To Explain the World
The Discovery of Modern Science

by Steven Weinberg

Weinberg covers the development of science, mainly the physical sciences, thru Newton. He brings a modern perspective.

I am delighted that Weinberg assumes that his readers actually care about some of the technical details which he includes in technical notes at the end with links. It would not occur to a professional historian to include such information.

Weinberg tells the story largely chronologically but he does not hesitate to draw connections to modern science.

I have now a better understanding of ancient Greek chronology than I had before — also the role, time and geography of Alexandria.

My reading chronology:

L 556: I find Weinberg’s portrayal of modern commentators on Aristotle notions of motion hilarious. Weinberg objects to the notion that bodies fell at a different rate in Aristotle’s time. I agree with Weinberg.

L 611: I had not know that Strato of Alexandria, or any of the Greeks, had noticed acceleration.

L 912: This is the first record I recall reading of the end of Greek science.

L 1986: Weinberg describes a European period of translation of the classics, mostly from Arabic. He does not say into which language; I suppose it was into Latin.

L 2295: Scanning the list of the 7 principles of Copernicus, increases my opinion of Copernicus.

L 2564: I like Weinberg’s segue into the anthropic principle; it gives it gravitas, especially in contrast to Kepler’s polyhedra.

L 2632: “… circular orbits had to be replaced by ellipses.” I have always been amazed that Kepler jumped to this correct conclusion with the sort of data he had. It would be impressive even had his observatory been fixed in space and not an observatory moving on another ellipse. It was a magnificent combination of guts, luck and genius.

L 2712: Weinberg’s description of a telescope is unusually clear.

L 3000: Weinberg ignores the problem of angular momentum of the rolling disks which causes them to move a bit slower. Galileo noticed that a disk rolled faster than a hoop which has for the same velocity, more angular energy per unit mass. I suspect that Galileo compensated somehow for these effects.

L 3217: I generally agree with Weinberg’s list of Descartes’ errors. I am glad that Weinberg gives Descartes great credit for his analytic geometry and optics. When I was studying optics in high school I stumbled across Descartes quantitative description of thick lenses, which was much easier to apply to the problem sets we were given in the physics class than the methods provided in class. Descartes had the rare genius of simplifying things.

L 3299: Weinberg recapitulates Descartes’ description of rainbow math so that I understand it better than I had before.

L 3339: In summary, Descartes did his best work not as a Cartesian.

L 3976: Weinberg cites many precursors of Newton’s ideas that I was unaware of. Newton organized them, recorded them, invented calculus to harness them, and presto all was explained.

Index into the Technical Notes.
Pointers to Technical Notes in this Kindle book are broken because they point to entries in a table of contents, rather than the contents. Here is a map from article number to content location.

 1  4246
 2  4270
 3  4348
 4  4405
 5  4430
 6  4465
 7  4496
 8  4513
 9  4537
10  4579
11  4596
12  4678
13  4691
14  4751
15  4778
16  4806
17  4831
18  4858
19  4919
20  4935
21  4964
22  5047
23  5108
24  5154
25  5185
26  5233
27  5295
28  5327
29  5378
30  5441
31  5468
32  5492
33  5515
34  5532
35  5545
I need the following chronology: Date of significant publications.
–530 Pythagoras
-410 Socrates
-370 Plato
–300 Euclid
-290 Aristarchus
-220 Apollonius
  60 Hero
 150 Ptolmey
 250 Diophantus
 500 Boethius
1030 Glaber
1142 Thierry
1250 Aquinas
1377 Oresme
1510 Copernicus
1546 (born) Brahe
1597 Kepler
1620 Bacon
1630 Descartes
1623 1643 Galileo
1650 Fermat
1655 Huygens
1664 1690 Newton
This is useful.
L 4457: square root of 2 is 1.414213562, not 1.414215562
L 4790: sexigesimal “45 15 19” should be “45 55 19” as appears in following formula.