Explaining the Cosmic OrderNewton treated the motions of the stars and planets as problems in mechanics, governed by the same laws that govern motions on Earth. He described the force of gravity mathematically.The French philosopher René Descartes, on the other hand, had proposed a non-mathematical model. He suggested that the universe consists of huge whirlpools ("vortices") of cosmic matter. Our solar system would be only one of many such whirlpools. Descartes banned from scientific investigation "occult" phenomena, or causes hidden from the senses. He had celestial matter circulating about the Earth, pushing all terrestrial matter toward the Earth. Descartes' followers distrusted Newton's alternative, a mysterious gravitational force acting at a distance.Descartes' mechanical, mechanistic cosmology was highly acceptable within the general seventeenth-century conception of the world as a machine. His explanations, though, were but qualitative re-
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