absorbing the new


We are so accustomed to the existence of America that it is hard to think of the challenges that its “discovery” posed to contemporaries. To get some sense of the novelty we would need to conjure up a comparable event nowadays. Let us therefore imagine that New Horizons, the spacecraft headed for Pluto, launched in 2006, mysteriously crashes into an invisible barrier. Subsequent expeditions reveal that the barrier is made of a complex substance that reflects the light of the sun by breaking it up into a myriad shining dots of various sizes and degrees of intensity and then reflects the light of those dots against its own back by breaking them down further to give the impression of an infinite space behind it, seemingly filled with stars and galaxies. Further investigations suggest that the impression of constant expansion beyond the barrier is produced by the movement of the sun, which does in fact rotate around the earth just as Aristotle had assumed, but whose reflection on the complex structure of the barrier produces a false impression of immobility that has deceived astronomers since the time of Copernicus.

more from the TLS here.