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Why Isn't Heliocentrism a Law?

Posted Jan 10, '14 at 10:08pm

Freakenstein

Freakenstein

9,662 posts

Moderator

As with every beginning of every science class in our university (because it wouldn't be a credible branch of education otherwise), we start by reviewing The Scientific Method.

So I'm sitting here in class while he's going over examples of hypotheses and how they can be elevated to scientific theories. Of course he had to reiterate that hypotheses and principles can never be proved true (we wouldn't be caught dead as scientists trying to pass something off as 100% objectively factual).

He listed Germ Theory (the theory that pathogens cause disease), the theory of Plate Tectonics (earthquakes are caused by incrementally-moving folds of earthen plates that shift), Theory of Gravitation, and the Theory of Evolution (he had to highlight that word in red, bold it, and underline it, emphasizing that, yes, the Theory of Evolution has enough evidence to actually be a scientific principle, who woulda thunk it!?).

Then the last one was Heliocentrism. The theory that the earth revolves around the sun.

So here's the definition of a scientific law:

"A statement that describes invariable relationships among phenomena under a specified set of conditions."

An example:

Newton's First Law of Motion:

"An object which is in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an opposing force."

Keep in mind that the amount of evidence for Evolution is mountains-upon-mountains more than the amount of evidence for Heliocentrism, even though all but one guy in the known AG community acknowledges Heliocentrism as a legitimate principle.

What I'm getting at is, how is this not a Law, given our technological advances? There is a given set of conditions for this Law to follow, and when that set is acknowledged, the phenomenon fits. "A satellite caught in a star's gravitational pull will rotate and revolve around it at a time variable to its distance and mass."

So I threw it out there to my professor (because he encourages discussion if it helps the learning process) that if we had the money, we could send a satellite to the solar system and it would record the earth rotating around the sun in real time. His answer is along the lines of "Not good enough! It would be a significant amount of evidence added to its pile of support, but it would not 100% prove that Heliocentrism is fact. It would only demonstrate it as 99.99999999% plausible. There are unknown variables of meta-physics and abstract mathematics that would skew this data to make it appear as if it was factual."

We at the front row had the :| face.

 

Posted Jan 10, '14 at 11:22pm

nichodemus

nichodemus

13,708 posts

Knight

Would it be, because theories are broad models/systems that explain known facts which are repeatedly confirmed via observation and experimentation, whereas scientific laws are concise, empirical generalization about observed regularities? Laws describe scientific principles/events/phenomena that occur (more or less without exception.), and can be summed up in sweetly succinct mathematical equations? Scientific laws are contained within scientific theories, such as how Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion are enshrined in the theory of Heliocentrism.

I'm very colloquial and layman like wrt this topic. :L

 

Posted Jan 11, '14 at 7:52am

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,824 posts

Moderator

Maybe we ought to have a closer look at the details of heliocentrism and the definitions of scientific theories, laws and facts.. and make a little research on all known systems in the universe yet.

I won't do all of the above just now, but to explain why I said all of this, I will just throw this in here: we have found at least one system with planets orbiting around two stars (). Does this fall under heliocentrism, or are planets and stars orbiting around a non-physical system center in this case?
Considering this, I feel like the proposed heliocentrist theory, while being certainly true in our system, might not apply to the same level, or at all, to other systems. It shouldn't be a law, because we might yet discover exceptions; and a law restricted to solely the solar system (our system) seems obsolete.

'Course I could be very wrong or missing something, I'm neither an astronomer nor a science philosopher.

 

Posted Jan 11, '14 at 9:50am

nichodemus

nichodemus

13,708 posts

Knight

Tatooine has two stars. :L

Yeah, there are planets that revolve around more than one star. I think they're called P-type orbits?

 

Posted Jan 13, '14 at 11:58am

pft

pft

531 posts

Strictly speaking, the planets that orbit stars also exert their gravity on that star. In the case of our solar system, All but one planet has what is called a barycenter inside the sun. That means the sun and planets orbit a point inside the sun. However there is one planet that doesn't. That we be jupiter, because it's gravity is the strongest of the planets, its barycenter is a point outside the sun. So the sun and Jupiter orbit a single point in space. I am not saying though that the sun orbits the planets. The sun directly orbits the galaxy centre. There is also some planets that don't orbit stars.

Think of two gravity forces as pulling each other. Ofcourse though the sun highly dominates the pull. This isn't taking into account for expansion of space which is happening everywhere and dark matter. Dark matter is thought to have some gravity influence but this is not yet detected.

Also the orbit of planets aren't going to remain as they are, They will either drift into a further and further orbit or in probable case of mercury might crash into the sun. A reason for that is because the other planets can act on each other aswell. Pulling them out slightly, or pulling them in.

To summarize a law would be something that is applied everywhere, in every situation.

I will just throw this in here: we have found at least one system with planets orbiting around two stars (http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/sdsu_newscen ⦠px?s=73768). Does this fall under heliocentrism, or are planets and stars orbiting around a non-physical system center in this case?


Well in this case the stars orbit each other, their barycenter would be far from both somewhere between them in blank space. Now there could be different ways. I doubt it orbits betwen them and around both like a figure of 8. It might be possible somewhere. So i assume it orbits outside both. Also the mass of the stars play importance of how the planet orbits them. The centre of gravity of the stars might be what the planet is actually orbiting. The orbit of the planet might be effect aswell when there is a more massive star of the 2 and therefore when it is close to the more massive one the orbit could change slightly.
 

Posted Jan 13, '14 at 5:55pm

rafterman

rafterman

621 posts

Because scientific laws are not case specific. Not all planets revolve around a star.

 

Posted Jan 13, '14 at 10:58pm

Sonatavarius

Sonatavarius

1,361 posts

If what you are observing is just an extrapolation of an already existing law to an astronomical scale, then can you really make it another law? â¦or is it just an application of the law(s) in which it is grounded?

that⦠and I'd think that the moment a black hole came into the picture the sun and planets under its influence might just all start revolving around it⦠or the heliocentric system might be messed up in at least some form.

Is heliocentrism capable of being a law or is it just the application of the inverse square law and newtonian physics and such?

 

Posted Jan 14, '14 at 2:26am

Reton8

Reton8

2,988 posts

Moderator

I think this blurb from Wikipedia fits in well:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliocentrism#The_view_of_modern_science

 

Posted Jan 14, '14 at 11:51am

xeano321

xeano321

3,137 posts

Knight

even though all but one guy in the known AG community acknowledges Heliocentrism as a legitimate principle.


Who believes otherwise? That guy needs a quick lesson from Xeano on science.

Sad when I feel I know more about this stuff then someone else.
 

Posted Jan 15, '14 at 6:56am

nichodemus

nichodemus

13,708 posts

Knight

Who believes otherwise? That guy needs a quick lesson from Xeano on science.


I believe you can find him easily in the Theism threads.
 
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