17th century priest did not discover the Coriolis effect while trying to disprove Copernicus

by Joe Archive on January 17, 2011

io9 has a very misleadingly titled post about an anti-Copernican text by 17th century priest Giovanni Riccioli. The article, written by Alasdair Wilkins, states that:

Riccioli maintained that, if Earth really was rotating, then the ground is moving at different speeds depending on what the line of latitude is. He wrote that a cannon placed near the equator and fired due north or due south should show a slight deflection east or west in the curve of the cannonball. This, he said, would be caused by the Earth turning beneath the fired cannonball. But, since cannonballs don’t move like that, he concluded, the Earth must not move.

Despite what some are saying, Riccioli was not doing good science. Saying here is what would happen, and isn’t it a silly idea but not testing it is the epitome of bad science. If we went with that sort of thinking, relativity would have been disproved before Einstein had the manuscript in the mailbox. Similarly with Quantum Theory.

Almost all important science comes from realizing that something strange might happen/be happening and then testing it* and working out why. Coriolis did good science. Riccioli did Theology, which is the exact opposite.

*It is true that Riccioli may have had trouble detecting the effect even if he had done the experiment with 17th century equipment, but that is neither here nor there – there is no record of him having tried the experiment.

Previous post:

Next post: