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The Philosophers of ancient Ionia Chapter 4: Aristarchus of Samos and the Heliocentric Model of the Solar System or how Aristarchus met Kopernicus!

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How difficult is to understand today, that a simple thing as the fact that the earth is moving round the sun and not the opposite, 2.000 years ago was an heretic point of view of our universe? Despina and Mateusz knew much about later scientists that proved this simple thing but they didn’t knew that ancient people, without telescopes or other astronomical instruments, had such a knowledge of the universe… But did ancient people knew that the Sun is in the centre of our Solar System? Who was Aristarchus? Did he prove it? Dear children, Aristarchus did much more than just say that the Earth is rotating round the Sun! He is the first person on record to maintain the following axioms: The rotation of the stars is due to the Earth rotating on its axis! The earth follows a circular orbit around the Sun. The Sun is fixed at the centre of the universe, and the stars are fixed in the heavens.The stars are a vast distance away, otherwise stellar parallax would be easily observed. The Sun is one of the fixed stars and last but not least, the moon rotates around the Earth!

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How difficult is to understand today, that a simple thing as the fact that the earth is moving round the sun and not the opposite, 2.000 years ago was an heretic point of view of our universe? Despina and Mateusz knew much about later scientists that proved this simple thing but they didn’t knew that ancient people, without telescopes or other astronomical instruments, had such a knowledge of the universe… He thought all of these things? He must be great then! But is he here, like the other ancient scientists we saw? Aristarchus was born on 310 BC in the island of Samos. He died on 230 BC. He was not only an astronomer but a mathematician as well. He comes from time to time from Samos, to visit us… We can search for him. If he is here, he is probably with Euclid and Archimedes, his friends. Archimedes was his main successor and most of the information today’s people know about Aristarchus, comes from him and from Plutarch.EuclidArchimedesPlutarch But if you want to find Aristarchus, we have to hurry… It’s getting late, the sun is setting….

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Euclid (330 BC – 275 BC), Greek mathematician. Euclid was a Greek mathematician, who lived in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, almost certainly during the reign of Ptolemy I (323 BC–283 BC), is often considered to be the "father of geometry". His most popular work, Elements, is one of the most successful textbooks in the history of mathematics. Within it, the properties of geometrical objects are deduced from a small set of axioms, thereby founding the axiomatic method of mathematics. Although best-known for its geometric results, the Elements also includes various results in number theory, such as the connection between perfect numbers and Mersenne primes, the proof of the infinitude of prime numbers, Euclid's lemma on factorization (which lead to the fundamental theorem of arithmetic, on uniqueness of prime factorizations), and the Euclidean algorithm for finding the greatest common divisor of two numbers. Euclid also wrote works on perspective, conic sections, spherical geometry, and possibly quadric surfaces. Neither the year nor place of his birth have been established, nor the circumstances of his death. Back…

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Archimedes (287 BC – 212 BC) was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher. Many consider Archimedes one of the greatest, if not the greatest, mathematicians in antiquity. Apart from his fundamental theoretical contributions to maths, he also shaped the fields of physics and practical engineering, and has been called "The greatest scientist ever". He was born circa 287 BC in the Grecian seaport colony of Syracuse, Magna Graecia. He was a relative of the Hiero monarchy, which was the ruling family of Syracuse. He is credited with many inventions and discoveries, some of which are still in use today, like his Archimedes screw. He designed the compound pulley, a system of pulleys used to lift heavy loads such as ships. Although Archimedes did not invent the lever, he gave the first rigorous explanation of the principles involved. His Law of the Lever states: Magnitudes are in equilibrium at distances reciprocally proportional to their weights. His work on levers caused him to remark famously: "Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth." He designed several war machines for King Hiero II and produced work in geometry, which included finding the surface areas and volumes of solids accurately. He also laid down the laws of flotation and described Archimedes's principle, which states that a body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyant force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. Back…

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Plutarch (46 - 127) was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. Plutarch was born to a prominent family in Chaeronea. His oeuvre consists of the Parallel Lives and the Moralia. He travelled widely in the Mediterranean world, including twice to Rome. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the Academy of Athens under Ammonius from 66 to 67. He was married and had children. In addition to his duties as a priest of the Delphic temple, Plutarch was also a magistrate in Chaeronea and he represented his home on various missions to foreign countries during his early adult years. His best-known work is the Parallel Lives, a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged as dyads to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. The surviving Lives contain twenty-three pairs of biographies, each pair containing one Greek Life and one Roman Life, as well as four unpaired single Lives. The remainder of Plutarch's surviving work is collected under the title of the Moralia. It is an eclectic collection of seventy- eight essays and transcribed speeches. Back…

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So, Despina, Mateus and Homer start asking for Aristarchus… None had seen him… And the sun was close to set… Despina and Mateus didn’t know that they had to live just after sunset… It was the law of the city of Ancients… If they didn’t leave by that time they had to stay there for ever… Oh… what are we going to do? Can we stay for the night? We’d like to see Aristarchus so much! There are so many things he can tell us! We could even inform he about all the next generations made… That we conquered space! That we stepped on the Moon! Dear children… you have only a few minutes… you can't stay here. But have faith. We’ll try one more place that Aristarchus may be…

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And this time Homer was right…. They found Aristarchus on a hill, watching the sunset! The children were so happy that they couldn’t even speak… But the old scientist knew that they were there and he spoke first! Look at the sun setting… I spent my life to proof that it is just a fixed star and this Earth that we live on it, revolves about the sun…

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And this time Homer was right…. They found Aristarchus on a hill, watching the sunset! The children were so happy that they couldn’t even speak… But the old scientist knew that they were there and he spoke first! ‘Universe' is the name given by most astronomers in my times, to the sphere the centre of which is the centre of the earth, while its radius is equal to the straight line between the centre of the sun and the centre of the earth. But I think that the universe is many times greater than the 'universe' just mentioned. My hypotheses are that the fixed stars and the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves about the sun on the circumference of a circle, the sun lying in the middle of the orbit, and that the sphere of fixed stars, situated about the same centre as the sun, is so great that the circle in which he supposes the earth to revolve bears such a proportion to the distance of the fixed stars as the centre of the sphere bears to its surface.

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I also determined that the Sun is about 20 times as distant from the Earth as the Moon, and 20 times the Moon's size. “it is supposed that the stars and the sun stay unmoved and that the earth is turning on a circle round the sun, which is in the middle of this circle”

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Oh… yes! Well, many-many years passed before that happened, but now everybody knows it! You know, a very important scientist of my country, Poland, Copernicus, gave his own fight to pursued people of the heliocentric theory! Despina and Mateus had so many things to ask and even more things to tell to Aristarchus…. But the sun was setting…. Aristarchus smiled to the children. He had also some questions to ask… Do you know if people in the future believed my theories? Was there anyone to make them understand that our small Earth is not the centre of the Universe?

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Bye Aristarchus! This was the most interesting afternoon we ever had in our lives! We met so many fabulous people! Poets, mathematicians and all kinds of scientists! We have so many things to tell everyone when we go back! We thank you all! Despina and Mateus had so many things to ask and even more things to tell to Aristarchus…. But the sun was setting…. Aristarchus smiled to the children. He had also some questions to ask… These are really good news that you brink me children. Now I can rest… But you… You must hurry! The sun almost set… Homer will show you the way back….

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Despina and Mateus came back to the City… They were modern children now. They had to say good bye to all their new friends… Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes, Eratosthenes, Hypatia, Anaxagoras, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Aristarchus… Good bye Homer! Thank for everything! But can you tell us one more thing??? Where you were born??? Haha… Well, I was born….. Bang!!!!

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Mateus! We are back! What happened? Was it a dream? I saw Homer, the ancient poet my uncle told us about! I remember Aristarchus! And many others! That was really a trip to the City of the ancients!

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Ah! Did you heard what Homer said about his birth city? I don’t remember that!!!! But would you like to listen to the story of Copernicus? Well…..

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I will tell you a story about the most renowned citizen of the town of Torun all over the world. You must have heard about him earlier. Of course, this is Nicholas Copernicus- the author of heliocentric theory!…

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