It's funny how people use the example of Copernicus and the heliocentric model as the archetype for scientific progress. The fact of the matter is that, at least initially, Ptolemy's geocentric model actually still made more accurate predictions.
May 11, 2012
John (bird whisperer)
This is probably because Ptolemy incorporated empirical findings into his model (eventually causing it to evolve into something exceedingly and impossibly complex) whereas Copernicus made the (now known to be very inaccurate) assumption that planetary orbits are perfectly circular. -
It was Galileo (often touted as the epitome of reason triumphing over unreason), then later Lorentz, then finally Einstein who realized that there is no privileged reference frame, which is why our current theory of gravity is known as Relativity. Because of the principle of relativity, it's actually perfectly valid to consider the Earth at rest while the rest of the universe moves around it (although the calculations are much easier to perform if you pretend that the sun is stationary while the planets orbit in ellipses, and you ignore the effects of everything outside of the solar system.) -
This is why the reductionist statement that Copernicus was right and Ptolemy was wrong always irks me. That's almost never how science really progresses. -
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