Sunday, July 04, 2004

Mass Appeal

I'm way behind on my scientific journal magazine reading. So I really missed the boat -- or rock -- on this one:

Asteroid Scare Prompts NASA to Formalize Response

But it made me think about when I was in college, taking a course on Astrophysics. Apparently, the instructor was also an amateur theologian of sorts. One day, he claimed that the laws of physics do not dispute the Biblical assertion that the Sun rotates around the Earth. He then proceeded to draw me a simplified diagram of the path of travel of both bodies, clearly showing that a Sun-around-Earth argument would certainly be as valid as the accepted Earth-around-Sun scenario.

To both, I say "poppycock and balderdash"!

The Earth and the Sun are entwined in a gravitational dance that keeps them weaving to and fro in a fairly consistent pattern (and lucky for us!). But because the Earth is so much smaller than the Sun, it gives the impression that one or the other is the dominant body. Sure, the Sun is bigger, but the Earth is faster!

I'd like to think that I don't have to propose an argument against the Sun rotating around the Earth. That's just silly! But for those of you Earth-bound observers who still subscribe to the Copernical view...

Picture a large man walking a tiny poodle in a wide circle. A leash tethers the poodle to the man's right side and they're walking to the left. (This would be highly irregular in some countries of the world. Don't ask me why.) The poodle scampers as quickly as his little legs can carry him while the man walks at a comfortable gait. They're clearly walking side by side, but to the casual observer, the poodle is traveling around the man.

Now picture the same scenario, only this time, they're walking around the perimeter of, say, Chicago. Is the dog still traveling around the man? For those of you who say "well, technically...", I respond "oh, give it up!"

And you can quote me on that.


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