Cosmos Before Science


This picture is a wood engraving done by an unknown artist. This engraving is known as 'Flammarion Engraving' as the first documented appearance was in Nicholas Camille Flammarion's book in 1888. He was a French astronomer and author has achieved some notable works on the cosmos, science fictional novel, and psychical research and so on. 

The engraving may be inspired by a story of Giordano Bruno. This may or may not be true but in about 16th century, there were no telescopes. The universe was only what we could see. If we were born in those times, probably the atheists now would also believe in god because in those days that was the only explanation. Now we have science. In those time it was obvious that we were the center. Everything revolved around us; the moon, the sun, the stars, the planets. Then a radical idea was presented by a polish astronomer and priest named Copernicus. According to him, the earth was not the center, just another planet revolving around the sun. Many thought this to be against 'god' as this was totally against their belief, against what was taught to them from their birth. This kind of reaction was totally normal because if someone today would propose a new idea that science is totally wrong and its fundamental base is false and that we can only use science as a tool to explore the universe but not to find out the truth then people would go crazy.

But for one man, Copernicus did not go far enough, Giordano Bruno from Naples. He was a natural born rebel. He wanted to go beyond the boundary set by Copernicus. Even as a monk, Bruno was a misfit. In those days, there was no freedom of thought in Italy but he was hungry to find out the mystery of the universe and dared to read the book banned by the church. In one of an ancient roman book, T. LUCRETI CARI DE RERUM NATURA, by Titus Lucretius Carus dead for 1500 years revealed him of a universe far greater and boundless as Bruno's idea of god.

In the book, Lucretius asked the reader to imagine standing at the edge of the universe and shooting an arrow. If the arrow keeps going then is clear that the universe is beyond what you thought was the edge. But if it does not keep going and hits a wall (say), then that wall must lie beyond what you thought was the universe. Now if you stand on that wall and shoot another arrow, there are only two possibilities, it either flies forever into space or hits something again from which you can stand and shoot another arrow. Either way the universe is unbounded. This made perfect sense to Bruno. The god he worshiped was infinite. So he reasoned how creation could be anything less. This was not taken well and the last steady job he had was a priest. Then one night he had a vision which sealed his fate. He woke inside a confining bowl of stars as shown above. This was the universe in Bruno' time. He collected his courage to soar towards the infinite space where there was no up, down, no edge, no center. He saw that the sun was just another star and those stars were other suns escorted by other earths like our own. He expressed that the revelation was like falling in love. 

He then became a preacher spreading the gospel of infinity throughout Europe. He assumed that others will naturally embrace the grand and glorious view of creation but he was wrong and was excommunicated by his homeland and expelled my many churches in Europe. He had a chance to lecture at oxford and took the chance to finally express his ideas and views to a proper audience. But he received nothing but hate. A wise man would have learned his lesson but Bruno was no such man. He could not keep his vision of the cosmos to himself despite the fact that the penalty for doing so was cruel and viscous. Expressing an idea that confronted the churches and traditional belief could land oneself in deep trouble. Even though he knew this, he returned to his homeland was confined in jail for 8 years and forced to change his views but stubbornly refused to do so. Why was the church willing to go to such length to torment Bruno? What were they afraid of? 

If Bruno was right then the sacred books and the authority of the church would be open for discussion. Finally, he was found 'guilty' and was burned to death along with his writings and books. 10 years after Bruno's martyrdom. Galileo first looked through the telescope realizing that Bruno had been right all along. But Bruno was no scientist, it was just a lucky guess as he had no evidence to support it. His idea might have been wrong but it gave others a target even just to disprove it. 
If you are successful in reading all this then congratulations, you are a very good reader. Kudos!


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