“when our eyes tell us something different”

Mick’s been pestering asking me, and others, for a post on a recommended book for Christmas. But since I’m still an independently minded blogger, and I’ve already made one recommendation recently, I thought I’d do something else. So, instead of a book I’ve read, here’s a book I’ve just put on top of my to-be-read list – Seeing and Believing: The Story of the Telescope, or How We Found Our Place in the Universe by Richard Panek. Why? Well my fascination with telescopic matters is infamous on Slugger, and Robert Hooke’s historical enthusiasm plays its part, and I did nominate the telescope as the greatest human innovation. But there’s something else. As Tim Radford’s Guardian review points out, the invention and use of the telescope allowed the gathering of evidence which overturned the prevailing medieval cosmology of the time.

Why should we believe long-dead authorities such as Aristotle and Ptolemy when our eyes tell us something different? Why rely on ancient authors when we can open the book of nature and read a different and better story?

Likewise, there are plenty of living would-be authorities here who like to tell us how things are. But when we look for ourselves, through the [new] instrument for rational thinking, our eyes often tell us something different.