“Science & Pseudoscience of Moons, Myths, Marvels”
Geraint Day writes:The flyleaf of one of the late Sir Patrick Moore’s books states about astronomy that it is–
“the oldest of all the sciences. Originally, mysticism and superstition played a great part and it was only gradually that old ideas were abandoned, although … some of them linger on even today”. (1)It was one of the works that inspired me to go on to study and research in astronomy and planetary science.Taking just a few topics – after all, astronomy concerns itself with the entire Universe – I shall take an occasionally up to date look at some aspects of astronomy that have depended on belief, disbelief, speculation and verification over the centuries.Some apparently nonsensical ideas have occasionally turned out to be part of the accepted science. Some generally accepted notions have turned out to be nonsense. And some nonsensical ideas have lingered on “even today”.‘”There are more things in heaven and earth …‘Than are dreamt of in your philosophy …”’The above two lines by William Shakespeare have often been used to criticise science and scientists but are probably indicative of a somewhat humble search for understanding of the Universe by scientists. Rather than an attitude seemingly held by some who appear to think that ‘they “know” – by revelation, intuition or other non-rational fashion …’ (2).I think that there still emerges a Universe that is in reality pretty marvellous without the need of embellishment.
(1) Patrick Moore, F.R.A.S., ‘Suns, Myths and Men’, second edition, Frederick Muller, London, 1968 [first published 1954].
(2) Commentary by Isaac Asimov, ‘Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare Volume 2 The English Plays’, Two Volumes in One, Avenel Books, New York, page 105, 1978 (originally published by Doubleday, New York, 1970),
(3) citing William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’, Act I, scene v, lines 166-167, written in England sometime perhaps between 1599 and 1601.