Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I had a baci chocolate the other day, they come with a little note of love inside and mine had a quote from Mr Shakespeare inside as you can see. It turns out this is from Hamlet Act 2 scene 2 and in the 1623 First Folio it reads as
Doubt thou, the Starres are fire,
Doubt, that the Sunne doth moue:
Doubt Truth to be a Lier,
But neuer Doubt, I loue.
Now, this is all very sweet but what piqued my interest was what was the view of stars being on fire and the movement of the Sun in the 17th century. As Martin Porter points out there was great interest in the movement of the Sun relative to the Earth at this time as he discusses the lines by Shakepeare. We are all very familiar with the idea that the Earth orbits the Sun and not vice versa and this is illustrated beautifully both by computer modeling and by copies of plates from books by both Copernicus and Ptolemy. So they were probably split as to whether the Sun moved or not, and the view that the Earth circled the Sun may have indicated that the Sun didn’t move but now we know that it is moving through space with the planets orbiting it too.
This was all fairly easy to find and seems to be well documented but finding out what was thought about the Sun being on fire was a wee bit harder. Back in the 6th century Heraclitus explained that the sun and stars were flames inside bowls turned with their hollow sides facing us and that eclipses occurred when the bowl turned the other face to us. Fascinating – what stops the fire falling out of the bowl?
The real energy within the Sun comes from nuclear fusion reactions and they account for 85 percent of the sun's energy. The rest is emitted in various forms of light and energized particles that make up the solar wind. It’s this energy strikes Earth, where it warms the planet, drives our weather and provides energy for life. Nuclear fusion was first realized by Albert Einstein in 1916, who was named man of the century and this year is dedicated to him as the Year of Physics. Einstein has always held a certain fascination for me as I share his birthday (rather than his birth date – I’m not 126!). Other funky things I found were the sun cam and the Galileo project.