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Asimov's New Guide to Science

Author: Isaac Asimov

Curiosity is one of (possibly the most significant) dividing characteristic of life. We observe this trait everywhere, from cutting edge science to amateurs simply trying to learn new skills or explore new topics in their free time. An interesting difference between animals and humans is the latter often has the desire to discover things "first". We sometimes find less joy in learning about or re-dicovering things on our own, knowing someone else has already been there... (pg. 4)

Myths are aesthetically satisfying answers to the questions our ancestors asked themselves in their brief moments boredom. The answers to these questions started as more of an art; connecting meaning to reality through intricate analogy. (pg. 6)

The major flaw of the Greek philosophers post Aristotle was the disregard of any activity (e.g. experimentation) that got in the way of their pure deduction based on a set of axioms. Asimov proves this same point in his short story Reason, where a robot deduces it's origin based purely on a set of axioms it derives from observations on a space station, finding a way in it's philosophy to disregard the raw textual information provided. (pg. 10)

...while knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we solve them. pg. 15

This is the exact plot of the movie Planet of the Apes.

In 1609 ... Johannes Kepler had opened the way to accurate distance determinations with his discover that the orbits of the planets were ellipses, not circles. For the first time, it became possible to calculate planetary orbits accurately and, furthermore, to plot a scale map of the solar system: that is, the relative distances and orbit shapes of all the known planets in the system could be plotted. Thus, if the distance between any two planets in the system could be determined in miles, all the other distances could be calculated at once.

  • Asimov's New Guide to Science, pg. 22

These two bold sections threw me, and I've been trying to answer these questions all morning.

  1. How can Kepler's laws be used to accurately determine the ellipses of planets (thus creating a scale map of our solar system) solely using observations from earth?
  2. How can the distance of 1 AU be calculated using the distance between earth and another planet?

I believe the book 'Measuring the Universe' by Helden can help me solve this mystery, but I don't want to get too side tracked right now.