Galileo's refutation of the speed-distance law of fall rehabilitated

Centaurus 54 (2):148-164 (2010)
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Abstract

Galileo's refutation of the speed-distance law of fall in his Two New Sciences is routinely dismissed as a moment of confused argumentation. We urge that Galileo's argument correctly identified why the speed-distance law is untenable, failing only in its very last step. Using an ingenious combination of scaling and self-similarity arguments, Galileo found correctly that bodies, falling from rest according to this law, fall all distances in equal times. What he failed to recognize in the last step is that this time is infinite, the result of an exponential dependence of distance on time. Instead, Galileo conflated it with the other motion that satisfies this ‘equal time’ property, instantaneous motion.

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Author Profiles

John D. Norton
University of Pittsburgh
Bryan W. Roberts
London School of Economics

References found in this work

The Dome: An Unexpectedly Simple Failure of Determinism.John D. Norton - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):786-798.
Uniform Acceleration, Space, and Time.Stillman Drake - 1970 - British Journal for the History of Science 5 (1):21-43.
Galileo's 1604 Fragment on Falling Bodies.Stillman Drake - 1969 - British Journal for the History of Science 4 (4):340-358.

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