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A Mercurial Orbit Laid To Rest By A Genius

An accessible book tells of Newton’s perfect theory, its sole blemish, the centuries-long search for the planet ‘Vulcan’ and the problem’s final solution by Einstein

A Mercurial Orbit Laid To Rest By A Genius
Photograph by Getty Images
A Mercurial Orbit Laid To Rest By A Genius
outlookindia.com
2017-03-06T13:26:48+05:30

On February 22, 2017, NASA announced the discovery of seven earth-sized planets orbiting a star in our galaxy. The planets also happen to be located in the habitable zone of the star—the region where water in its liquid form can exist. This has generated a lot of excitement amongst scientists and the public at large. Maybe we are closer to finding the first signs of life at another place in the Universe. The hunt for planets (though not exoplanets, as these newly discovered ones are) is not new.

July 5, 1687 saw the publication of a book which is arguably among the most influential of all time. The author was a relatively unknown natural philosopher  and mathematician, Isaac Newton. In this book, Newton formulated a theory of gravity which not only explained the motion of planets but also laid the foundations of what has been called the scientific revolution. It was, as Thomas Levenson puts it, “...the long struggle through which mathematics supplanted Latin as the language of science”.

Newton’s theory of gravitation explained the motion...

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