New Article: Planet Problems

In today’s new article, Jim discusses the developments around planet science, and how their history shows an ever-changing field as our knowledge and understanding grow.


Thank you Hillary,
I would ask you to consider the work of Erwin Schrödinger in his book “Nature and the Greeks.”

To put it dramatically, once can imagine a scholar of the young School of Athens paying a holiday visit to (with due caution to keep it secret from his Master), and on being received by the wise, far-travelled and world-famous old gentleman Democritus, asking him questions on the atoms, the shape of the earth, on moral conduct, God and the immortality of the soul – without being repudiated on any of these points. Can you easily imagine such a motley conversation between a teacher and his student in our days? Erwin Schrodinger

He had discovered the root of the problem in science lay much further back in history with the original founders of science. He suggests in his book that science still needs to achieve the holistic worldview that was held by the likes of Euclid, Pythagoras, and Democritus.A worldview that the re-founders of science did not share. We still have a long way to go before these motley conversations are accepted once again.

What does this have to do with planetary formation models? What I mean is what do you think needs to be added to these conversations that will help our understanding? Such conversations do take place but not in scientific literature.

Dear Matthew,
You do not consider the writings of physicist and Nobelauriate Erwin Schrödinger “scientific literature”? He discovered that the ancient greeks knew about the correct planetary motion in the solar system that Copernicus rediscovered. He suggests fellow scientists should follow the same path of rediscovery that he took. As your comment suggests, few have done this to date. I just take the opportunity to remind scientists that science was not born in the 1500’s. But few have learned the lesson that Schrödinger was trying to teach.
Best Wishes, Shawn

No, lectures by Schrödinger are not part of the scientific literature. HIs scientific papers are. There’s a pretty clear distinction between the two in the minds of scientists.


There have been a lot of popular writings by scientists like Einstein, Dawkins, Hawkings, and many more and they are certainly not science. They serve a large variety of roles from social commentary, philosophy, dabblings in metaphysics and theology, or science speculation and education. But none of this is scientific literature and indeed scientists are not confused about this distinction at all.

You don’t need to read a scientific paper to know that the founders of modern science were the ancient Greeks, who knew the structure of the solar system correctly long before Copernicus. In addition, modern scientists do not form their worldview from published papers alone.That is my only point.

Incorrect. Aristarchus made this hypothesis and it was rejected because of discrepancies with his predictions. The problem was the dogmatic assumption of circular orbits when the reality was that the orbits were elliptical. We are reminded of the hypothesis of Democritus about atoms. In the end, ideas and hypotheses are not knowledge. Without the scientific evidence to support them they might as well be science fiction and fantasy. This is the difference between modern science and the natural philosophy of the Greeks.