Albert Einstein may, or may not, have said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
A century ago the American philosopher, logician, mathematician and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce wrote that inductive and deductive reasoning on their own never led to a new idea. He warned us that by analyzing the past, and crunching numbers to predict the future, we are doing nothing more than extrapolation. If we stick to measuring what we can already measure, we cannot create a future that is different from the past.
Since Archimedes, we have taken comfort in following the Scientific Method; namely systematic observation and experimentation, inductive and deductive reasoning, and the formation and testing of hypotheses and theories. What has been less understood is the role of the imagination in science.
Without imagination, science would never ever have existed. Imagination and innovation are key to achieving change.
As the past few years of the Covid-19 pandemic, a global climate in crisis, and political upheavals have demonstrated, our understanding of the world, and our role in it, needs to change. We turn to our heroes Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo Galilei to celebrate how their imagination and creativity enabled them to see things differently. They understood that everything is connected to everything else, made it possible to see the invisible, applied knowledge from one field to another to generate new knowledge, and had the courage to not give up if their experiments failed.
Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens (1509 – 1511) is a who’s who of influential philosophers, mathematicians and scientists spanning 2000 years of Western civilisation.
With Plato and Aristotle as the central figures, the iconic fresco has come to symbolise the connections between art, philosophy and science. Framed by the impressive arch and dwarfed at the feet of the marble statues are Pythagoras, Euclid, Ptolemy, along with a “cameo” self-portrait of Raphael himself.
Creativity and innovation require what in modern times have been separated and labelled as science and art.
Critical thinking and problem-solving are as much prerequisites in the field of arts practice as they are to scientific inquiry.
The iterative nature of the scientific method relies on the imagination. Breakthroughs in science seem to happen out of the blue, but they never are. They are the result of deep thinking, acute observation, meticulous measurement, and rigorous experimentation.
This realisation now seems revolutionary but 500 years ago Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo knew it. Galileo too couldn’t have made his breakthrough scientific discoveries without it. Over 2000 years ago Archimedes taught us the importance of inventing experiments to test hypotheses.
It is a little-known fact that Leonardo da Vinci worked in entertainment. Of course, the industry didn’t exist in the Renaissance, but da Vinci was a skilled musician and he created and played quirky and beautiful musical instruments. There are many written accounts of the elaborate theatrical props that da Vinci invented as well as staging that made actors appear and disappear as if by magic for his wealthy patrons.
Da Vinci’s ability to imagine and sketch dragons and other fantastical creatures with wings was key to his genius. He was commissioned by Pope Leo X to create a mechanical lion for the amusement of Francois I, the King of France. The fearsome-looking automaton would propel itself onto the stage. When the King struck it would open its mouth releasing lillies, the King’s floral emblem.
Other accounts tell of actors dressed as angels with wings entering the stage by hidden ropes creating the illusion they had flown from the heavens, much to the delight, awe, and wonder of the guests of the court. Even the sketch of the bicycle, found in the Codex Atlanticus (1478-1519), was thought to have been not so much the precursor to the two-wheeled vehicle but a stage prop.
Visitors to the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville Florida can see for themselves how entertainment, and specifically the art of comedy, was reshaped during da Vinci’s times.
Can you imagine what the world would be like without science, global telecommunications or modern medicine?
Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) the Italian scientist, astronomer and mathematician is best known for his fearless and pioneering work in science, physics and astronomy. Considered to be the ‘father of modern science’, Galileo challenged the beliefs of the time and paid a high price.
With his powerful telescope, he was able to demonstrate the theory held by Nicolaus Copernicus and other scientists that the sun is at the centre of our universe, not the Earth. He was tried by the Roman Inquisition, forced to stop teaching and publishing his ideas which were considered heretical, and kept under house arrest until his death.
Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary is the world’s first interactive exhibition on Galileo’s groundbreaking science, influential discoveries and inspirational life. The exhibition opened at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand on 19 June.
The story of how Galileo’s discoveries four hundred years ago shaped our modern world is told through the themes of Astronomy, Simple Machines, Gravity, Motion and Time, and Military and Inventions. The section on Experimental Science is dedicated to examining Galileo’s extraordinary legacy.
Italian Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei changed the world with his inventions and experiments – but his latest discovery is top secret.
Over three nights in July aspiring sleuths have the opportunity to crack the “Galileo Code”. As part of Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, NZ, visitors are invited to explore the museum at night.
Kids under 16 will enjoy solving the clues, revealing the codeword and discovering Galileo’s inventions that changed the world.
13th, 14th and 15th July 2021 6pm – 8pm
Visit Stuff NZ to take a sneak peek with Artisans of Florence Director Tom Rizzo who demonstrates and discusses some examples of Galileo’s groundbreaking science featured in the family-friendly interactive exhibition.
“The purpose of the Artisans of Florence’s exhibitions is getting people to understand the long arc of science through interacting with hands-on exhibits.” – Tom Rizzo, Director
The moon landing, space exploration, satellites and global telecommunications, telescopes, navigation at sea, medical instruments that measure heart rate and even the clock…None of these would have been possible without the discoveries of Galileo!
‘Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary’ is now open at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch NZ. There are more than 60 experiments and inventions by the “father of modern science”.
Learn how Galileo’s fearless and pioneering work in Science, Physics, and Astronomy four centuries ago has shaped our modern world.
What do the world’s greatest thinkers, scientists, artists, and visionaries have in common?
Archimedes of Syracuse, Leonardo Da Vinci and Galileo Galilei drew on the scientific knowledge of their times. They observed, measured, and imagined. They challenged widely accepted and long-held beliefs and created new knowledge. Each of them tested their hypotheses and adjusted their theories. Their discoveries changed the course of history.
We have the privilege of touring the iconic machines and exhibits based on the groundbreaking works of these geniuses. In the process of creating our exhibitions, the Artisans make discoveries of their own and unravel mysteries that bring us closer to understanding the nature of genius.
Not many of us will ever have the impact on the world that Archimedes, Da Vinci and Galilei have had, but we can learn from them.
In the words of the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer:
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see
Did you know that through his meticulous observations of rocks and fossils Leonardo da Vinci made earth-shattering discoveries in the field of geology?
During his detailed investigation of terrain and his topological study of the Alpine region north of Milan, Leonardo made accurate annotations on fish fossil and leaf fossil nichi in the Codex Leister, Codex Atlanticus and Paris Manuscripts.
He was the first to understand that the Alps were once submerged under the sea and then raised. This was only fully understood by the scientific community in the 1950s when the theory of Plate Tectonics gained acceptance.
Galileo’s revolutionary ideas were well ahead of his time. His astronomical discoveries demonstrated that the Earth revolves around the Sun as it spins on its own axis and his Pendulum Laws led to the first clocks and the birth of experimental science.
Imagine Galileo’s delight if he were able to fast forward a few hundred years to the Paris observatory in 1851 to see a marvelous demonstration by French Physicist Léon Foucault. Foucault was able to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation to astonished crowds by setting an enormous pendulum in motion.
As the Foucault Pendulum swings back and forth it slowly rotates around the room, or at least that’s how it appears to us mere Earthbound mortals! In actual fact, we are not observing the pendulum rotate around the room, we are watching the Earth rotate around the pendulum!
You really have to see it to believe it! But if you aren’t able to make it to beautiful New Zealand for the world premiere of the Galileo exhibition in February 2021 you can watch this great time-lapse demonstration by Environmental Scientist Kurtis Baute.