A Natural History of Time by Pascal Richet

By Pascal Richet

For many of historical past, humans depended on mythology or faith to supply a solution to the urgent query of the earth's age, even if nature abounds with clues. In "A common background of Time", geophysicist Pascal Richet tells the interesting tale of the way scientists and philosophers tested these clues and from them equipped a chronological scale that has made it attainable to reconstruct the heritage of nature itself. the search for time is a narrative of ingenuity and backbone, and prefer a geologist, Pascal Richet conscientiously peels again the strata of that background, giving us an opportunity to surprise at every one layer and actually get pleasure from how a ways our wisdom - and our planet - have come.

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Seismic destruction, volcanic violence, gullied hillsides, alluvia deposited by torrential rains, the filling in of the seas at the mouths of great rivers such as the Nile—the entire range of the great “remodeling agents” working on the earth’s surface deploy themselves in few geographical areas so evidently and so consistently as they do in the eastern Mediterranean basin. A hundred years before Aristotle, the clear-sighted Herodotus had already described the considerable effects of the Nile’s flooding and the related accumulation of sediments.

Paradoxically, one of the most famous of the Epicureans, the Latin poet Lucretius (ca. 98 BC to ca. ” Besides being poorly founded, such propositions were very vague. Although he dedicated numerous verses to denying the existence of centaurs, androgynes, and other mythical beings, and to commenting upon spontaneous generation, Lucretius wrote no more than three verses about the origins of the earth. The eternity of the Peripatetics was not threatened by them in the slightest. The activity of a teeming nature that so enthralled Lucretius had been seen by Aristotle as the mark of the sublunary world’s corruptibility.

An early precursor of Ptolemy and his system was Hipparchus (ca. 190 BC to ca. 120 BC), one of the greatest masters of astronomy, about whom we know practically nothing except that he was born at Nicaea (modern Iznik, in Anatolia). No one had “done more to prove that man is 16 TIME WITHOUT A BEGINNING? related to the stars and that our souls are a part of heaven,” commended Pliny the Elder (23–79) in his Natural History. He did a bold thing, that would be reprehensible even for God—he dared to schedule the stars for posterity, and tick off the heavenly bodies by name in a list, devising machinery [the astrolabe, to be specific] by means of which to indicate their several positions and magnitudes, in order that from that time onward it might be possible to discern not only whether stars perish and are born, but whether some are in transit and in motion, and also whether they increase and decrease in magnitude—thus bequeathing the heavens as a legacy to all mankind, supposing anybody had been found to claim that inheritance!

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