You Learn Something New Every Day

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JD
Posts: 12198
Joined: 05 May 2010, 15:26

Re: You Learn Something New Every Day

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Sometimes I get angry about Aristotle, because so much of his thinking about the natural world was unscientific just-so stories, like "the earthly sphere is imperfect, but the heavens are perfect, therefore heavenly bodies must move in perfect geometrical shapes", and it feels like he advanced thinking by a hundred years and then made it stagnate for the next thousand, because everybody said "Well, the great Aristotle said X, so it must be so".

But apparently some of my conceptions about his thinking were the result of bad capsule explanations, too: while Aristotle did think that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones, his explanation was a little more sophisticated than that, being that the speed of a falling object was the result of a constant, the weight of the object, and the density of the fluid it was falling through - and apparently this is actually not such a bad approximation for human-scale stuff falling through air or water.

But just the other day I learned about John Philoponus, a 6th-century thinker who had much more correct ideas about matter, inertia, and the nature of the universe. He was one of the first to hold that the heavens and the earth have the same physical properties, and the stars are not divine, and he viciously took down Aristotle's theories on motion and falling objects:
But this [view of Aristotle] is completely erroneous, and our view may be completely corroborated by actual observation more effectively than by any sort of verbal argument. For if you let fall from the same height two weights, one many times heavier than the other you will see that the ratio of the times required for the motion does not depend [solely] on the weights, but that the difference in time is very small.
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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JD
Posts: 12198
Joined: 05 May 2010, 15:26

Re: You Learn Something New Every Day

Post by JD »

Over a hundred years ago, the Roosevelt administration took a surprisingly enlightened and long-term view, and created a scholarship program for Chinese students to study in the US, pointing out that we would gain respect and leadership, and promote a lasting peaceful relationship with China.
The Boxer Indemnity Scholarship was a scholarship program for Chinese students to be educated in the United States, funded by the Boxer Indemnity. In 1908, the U.S Congress passed a bill[citation needed] to return to China the excess of Boxer Indemnity, amounting to over 17 million dollars. Despite the fierce controversies over returning the excess payment, President Theodore Roosevelt's administration decided to establish the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program to educate young Chinese generation. President Roosevelt recognized this program as a chance for "American-directed reform in China" that could maximize U.S's profit by improving the U.S- China relations, bridging China with American culture, and promoting U.S's international image. Instead of mimicking the European Imperialism and use military means to reap short-term financial gain, Roosevelt established the program to insure peace and trade in China in the "most satisfactory and subtle of all ways", while helping United States gain respect and take its leadership position in the world.
I sort of feel like a sucker about aspiring to be intellectually rigorous when I could just go on twitter and say capitalism causes space herpes and no one will challenge me on it. - Hugh Akston
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