11 January 2007

Fiction, meet science

At some point, Dartmouth University offered a semester course on Renaissance Math in Fiction and Drama. From the site:

This course explores scientific developments in Renaissance astronomy and their portrayal in literature past and present. By reading some of the writings by Copernicus, Galileo and the prolific Kepler, we will attempt to draw a portrait of scientific upheaval during that period. The science fiction of the Renaissance offers a window into the popular response to these developments, as do various commentaries of the time. Dramatic pieces both recent and of that period show the artistic reconstruction of scientific events, sometimes through a very modern lens.

“Science fiction of the Renaissance”? There's not a huge amount of this, as it turns out, but one amazing, atypical example is Johannes Kepler's Somnium, which was at once a fanciful journey to the moon and a serious thought experiment in support of Copernican heliocentrism. Wow.

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