The year of the astronomy

2009 not only is the year of Charles Darwin ( read more about this also here in “The bamboo raft” ), it is also the Year of the Astronomy, as has been decided by the UN and the International Astronomic Union (IAU) on December 20th, 2007.

Exactly 400 years ago Johannes Kepler published what he had discovered about the physics of the sky, the laws of planetary motion: "The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the sun at a focus." And: "A line joining a planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time." (The third law has been added at a later time). Galileo Galilei, not the inventor of the telescope, was the first to use it – after making some improvements – to look at the sky. When he saw mountains, lowlands and the landscapes of the moon and when he observed the moons of Jupiter he discovered that planet earth is nothing special in the universe, just an orb like many others.

The knowledge those two gained was in total contradiction to what human mankind up to that time thought about the fundamentals of our world. Described more by philosophers like Aristotle and Ptolemy and strongly supported by religions and the Christian Church the picture of the world up to this time was a “geo-centric” one, describing planet Earth as the one and only centre of the universe. Some say that this gain of knowledge initiated by Kepler and Galileo has been the most dramatic one in the history of human mankind, it definitely was part of the Scientific Revolution, as well as Charles Darwin’s discoveries.

Geo-centric picture of the world according to Tycho Brahe.
Source: wikipedia.

You must imagine this time when only a few people knew what Kepler and Galileo knew at that moment. What they had discovered was not just a little improvement of our knowledge about the world, it was a revolutionary change in total conflict with traditional knowledge, an attack against religions and church.  People probably were not that open minded anyway these days but under these circumstances people like Kepler and Galileo had to make a tough decision whether they wanted to practice what we would call knowledge sharing nowadays. It probably was not really an option for them to hold back their knowledge, but with that they started a fight against those forces who claimed to know everything about our world at that time. Sharing knowledge in these times could easily have a major negative impact on those attempting this. Galileo actually found himself in front of the Inquisition where he had to argue about his findings and  finally confess that he was wrong. especially also in regards to his support of what Kepler had published.. At the end he has been found suspect of heresy and has been put under house arrest for the rest of his life. It took the church until 1992 to come up with an excuse how the Galileo affair had been handled and to admit that our planet is not stationary.

Knowledge sharing in these days is much easier, isn’t it ? At least for us as we live in an open and democratic world – which is still not the case everywhere on this planet. Nevertheless, who of us would ever be in the position to discover something as spectacular as Kepler and Galileo did ? Sharing knowledge about information technology or project management, discussing things like social software or SOA is by far less dramatic compared to those topics “discussed” 400 years ago. But still we have big discoveries to make: finding the theory of everything, explaining what happened during the first sub seconds after the big bang or even before it,  finding ways to produce the amount of energy we need without killing us and our planet, findings cures against our major diseases.

Source: bild der wissenschaft 2/2009 (article “Die Astro-Revoluzzer”) and wikipedia


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