A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown

2. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Down for the Count

3. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
The Great Galileo-Scheiner Flame War of 1611-13

4. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
The Down 'n Dirty Mud Wrassle

5. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Here's Mud in Yer Eye

6. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Comet Chameleon

7. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Time and Tides Wait Not

8. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Trial and Error

9. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: From Plausible to Proven   


  1. Hi,
    first, I'd like to congratulate you for the marvellous and very interesting writings and blog.

    I am an Italian guy who studies Theoretical Physics and, even if I am no expert, I'd like to divulge an Italian translation of these amazing blog posts of yours (which, since as far as I know there is none, means producing the translation myself). Of course, I'll listen to any request (I tried send this message on your livejournal account, so far I don't know other ways).

    Well, in case of approval, I must say that I don't hope to do everything in a flash... while I daily read articles, take part to discussions and so on in English, it would be the first time I engage in such an opus, and I need to reach someone more competent for help.

    I don't intend to spoil such an enjoyable and informative read, I believe it's the best popular introduction to the matter that I found till now. I don't know where to publish it yet, if through a dedicated new blog or else: I'd just like to make it known by my compatriots it in the most efficient way.
    My desire to spread it is because of my country's "historical pop culture". Galileo is some sort of national hero, who singlehandedly "invented Science!™ and Dynamics" (even Newton's work finds itself downplayed to an unbelievable extent in the education of the man in the street). This of course bring us to the common exchange "So you are Catholic and study Physics, really?" "Yeah, why?" "But the Church is against Science!™" "Say what?" "Galileo!".
    Here, it's kind of a big deal. In an infamous incident, Benedict XVI himself had to cancel his lectio magistralis at Rome's major University because of the announced virulent protests by Unfunny Chaps Who Love Progress: everything was sparkled from a group of Physics professors (jeeeez) that publicly accused him of having badmouthed Galileo about his trial in the past (he hadn't. Apparently they got the error from, hold on your seat, Wikipedia).

    It's bad enough that pretty much every catholic believes in the "Theological woo woo trial on the Very Rational Heliocentrism" versio vulgata too.
    I must admit that even I, with my somewhat above the average knowledge of Science and Church history (and Church sponsored scientific advancements), had my mind blown away when I first read your essay. It's just that there's pretty much nothing in years of compulsory education, advanced education and lots and lots of popular science books and tv programs that brings in any detail that might give away that there was something else than "Pope hated Science" in play. No exaggeration here.

    I look forward to your reply.
    Thanks for your attention

    1. Go ahead; but be sure to link to the original English language versions. Be aware that there are typos that have not all been corrected.

    2. Of course, thanks a lot!

      (Well, I suppose that it will be months before the issue may arise, but do you have any trusted italian-speaking friend who may assure you of the quality of the translation? I'll have to get around a good number of phraseological expressions and try to convey the beautifully informal tone, so I suppose that evaluating the translation will be no trivial matter and in the end I might fool myself into believing I did a great job. I think that a final result author's "quality seal" might be a nice thing)

  2. Marvelous series, Mr. Flynn! It's helped put some matters in perspective for me in my own studies of this material.

    I'm not sure how often you get to see these comments, but I wanted to share some book recommendations on the subject of the ancient and modern quarrel on science that might of some interest to you, if you haven't read them already!

    A scholar by the name of Jacob Klein, who helped develop the aim of the math and science programs at the school at graduated from (St. John's College) wrote a very excellent book on Greek mathematical thought, with the aim of trying to understand what changed in the understanding of mathematics between the ancients and the early moderns, especially Descartes. That book ("Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra") was to be the first part of a inquiry into how physics became so deeply affiliated with math, an inquiry that was only minimally followed through on (in some of his essays in the collection "Lectures and Essay"). Another scholar, Richard Kennington, made some good efforts at carrying on some of that project by close study of the early moderns ("On Modern Origins: Essays in Early Modern Philosophy").

    There's a very nice introduction to Kennington's thought at First Principles:

    But very nice work with your blog! I've been occupied reading your essays on science for the last few days, and its given me much to think about!