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Dr. Tom Wilson: Ptolemy, Belief Systems, and Other Dark Matters | EU 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 20:56
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Dr. Tom Wilson discusses the importance of recognizing that which we do not know.

Tom Wilson examined the geocentric Ptolemaic system as a case study for the dynamics of belief systems and certainty, and also analyzed some interesting philosophical parallels between the old and the new, Ptolemy and Gravity, quintessence and dark matter. For well over 1000 years, the Ptolemaic cosmological system held sway as the consensus model in scientific thought. This sophisticated cosmological theory was able to match observations and predict planetary and stellar movements within the limits of the subsequent one thousand years of observation.

By the 1600s, the new heliocentric model begin to erode the long-held certainty about geocentrism. Interestingly, it was largely the advent of the laws of universal gravitation and Newton’s mathematical formalism that dealt the greatest blow to the amazingly successful Ptolemaic system. Even so, surveys performed as recently as the last decade reveal that 15% to 20% of the population retain a certainty that the sun orbits the earth.

Meanwhile our gravitationally dominated view of the cosmos is enjoying its age of certainty. Ironically, models based on a gravity-only perspective has yielded complicated galaxy formation models with thousands of dark matter halos and “subhalos” that bear an eerie resemblance to the celestial and planetary spheres in the Aristotelian system.


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