Looking Up, Part 1 & 2 (Listen)

Four hundred years ago, a novel optical device from Holland made its way to Italy and into the hands of a free-thinking mathematician named Galileo Galilei. He soon aimed the instrument skyward - and our universe changed forever. Since that time, astronomers have been building bigger and better telescopes - and their discoveries continue to challenge us. Science journalist Dan Falk tells the remarkable story of Galileo and the revolution he began.

looking-up-galileo.jpgHe was one of the giants in the history of science. Some would say he was the father of modern science itself. At the very least, Galileo was a pioneer, a man who transformed the way we look at the world around us. Beginning with the way we look at the night sky.

It was late spring in 1609 when Galileo heard about a new kind of optical device, one that could make distant objects seem near.

Before long, he was making even better instruments on his own. By the fall of that year, he was aiming his telescope at the heavens. And what he saw on those crisp autumn evenings - exactly 400 years ago - changed everything.

He found that so much of what we thought we knew about those objects, what ancient writers had said about them, was wrong.

Some people even said that his discoveries contradicted the Bible.

Suddenly, Galileo found himself caught up in a titanic battle, a confrontation between "reason" and "faith". A bitter fight over the nature of "truth" - and who had access to it. To this day, the so-called "Galileo affair" stands as one of the landmarks of Western history, a tragic episode that comes just as the modern world was beginning to take shape.

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Listen to Part One

Listen to Part Two


A short video of the "falling bodies" experiment can be viewed on on YouTube.



Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, by Dava Sobel (Penguin, 1999).

The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus, by Owen Gingerich (Penguin, 2004).

The Telescope: A Short History, by Richard Dunn (National Maritime Museum, 2009).

Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist, by Brother Guy Consolmagno (McGraw-Hill, 2000).

Facing Up: Science and its Cultural Adversaries, by Steven Weinberg (Harvard University Press, 2001).

For more information on the International Year of Astronomy, visit the IYA's official website.

For more information about Dan Falk visit his website.

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