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earth from space

Earth From Space

In 350 BC, Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that nature abhors a vacuum, a principle that became known as the horror vacui. Based on this idea that a vacuum could not exist, it was widely held for many centuries that space could not be empty. As late as the seventeenth century, the French philosopher René Descartes argued that the entirety of space must be filled. It became known to Galileo Galilei that air had weight and so was subject to gravity. He also demonstrated that there was an established force that resisted the formation of a vacuum. However, it would remain for his pupil Evangelista Torricelli to create an apparatus that would produce a vacuum. At the time this experiment created a scientific sensation in Europe. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal reasoned that if the column of mercury was suspended by air then the column ought to be shorter at higher altitude. His brother in law, Florin Périer, repeated the experiment on the Puy-de-Dôme mountain in central France and found that the column was shorter by three inches. This decrease in pressure was further demonstrated by carrying a half-full balloon up a mountain and watching it gradually inflate, then deflate upon descent. These and other experiments were used to overthrow the principle of horror vacui.
Further work on the physics of the vacuum was performed by Otto von Guericke. He correctly noted that the atmosphere of the Earth surrounds the planet like a shell, with the density gradually declining with altitude. He concluded that there must be a vacuum between the Earth and the Moon.
Early speculations as to the infinite dimension of space was performed in the sixteenth century by the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. He extended the Copernican heliocentric cosmology to the concept of an infinite universe that is filled with a substance he called aether, which did not cause resistance to the motions of heavenly bodies. English philosopher William Gilbert arrived at a similar conclusion, arguing that the stars are visible to us only because they are surrounded by a thin aether or a void. This concept of an aether originated with ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, who conceived of it as the medium through which the heavenly bodies moved.
The concept of a universe filled with a luminiferous aether remained in vogue among some scientists up until the twentieth century. This form of aether was viewed as the medium through which light could propagate. In 1887, the Michelson-Morley experiment was carried out as an attempt to detect the Earth's motion through this medium by looking for changes in the speed of light based on the direction of the planet's motion. However, the null result indicated something was wrong with the concept. Since then the idea of the luminiferous aether had essentially been abandoned, to be replaced by Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity. The latter held that the speed of light is a constant in a vacuum, regardless of the observer's motion or frame of reference.

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Date added:Jun 22, 2016
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