Galileo Francis

Galileo Francis

In the 1500s, most people believed heavy things fell faster than light things. Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist (or rather philosopher, as the profession was called back then) proved that all things fell with the same acceleration. There’s a story that Galileo dropped two lead spheres, one much larger than the other, from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to demonstrate his claim. While this story is probably false, his claim definitely isn’t. (Actually, he used a logic-based proof. What would happen if you tied the two spheres together, would the heavy one be slowed down by the light one? Or, because they were one very heavy entity now, would they fall even faster than before? The only way around this paradox is to assume they fell with the same acceleration)

One of his more (perhaps most) controversial proposals, was that the Earth orbited the Sun (the heliocentric astronomical model). Why did this proposal cause so much chaos?

If I were to tell you today, that the Earth was pyramidal, and not spherical, you would laugh at me first, and then upon recognizing that I was serious, you would ask me to explain how various concepts, like the curvature of the horizon, the idea of time zones, et cetera, fit into my new model. Basically, my model would have to explain every observable phenomenon.

Galileo faced this problem. The general public didn’t believe him, the Church didn’t, and many of his fellow scientists were skeptical too. However, these people, unknowingly, helped solidify and strengthen the heliocentric theory. By questioning this theory in every phase of its development, they forced Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus and other pro-heliocentric physicists to cement any cracks in the theory; as a result, we now have an indestructible, fundamental piece of science.

Now, let’s get to the real topic of this post: climate change. Climate change (or global warming) may be the most controversial topic behind foreign policy and immigration (in the United States and Europe). In an article by Eli Kintisch (, the struggles of today’s scientists (one in particular) advocating climate change are made known.

Jennifer Francis, the main character in the article, in one sense, is today’s Galileo; her ideas may not be as revolutionary as Galileo’s, but the nature of the criticism she’s receiving is very similar. Within the article, Stephen Vavrus, Jennifer’s colleague, says “Jennifer and I have been forced into the uncomfortable position of defending—or at least explaining—our position before the scientific process has run its course.” The article is filled with other instances of Jennifer’s work being questioned. Some strict believers of climate change could infuriated by this (“They’re unnecessarily slowing down her progress!”). On the other hand, I think they should be happy.

If Jennifer wasn’t so cruelly cross-examined, her work wouldn’t have the opportunity to be proven correct. Though Stephen Vavrus will disagree with me, I think Jennifer is fortunate she gets a chance to make her stance strong, from the start, even before she has physical evidence. Maybe this will give the world one of those nice logic-based proofs.


2 thoughts on “Galileo Francis

  1. Interesting perspective on the scientific and public criticism of Francis. What gives you the impression that she and her colleagues are not “happy” (your word choice) with the controversy, however? Does the article suggest that she and her colleagues have a range of feelings toward their publicity? How might that affect your reading?


  2. Jennifer’s colleague, Stephen Vavrus, says they were “…forced into the uncomfortable position … “, so I assumed they didn’t like what they were going through. Or maybe their view is just neutral


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