Tech Thursday: Nobelist Harold Kroto on 60 Second Science

In a recent episode of Scientific American's "60 Second Science" podcast, Nobel laureate Harold Kroto is quoted on the importance of each individual finding the evidence to support the facts they believe, rather than believe what they're told.

This seems self-evident, but think of his example - do you know the actual evidence behind the Copernican claim that the Earth orbits the sun? How to prove it given the astronomical facts? I sure don't. A very simple, thought-provoking mental exercise.


  1. It comes down to very careful astronomical observations and understanding complex geometry. There was one good illustration in the movie Cast Away, where he tracks the sunrise in a cave and you can see the elliptical path it takes over the year. It is this geometry that also allows ancient astronomers to distinguish planets with regular elliptical orbits from stars in different galaxies from comets with irregular orbits.

  2. Have you ever attempted to re-create the Cast Away scenario in an effort to verify what you've been taught about the Copernican view of the solar system?

  3. No, but I have not tried charting the stars either. I have watched time lapse photography of the stars moving through the night, which was not available to Copernicus.

    I think that it's a good mental exercise, but with science you can't try to go too far back before you accept something you have been taught. That is what allows science to advance exponentially. Children learn in elementary school what it took Copernicus decades to figure out. Now let's build on it.