The Ballet of the Planets: A Mathematician's Musings on the Elegance of Planetary Motion by Donald C. Benson

The Ballet of the Planets: A Mathematician's Musings on the Elegance of Planetary Motion

byDonald C. Benson

Hardcover | May 1, 2012

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The Ballet of the Planets unravels the beautiful mystery of planetary motion, revealing how our understanding of astronomy evolved from Archimedes and Ptolemy to Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton. Mathematician Donald Benson shows that ancient theories of planetary motion were based on theassumptions that the Earth was the center of the universe and the planets moved in a uniform circular motion. Since ancient astronomers noted that occasionally a planet would exhibit retrograde motion - would seem to reverse its direction and move briefly westward - they concluded that the planetsmoved in epicyclic curves, circles with smaller interior loops, similar to the patterns of a child's Spirograph. With the coming of the Copernican revolution, the retrograde motion was seen to be apparent rather than real, leading to the idea that the planets moved in ellipses. This laid the ground for Newton's great achievement - integrating the concepts of astronomy and mechanics - which revealed not onlyhow the planets moved, but also why. Throughout, Benson focuses on naked-eye astronomy, which makes it easy for the novice to grasp the work of these pioneers of astronomy.

About The Author

Donald C. Benson is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Davis, and the author of A Smoother Pebble and The Moment of Proof.
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Details & Specs

Title:The Ballet of the Planets: A Mathematician's Musings on the Elegance of Planetary MotionFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.24 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:May 1, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199891001

ISBN - 13:9780199891009

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgementsIntroduction1. The Survival of the ValidI. Birth2. The Bowl of Night3. Epicycles and Relative Motion4. The Deferent-Epicycle Model5. Making Money, Et CeteraII Rebirth6. The Reluctant Revolutionary7. Circles No More8. The War with MarsIII Enlightenment9. The Birth of Mechanics10. The Astronomical AlchemistA. The Greek AlphabetB. VectorsNotesReferencesIndex