solutions1 - EXAM 1: History and Philosophy of Astronomy...

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EXAM 1: History and Philosophy of Astronomy (UGS 303) SOLUTIONS --------- BRIEF ESSAY QUESTIONS. Each question is worth 1.5 points. 1. Why was Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire so important for the history of astronomy? His conquest of the Persian Empire, which at that time encompassed Babylonia, brought Greek culture into contact with the Mesopotamian one. Mathematics and astronomy in the former were dominated by geometry and the attempt to construct unifying models of the Universe, whereas the latter excelled in precise arithmetic and diligent data gathering. Once these two traditions were combined in the so-called Hellenistic culture with the newly founded city of Alexandria in Egypt as intellectual hub, a new, more powerful kind of astronomy emerged. Ptolemy's Almagest marks the high point in this development. 2. What is the basic problem in constructing a calendar? Why is this so tricky? The basic problem is that neither a month nor a year has an even number of days. A secondary problem is that the year cannot be divided into an even number of months. Thus, calendar builders have to come up with elaborate systems of leap years and similar devices to keep the basic astronomical cycles (day, month, year) in step. 3. Why can the Earth, according to Aristotle, not be one of the planets? Earth would then not be unique. However, in Aristotle's theory of gravity, everything that is made up of the element `earth' is attracted to the central point of the Universe. And that point
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This note was uploaded on 12/18/2010 for the course UGS 303 taught by Professor Foster during the Spring '08 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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solutions1 - EXAM 1: History and Philosophy of Astronomy...

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