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By A. Wolf, F. Dannemann, A. Armitage, Douglas McKie

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Extra resources for A History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the 16th and 17th Centuries

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It is noteworthy that he assumed that light travels with a finite velocity, and that he actually carried out some experiments with Iight-signals in order to determine this. But he was not successful. Under the influence o f Gilbert’s work on magnetism Galilei attempted to apply magnetic concepts to the explanation of astronomical phenomena. These attempts occupy a certain amount of space in his Dialogue. Thus, for example, he attributed to magnetic influences such phenomena as the Earth’s rotation round its axis, the constancy in the direction o f the Earth’s axis, and the fact that the Moon always has the same side turned towards the Earth.

The resistance o f the air, the convergence o f gravitational motion towards the centre of the Earth, and other circumstances had to be ignored by him, because mathematical analysis was not yet sufficiently developed for the simultaneous treatment of so many variables. A more refined study o f ballistic problems was made by Johann Bernoulli and other mathematicians o f the eighteenth century, but the complete theory of this branch of mechanics has yet to be established. THE PRINCIPLE OF VIRTU AL VELOCITIES Galilei not only laid the foundations of dynamics, as distinguished from statics, he also taught that peculiar combination o f static and dynamic principles known as the Principle o f Virtual Velocities or Displace­ ments.

The bulb with its residual contents was weighed again, and so the weight o f the escaped air was determined in relation to that o f an equal volume o f water. Galilei’s estimate was that water is four hundred times as heavy as air. Actually it is 773 times as heavy, but, o f course, allowance must be made for the inadequacy o f the scales he used to respond correctly to the difference produced by the escape o f a compara­ tively small volume of air. In view of his determination of the weight of air, it seems remark­ able that Galilei should have failed to clear up the mystery of the water-pump and kindred phenomena.

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A History of Science, Technology, and Philosophy in the 16th and 17th Centuries by A. Wolf, F. Dannemann, A. Armitage, Douglas McKie


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