Progress Through Error: Stars and Quasars—How Big, How Far?

  • David R. Topper


Cosmic Background Radiation Synodic Period Stellar Parallax Mathematical Elegance Magnitude Star 
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Notes and References

  1. I wrote on some of the topics of this chapter in David R. Topper, “20th Century Quasars and 17th Century Stars,” The Physics Teacher, 13, No. 6 (September, 1975), pp. 339–342.Google Scholar
  2. The quotations from Tycho Brahe are taken from Owen Gingerich and James R. Voelkel, “Tycho Brahe’s Copernican Campaign,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 29 (1998), pp. 1–34 (on pp. 1 and 23–4). See also Bernard R. Goldstein, “Copernicus and the Origin of his Heliocentric System,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 33 (2002), pp. 219–235. Owen Gingerich’s defense of Goldstein is from an email to the History of Astronomy Listserv Group (July 20, 2005).Google Scholar
  3. The Web site of Dennis Duke (Physics, Florida State University), displays animations of Tycho’s and other astronomical systems: Howard Margolis presented his argument in “Tycho’s Illusion and Human Cognition,” Nature 392 (April 30, 1998), p. 857. A debate (involving others and me) over his thesis is found in the electronic journal, Psycholoquy, 1998: H. Margolis, “Tycho’s Illusion: How it Lasted 400 Years and What that Implies About Human Cognition,” Psycholoquy 9 (32); D. Topper, “Margolis’s Delusion: A Critique of ‘Tycho’s Illusion,”’ Psycholoquy 9 (42), and “Struggling with Tycho’s Spheres: A Retraction and a Supplement,” Psycholoquy 9(61).Google Scholar
  4. Galileo, Sidereus Nuncius: or the Sidereal Messenger, Albert Van Helden, trans. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989). Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic and Copernican, Stillman Drake, trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967). Copernicus, On the Revolutions, Edward Rosen, trans. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978). Galileo’s letter on stellar distances is quoted in Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957), p. 97.Google Scholar
  5. Vera C. Rubin, “Stars, Galaxies, Cosmos: The Past Decade, the Next Decade,” Science, 209, No. 4452 (Centennial Issue: July 4, 1980), pp. 63–71. I have used two papers by Fritz Zwicky, “On the Red Shift of Spectral Lines through Interstellar Space,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 15 (1929), pp. 773–779, and “Remarks on the Redshift from Nebulae,” Physical Review 48 (November 15, 1935), pp. 802–806. See also Stephen G. Brush, “How Cosmology Became a Science,” Scientific American, 267, No. 2 (August, 1992), pp. 62–70; “Prediction and Theory Evaluation: Cosmic Microwaves and the Revival of the Big Bang,” Perspectives on Science, 1, No.4 (Winter, 1993), pp. 565–602; and “Is the Earth Too Old? The Impact of Geochronology on Cosmology, 1929–1952,” in C.L.E. Lewis and S.J. Knell, eds., The Age of the Earth: from 4004 BC to AD 2002 (London: Geological Society, 2001), pp. 157–175.Google Scholar
  6. My remarks on skepticism were inspired by two paragraphs written by Colin McGinn (professor of philosophy at Rutgers University) in his review of the book, Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World, by Robert Nozick, in The New York Review of Books (June 27, 2002), pp. 39–41, on p. 39. I have used The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–1882, edited by Nora Barlow (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1969).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Topper
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada R3B2E9

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