Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heavenly Intrigue

I just started reading Heavenly Intrique: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History's Greatest Scientific Discoveries by Gilder and Gilder. The subtitle says it all. I've only read six chapters, and the book has already blown away several of the myths I had heard about them. Apparently Tycho lost his nose in a duel with a relative (not a mathematician), and perhaps he didn't die of a bladder infection because he didn't want to excuse himself from dinner with the king, but, if you haven't guessed it already, he was murdered! (I haven't gotten that far, but it does sound much more intriguing than the bladder problem.) Another interesting thing is that one of the reasons Tycho strove to make more accurate observations was to improve the "science" of astrology, as opposed to proving it wrong which might seem more in line with his scientific methods. He thought horoscopes were usually wrong because the astronomical data of the time gave poor predictions to the positions of the stars, planets, etc.

Other than being a murderer, I learned that Kepler wrote a journal in which he referred to himself in the third person and record the names of only his "most lasting enemies" -- twenty three of them. I also found it interesting that "to assist his astronomical investigations he would often formulate "new" mathematical theorems that he would later fine out, somewhat to his annoyance, had already been discovered, htough they were not taught in the school's curriculum."

Hopefully reading this book will also inspire me to start posting here more often.