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← A universe without purpose

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by Cartomancer

I really don't want it to seem like all I do on weekends is follow Lawrence Krauss around the internet picking him up on throwaway comments he makes about ancient and medieval history (okay, everything else I do is actually even more inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but never mind). Sadly it looks like I have to do it again.

And so we continue to be surprised. We are like the early mapmakers redrawing the picture of the globe even as new continents were discovered. And just as those mapmakers confronted the realization that the Earth was not flat,

An absolute schoolboy howler I'm afraid. Unless the mapmakers in question are the ones working before about 600BC and the continents in question are Europe, Asia and Africa. The sphericality of the earth was well established by at least the time of Pythagoras, the distance to the sun and moon calculated by Aristarchus of Samos and the earth's circumference calculated by Eratosthenes. No serious scholar since early antiquity ever thought the earth to be anything else but spherical. Indeed, by the time the Americas were being discovered in the fifteenth century Europeans had been using complex portolan charts for centuries, some of which compensated for the curvature of the earth to navigate the seas. The idea that the discovery of the Americas was in any way connected with demonstrating the earth to be a sphere derives ultimately from Washington Irving's 1828 fictionalised biography of Columbus.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 22:35:17 UTC | #931749