Today Ronni and Brittany discuss the Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Ronni.
Ronni: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: So, I’ve been on this kick of learning about scientists and inventors for episodes of the show because unless you’re really seeking out or reading a book that talks about it when you get older, I think you don’t get to learn as much as you would learn if you’re homeschool or unschooling or whatever. It’s you do because a lot of the information we already have, but we’ve never looked up the people that we’re hearing about. And so it’s been fun for me to get to do that. A couple of episodes ago, Connor and I talked about my favorite inventor of all time, Nicola Tesla, probably second only to Benjamin Franklin, who I think a lot of people forget is the inventor. But he was a brilliant inventor. He did a lot of things. He wore many hats. But yeah, Nicola Tesla was incredible. We talked about him a couple of episodes ago. Today I want to talk about another very important, I dunno if we’d call him an inventor. I think he’s more of just a scientist, but his name is funny too. Galileo Galilei. I love the way that sounds. It’s like a stage name, like a musician made up or something. So, why was he so important? Well, Galileo was born in Italy in 1564. So to give you a perspective of how long ago that was, if you listen to our Tesla episode, he was born, Galileo was born 300 years before Nicola Tesla and already Nicola Tesla was born 200 ish years ago. So long, long time, longer, yeah, after what’s considered the medieval times, it’s a little bit after, but not much. So, yeah. Alright. So, a long, long time ago it was during what was called the Italian Renaissance. So, the Italian Renaissance was a time when art, music, architecture, and science were really booming. And Galileo, he was an accomplished musician actually. And he was a really good student. He loved school. So, he wanted to become a doctor first. And he went to the university of, I think it’s called, it’s probably Pisa. That was really bad, I just offended Italians all over the world. Like leaning Tower of Pisa, right? Yeah. Pisa. Okay. Pisa. I’m not sure how to pronounce it. Yeah, I do not speak Italian. So he wanted to study medicine and he went to school in 1581. But while he was there, he became really interested in physics and mathematics. Two things that do not interest me at all, I like the music part, but he lost me there. But one of his first scientific observations was there was a lamp hanging from a ceiling on a little rope and it was in a cathedral. And you noticed that despite how far the lamp swung, imagine a lamp swinging, it took the same wait, it took the same amount of time to swing back and forth. And I’m sitting here moving in that direction. I realize you cannot see me. Pendulums, I guess is what you call, yeah, pendulum. So hold and we’ll get into that word in a minute. So if you hold, I think the easiest way to be, if you have a necklace or something like that and you hold it in your hand, hold it up with your thumb and four fingers and you swing it back and forth, what’s something else? Oh look, a clock, look on a grandfather clock. That’s an actual pendulum. What else? Move back and forth.
Ronni: I tend to think of just the pendulum toys, those little balls that you bounce back and forth. That’s what I always think of.
Brittany: Think too. So, your homework assignment is to Google pendulum, so you can get kind of a visual for this. I think that will really help show you how cool this is. So, this observation didn’t really agree with common scientific principles of the day because back then they just kind of like, oh, well this is what philosophers said 300 years ago. So, that’s probably how it is. And they were not, didn’t, didn’t know a whole lot back then. They knew some great, there’s some good stuff we learned, but they didn’t know everything. But that’s because, and Galileo is largely responsible for this. The scientific method wasn’t really a thing. And I mean it wasn’t really a thing. It wasn’t a thing back then and a refresher on the scientific method. That is the structure of all science. So, at first begins with just observing the world around you and you notice something. So, for Galileo, why is the pendulum, why does it take the same amount of time to swing back and forth? For Newton, it was the laws of gravity. I can’t remember when was it the apple fell in his head as the way the story goes. So then from there, you build a hypothesis and you test your hypothesis. I should remember all of these because when I was a teacher, we had a song First Observe the World. I wish I could remember all of it, but it was fun. It was a cute song. So those are the scientific methods. If you’ve ever had to do a science for project, which I guarantee if you’re in public school, your parents hated it because that stressed out. The parents in my school, he was at a private school, but.
Ronni: Not my dad, my inventor dad, he loved it. He pretty much wanted to do the whole thing about he was a fan of science fair projects.
Brittany: It went two ways with my students. Either the parents or the student didn’t tell them about it until the night before when they were supposed to spend a month on this and the parent was frantically doing it all night, which was not what the assignment was. So it’s funny, I’ve never seen more stressed out students or parents from the science firm. So, yeah, so, that scientific, scientific method is, it always starts with that observation and then you make a hypothesis. So, in his case, the hypothesis would be why are they taking the same amount of time to swing back and forth? And then you would’ve tested that out. They didn’t do that back then. That wasn’t a thing, right? People didn’t question things, they just assumed that it was the way it was and they didn’t even try to figure it out. So that’s why science didn’t make, there wasn’t a whole lot of breakthroughs until around this time. So, he wanted to figure out why this was happening and he got really obsessed with pendulums as we talked about levers, balls, and other objects like that. And so he wanted to describe how they moved using mathematic equations, which I’m speaking Ronni’s language. Now that’s not my language, but you know what I actually think it compares to, so, I’m a musician, I think about notes. Notes are like a formula for how the music is, right? And so when we talk about how he’s using math to explain something scientific, same thing. The math, the equations and the numbers are like the notes for music. So, think of it that way. If you are like mean and you don’t love science, you have to realize it’s kind of the same in that way.
Ronni: Music is math. A lot of people don’t realize.
Brittany: That music is math. There’s a lot of half notes and quarter notes and eight notes, and it’s a whole thing. It’s a whole thing. So, he invented an advanced measuring device called the hydrostatic balance, and it is your homework to go figure out exactly how that worked and what it did. So, he made these huge contributions again to the scientific method because that just wasn’t done back then. We’ve talked a lot about science being ever-changing and you don’t know if something is true until you test your theories. And even then you don’t really know this was much needed. One of the traditional beliefs is if you drop two items, this is back then of different weights, but they were the same shape and size, but different weights, the heavier item would land first. That was what it was thought. So Galileo tested this idea by going to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa, and he dropped two balls of the same size, but different weights, and they landed at the same time.
Ronni: Wait, so, we were talking about science fair experiments and I said that my dad loved them in kindergarten. I remember this vividly, my dad who came up with the idea and basically did the whole thing with me. My science fair experiment was this. We had two tubes that were clear tubes and we had a whole bunch of different objects, we dropped them from the top of the tubes and then we had a bell at the bottom and we would see if the bells would ding at the same time.
Brittany: Oh, that’s fun.
Ronni: That was my kindergarten science fair project. It was recreating this experiment.
Brittany: That’s adorable. I love that. How fun to have an inventor dad. You’re like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Yeah. Actually, when Beauty and the Beast came out, I did feel a little bit like, Hey, I have an adventure, Dad.
Brittany: She was reading books and her dad was there.
Ronni: And I read books, yes.
Brittany: So, in 1592, which isn’t that around the time 1490, the time Columbus. Okay, so it was a hundred years before. Yeah. So, Galileo moved to a different university where he was permitted to experiment with his new ideas and permitted meaning he had to get permission to do that. Isn’t that crazy? So, he’s brilliant and his contributions are incredible, but not everybody thought that way because Galileo was questioning things that had been well established. And one of those things was that the earth or the sun, sorry, was at the center of the universe that the earth revolved. Wait, am I saying that right? Yeah. Earth revolved around the sun. Yes, that’s right. One, right?
Ronni: He thought to think it was the other way around that the sun went around us.
Brittany: Yes, they thought the other way around and they thought the earth was at the center of the universe. And to say anything different, well he already knew was going to cause problems because Copernicus, who was a little bit before Galileo’s time, he proposed that the sun was the center of the universe and people disagreed with them so much. The Catholic church and back then, keep in mind, especially in Italy, the Catholic church was kind of one and the same with the government. So, when we talk about the Catholic church in this context and in this place in time, you have to remember that they made a lot of the laws, or at least they pressured law laws. So, if the Catholic church spoke out against you, you were in some trouble. So, up until that point again, everybody thought the earth was the center. But then Galileo comes along a little bit later, not too much after Copernicus, but a little bit later, and he begins to think, you know what? Maybe he had some points. He has been speaking the truth. So, Galileo took these theories zone, really wanted to test them. He heard of this invention called the telescope that could make far-away items seem much closer. And he decided to build his own. But he took it and he made so many great improvements. This could be an intellectual property argument running because it didn’t have a patent on it. And he took it and made new improvements and people and he began to use it to view the planet. And soon his version was the one that started being used all through Europe. So, that’s a fun trivia fact for you. He helped with the telescope, so made a lot of discoveries with this, including finding the four large moons around Jupiter phases of the planet, Venus, and a bunch of other stuff like that. So, his work continued, but he still could not give up this idea that Copernicus may have been right about the earth not being the center of the universe and the earth revolving around the sun. So, he dedicates a lot of his life to proving this point. And he writes books on his theories and the Catholic church comes up again, meaning not just to Copernicus, but to Galileo, and they really don’t like what he’s doing and they call him a heretic. A heretic is somebody who engages in heresy and heresy is when you promote any idea or belief that is against a church. So, in this case, the Catholic church, like what they believe, and this could get you into a lot of trouble. And it did because even though Galileo was this brilliant man who we now look back at as like, oh, he did so much for the telescope and this and that, he ended up getting sentenced to life in prison. But they changed that luckily. But he was on house arrest for the rest of his life where he lived and he eventually died there and he was still writing and doing all that stuff from his house, but he was literally confined. He could not leave his house. And I wanted in the last couple minutes, to throw this to Ronni and why do you think the government would be so scared of putting someone so scared that they would put somebody in jail for believing something different from what they believe?
Ronni: Well, it’s funny, as you’re telling the story, I immediately am just thinking, oh, the government is like the Catholic church was back then. We have a certain set of, and now it just used to be more religious based and now, but if you don’t follow the governmental beliefs, can’t have that. And of course, we think of COVID and COVID scientists that definitely come to mind first.
Brittany: Especially in California where they meet a lot. Oh yeah, I can. It’s crazy, right? That basically said doctors can’t question the approved and you don’t see my scare quotes right now, the approved covid narrative basically, which is decided on by a board of people who aren’t actually doctors. And if you speak out against that or if you say anything contrary to that, if you even question vaccines or any of the science, and I say that in scare quotes too, you can lose your license and you lose your job. So, very scary stuff. That’s crazy.
Ronni: I know if I think if I was still in California, I would be freaking out so much more about that. But yeah, I dunno.
Brittany: No, it’s crazy stuff because yes, they’re not putting them in jail, but they’re taking their livelihood away from them. So, it feels kind of the same to me and it’s just crazy. And I think Galileo is a good way to remember that. There’s a great quote that will end on, and I’m going to butcher this, but something along the lines of today’s heretics are tomorrow’s heroes. So, somebody that might be saying something crazy today that you’re thinking, oh, that’s just, oh, that’s not science, might turn out well later was like, oh, actually, that saved a lot of life. So, you never know. So, that’s why you should question everything and consider all ideas. So, we will leave it at that. Thank you everybody for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe to the podcast. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Ronni: All right, see you soon.