By Isaac Asimov

Asimov tells the tales in the back of the technology: the lads and girls who made the real discoveries and the way they did it. starting from Galilei, Achimedes, Newton and Einstein, he's taking the main complicated techniques and explains it in the sort of method first-time reader at the topic feels convinced on his/her realizing.

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But still science drove on inexorably. Now there came the question of pulsars, of black holes, of continental drift, men on the moon, REM sleep, gravitational waves, holography, cyclic—AMP, and so forth—all post-1965. So it was time for a new edition, the third. And what did we call it? The New New Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science? Obviously not. The third edition was named, straightforwardly, Asimov’s Guide to Science and was published in 1972. And still science refused to stop. Enough was learned of the solar system, thanks to our probes, to require an entire chapter.

It was not until 1650 that a Belgian astronomer, Godefroy Wendelin, repeated Aristarchus’ observations with improved instruments and decided that the sun was not 20 times the moon’s distance (5 million miles) but 240 times (60 million miles). The estimate was still too small, but it was much more accurate than before. In 1609, meanwhile, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler had opened the way to accurate distance determinations with his discovery that the orbits of the planets were ellipses, not circles.

The shift is about equal to the width of a twenty-five-cent piece as seen at a distance of five feet. This is easy enough to measure even with the naked eye. But when it carne to measuring the parallax of the sun or a planet, the angles involved were too small. The only conclusion that could be reached was that the other bodies were much farther than the moon. How much farther, no one could tell. Trigonometry alone, in spite of its refinement by the Arabs during the Middle Ages and by European mathematicians of the sixteenth century, could not give the answer.

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