and Babylon. Their models brought order into prevailing confusion and uncertainty. With the emergence of a unifying geometric picture, scattered lists of antique observations slowly began to turn into a coherent whole. Unrelated phenomena dissolved into elegant constructions. Further yet, it became possible to quantify the universe for the first time in history. Ever since their pioneering initiatives, mathematical models dominated the evolution of physics.