SUNY New Paltz's School of Science and Engineering is hosting a talk that may be of interest to MHAA members. The talk will be in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium (same location as our Tuesday meetings).
If Copernicus & Kepler had Computers: An Introduction to Model-Building and Computational Science
Professor Charles Van Loan - Cornell University, Department of Computer Science
If you watch Mars against the backdrop of the fixed stars, then night after night you'll see the rather steady progress across the Zodiac. But every so often, the planet appears to "back-up" before continuing on its forward trek. This periodic, retrograde motion wreaks havok with a model of the solar system that places each planet on a steadily rotating circle with Earth at the center.
Ptolemy did a pretty good job patching up the model by placing each planet on a small rotating circle whose center is on the rim of a larger rotating circle. The path traced out is called an epicycle and it offers some explanation for Mars' orbital wanderings. The epicycle model lasted for centuries until Copernicus set the record straight by suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun along with the other planets.
Would he have been so bold a scientist if he had access to 2010 computers? Or would he have just mouse-clicked his way into fame, developing a simulation package that supported further tinkering with the Ptolemaic model?
Note: This talk is a SUNY New Paltz talk, not an MHAA talk. It is earlier than most MHAA talks and I strongly recommend attendees purchase a $2 parking permit (available from the machine in the lot across Route 32) before parking. The MHAA is not responsible for parking tickets received by attendees.