Playing the science long game

You’ve probably heard the phrase, the bigger they are the harder they fall. It’s true. Isaac Newton discovered that force equals mass times acceleration or F=ma. But you’ve never heard the bigger they are the faster they fall. There’s a reason for this. Acceleration due to gravity (falling to Earth) is a constant which doesn’t depend on mass. Yes, somethings encounter air resistance but masses of the same shape and air resistance hit the ground at the same time when dropped from the same height. Recently, I visited the birthplace of the scientist who convinced people of this truth, Galileo Galilei.

Galileo was born in Pisa. The airport there is named after him along with a highway to get there. He’s much more famous for perfecting the telescope and convincing people that the Earth travels around the Sun, but the Leaning Tower is where he did his weight dropping experiment. And it’s a delight to behold. I visited there along with several family members, including kids.

The adorable city of Pisa, Italy

Galileo has been called the Father of Modern Science. He questioned the idea that the sky is heaven and a perfect sphere made of crystals from which God sits and looks down on us. His telescope showed imperfect things in the sky such as sun spots and mountains on the moon. He even showed that Jupiter had moons–breaking the crystal spheres and that Venus had phases as if it was going around a light. In fact, the planets going around the sun explained Mercury in retrograde better than the planets traveling around the Earth on the crystal spheres. He noted that the Milky Way was stars. Wasn’t the sun a star as well? Of course, this was heresy. God was in the sky–not the Earth! God looked at all of us from his heavenly perch. Galileo dared to write it all out in a what I would call a satire in Italian for the public to read. He was put under house arrest for it and made quite famous.

There is quite a lot to see in Pisa, but we focused on viewing the tower area and I set my sights on a Galileo souvenir.

The tower is quite easy to spot.

It has all sorts of wonderful details. You can go to the top but I put it on my list of things I didn’t climb.

But upon my visit, I had some trouble finding Galileo souvenirs, even close to the famous tower where he dropped his weights and observed them fall at uniform speed, despite being different masses. One shop owner showed me soccer jerseys and Einstein and DaVinci T-shirts. Others had nothing at all related to the Father of Science.

You could however, get seafood pizza and pasta made with boar meat. My dining companion dislikes seafood, but it didn’t stop me.

At last, I found a plastic bust of Galileo in a specialty shop. The shop was right on the street where he was born.

Here I am with my find!
Here is Galileo with the picturesque Tuscany countryside in the background.
I also went to Florence (which Italians call Firenza) and saw his grave.
I lit a candle for him. I made a donation but I’m not sure how much it was because my money skills were not good.

There is quite a lot more of Galileo to see in Italy (click here) including his middle finger (in Florence aka Firenze) and his lantern in Pisa. We didn’t do it all but if you are a die-hard Galileo fan, I recommend a trip to his beautiful native land.

Most people know that Galileo was tried and accused of heresy in 1633 at the age of 69. He was kept under house arrest for saying the Earth moves around the Sun. He was pardoned in 1992. And he wasn’t burned at the state because he recanted his beliefs. (In 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for postulating that there were many suns and planets. )You could say Galileo played the long game.

We still see plenty of science denial with regards to covid and climate change. The rich and powerful want inventions, not science’s truths. The thing is, the truth usually comes out, if you have time to wait for it. For now, light a candle for the truth. It needs it.