Arts & Sciences

Arts & Sciences:

The interaction between the arts and the sciences is sometimes noteworthy:

It was Galileo who conclusively swept away the idea that the sun revolved around the Earth, who dismantled the looming edifice of Aristotelian physics. Unlike others of the age, the Italian steadfastly refused to hammer the square pegs of discovery into the round holes of conventional wisdom. Through an unremitting dedication to observation and experiment, it was he who ushered in the age of modern science.

Given his devotion to empirical fact, it seems odd to think that Galileo’s most important ideas might have their roots not in the real world, but in a fictional one. But... one of Galileo’s crucial contributions to physics came from measuring the hell of Dante’s Inferno. Or rather, from disproving its measurements.
The description of the debates about the Inferno among Italian thinkers of the 14th century is highly amusing, but one wonders if they have any equals today. Though I have never been involved with one, I know that there are people making all sorts of virtual-world video games: do any of them have anything like the knowledge to ensure that they don't come up with impossible features? Do they care, as Galileo manifestly did care, that the rules of physics hold?

I agree with the final claim of the article, which is that such play may be highly valuable in just the way that Galileo's play bears a resemblance to the wilder play of quantum physics. "The world’s first true scientist, the professor tells us, understood that it takes a man of reason to provide the proof, but only a fantasist can truly reimagine the universe."

That's one thing we are being called to do now. We'll be well served by the man who can do it.

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