This is an excerpt of this book

Galileo is the famous scientist about whom a lot of anecdotes are told, some of which are even true.

Galileo, for instance, actually dropped some weights off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or anyway, off of some tower somewhere, to prove that falling objects of different weights fall at the same rate of speed. We know this because he said so, right in one of his notebooks. Dropped weights "off a tower" he wrote.

I'm afraid we have to give up the story about the swinging chandelier, though. It didn't happen. He did not get the idea of the "isochronism of the pendulum" after watching a swinging chandelier at church one day. He just got it, that's all.

Now what the hell is the "isochronism of the pendulum"? Trust me. It wouldn't interest you.

Which brings me to the strangest anecdotes ever told about a supposedly sane human being. I am referring, of course, to the anecdote told about Galileo's final day before the Inquisition. As Galileo was about to leave the courtroom, where he had just been forced to renounce the view that the earth revolves around the sun, he supposedly saw the chandelier jolt and remarked, "Eppur si muove" (nevertheless, it does move).

True or not true? Not true. But what interests me is why anybody would make up such a story. Who but a fool would take that somber moment to utter such a flip remark? Yet this is the story that is told about Galileo over and over and over again as if it redounds to his credit.

In 1992, incidently, Pope John Paul II anounced that it was a mistake for the church to have put Galileo on trial. It's just my opinion, but I am inclined to believe the rest of us had already figured that out.

QUESTION: Since Galileo renounced his view that the earth revolves around the sun, why is he always described as a martyr to scientific truth? He caved in and recanted.

He didn't even have a hard time of it during the trial. He stayed with his good friend the pope. He even had a servant. His sentence: to spend the rest of his life on his country estate in Florence.

Sure, if he hadn't recanted he could have been tortured or even burned at the stake. But he recanted.

In passing, it is worth noting that it wasn't just the Catholics who felt threatened by Galileo's pronouncements. Martin Luther criticized Galileo as a "madman" who, in his yearn "for a reputation", would subvert the whole science of astronomy. "Scripture tells us", wrote Luther, "that Joshua bade the sun, not the earth, to stand still."

See. The Catholics got a bum rap.

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