By Joel Davis
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Extra info for Alternate Realities: How Science Shapes Our Vision of the World
Then the sudden, the unexpected, surprises us, such as the appearance of a hairy star with a long tail. It appears without warning, moves night by night across the heavens, and then disappears as mysteriously as it appeared. How to explain these visions of the night? What are they? What meaning might they have to we who watch? What causal connections, if any, exist between the the "cosmic landscape" stretching out above our heads and the terrestrial landscape in which we live? We have been asking these questions about astronomical reality for a very long time.
If you're viewing the sky from someplace outside Sydney, or Auckland, or Capetown, or Rio de Janeiro, you might identify the Southern Cross, or Dorado, or Sextans. But if you were living in another culture or at another time in history, your inner vision of that cosmic landscape above your head would have been different. The imaginative landscape is composed of more than just sensory perception. It is even more than visual perception, which so dominates our sensorium. In the case of astronomy and its close cousin cosmology, though, sight has been the fuel for the fires of inner visions.
It was also a center of learning. The greatest of this group of philosophers was the seventh-century BCE philosopher Thales. Thales believed that the world arose not from some mythical creation event but from a physical substance. He thought that substance was water. This made sense from Thales's point of view. He and other Greeks could see with their own eyes that the world was surrounded by water-the great ocean that we today call the Mediterranean Sea. The band of stars he could see in the night sky, which we call the Milky Way, was a heavenly analogue of rivers and streams.
Alternate Realities: How Science Shapes Our Vision of the World by Joel Davis
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