I had heard about this work by Galileo for years but never bothered to read it, which is a pity because the translation is wonderfully transparent and clear and the illustrations memorable and easy to understand. In fact I was reading an essay by Stephen Jay Gould on the relative sizes of animals and the square cubed law which limits their size and form and one of these illustrations was used by him to show that Galileo got there first. It was this illustration of bones that prompted me to get this book...
Considering it was written while he was under House Arrest by Order of the Roman Inquisition and the manuscript had to be smuggled to Holland and printed there it is even more remarkable.
I am a kitemaker and the square cubed law comes into a lot of what I do - imposing strict limitations on the upper limits of size for spared kites as surely as it does on mammals and birds.
Most modern textbooks on engineering are so mathematically complex I get lost around page 5 so it is refreshing to read an old work written in a form that seems as natural as speech.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not copernican23 Oct. 2006
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This is an excellent book, but I don't think it's quite what the publisher thought it was. The previous reviewer is right in saying that this book does not support Copernicus' heliocentricism in any way. It is a discussion of motion, not astronomy. I would agree with the previous review in saying that the publishers probably meant to publish Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems, which does in fact discuss heliocentricism and support Copernicus. How one manages to publish the wrong book I have no idea. Did no one read this before they published it? And how on earth did Stephen Hawking not notice either and write about the wrong book?
Well, it's a good book anyway, just not what they say it is. I recommend reading it if you want to understand the developments of science (esp. motion and mechanics), but if you want to learn about the Copernican Revolution and Galileo's conflict with the church, then the book you are looking for is Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems. I would also recomment Galileo's Daughter as an amazing biography of Galileo based around a correspondence between him and his daughter.
Overall grade: A for the book, F for the publisher's description.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The publisher got it right6 Sept. 2008
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One of the foundational works of modern science, the text speaks for itself in its lucidity and its grounding in method. I review it to address a criticism leveled at this book by the reviewers below.
These reviewers have erroneously perceived that these texts were mistakenly published, and that the original intent of the publisher was to present Galileo's original papers on heliocentrism and Copernicus, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican". As the texts herein are Galileo's works on accelerated motion, the conclusion is drawn that a major mistake was made.
I believe this perception is based on marketing that associates the series with Copernicus' discoveries in particular.
The fact is that this book is part of a series, the arc of which is to present the current model of the physical world from Copernicus' discovery of the heliocentric solar system to Einstein's revelation that space and time are warped or displaced by mass and energy. Reviewers mistakenly believed that this Galilean text was intended to stand in support of Copernicus' discovery. In fact, this text is meant to show the development of the laws of motion, and is merely part of the overall series. Hawking's introduction recognizes this correctly, in contradiction to the misunderstanding of the reviewers below.
Those interested in the origins of modern science, the history of science, physics, or intellectual history may well wish to read through this gem.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Famous Copernican Work of Galileo?25 Mar. 2009
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There actually is confusion over this title. For one, this is not the work where Galileo (1564-1642) defends Copernicus (Heliocentrism) where the sun is the center of the universe or the solar system. That work is called "Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems" (1632).
This work, "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences" (1638), is about Galileo's experiments in bodies and motion.
The publisher is not wrong at all in calling this work the given title of "..Two New Sciences". If anything it is Galileo's and his original Publisher's fault for naming both works in such a similar fashion: "Dialogues Concerning Two....." The biggest difference is in the last words of the title.
For those concerned with Copernican/Aristarchus of Samos vs Aristotle/Ptolemaic debates (sun vs earth as the center of the universe/solar system) for which Galileo is known for please read Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (Modern Library Science). Its a good work, though Galileo did mock the Aristotle/Ptolemaic model by using a simpleton named "Simplicio" who was mathematically ignorant to represent Ptolemy's intensive and rigorous mathematical geocentric model. Of course there was no decisive evidence for heliocentrism in the time of Galileo so he should have been more careful. This also is what caused tensions between him and his supporter, Pope Urban VIII who had felt ridiculed because Galileo had put the Pope's views in the mouth of Simplicio. For the details on the Galileo affair, one can see When Science and Christianity Meet which shows the consensus view among historians of science on this.
For those interested in Galileo's physics of bodies and motion and the book which he said, "contain results which I consider the most important of all my studies" then "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences" is the correct one.
For a general sample of many of Galileo's works and related documents from his "controversy" from those who did the trials on Galileo, please read : The Essential Galileo. Look also at Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, or The Sidereal Messenger for his observation on the surface of the moon from his telescope.
A few similarities between both books by Galileo with similar titles have laid confusion to some of these reviewers:
1. as was mentioned, both begin with similar titles: "Dialogues Concerning Two....." 2. Both have the same picture of 3 men speaking 3. There are 4 days of dialogues in both books 4. The same three characters are found in both books: Salviati, Sagredo, Simplicio
These similarities between both books are what makes them so hard to distinguish for anyone who has not read either one of these works. So confusion and disappointment are expected. I too got confused until I got copies of both assuming they were both the same. I wanted a better copy of "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences" and bought "Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems" since it was cheaper (by very little). I read the Copernican heliocentric arguments that are only found in "Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems" and noticed that "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences" was different and did not focus Copernicus at all, but instead focused on motions and bodies.
Hopefully this post clarifies and saves people from buying the wrong book. In any case, I say get both books since "Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems" IS notable and important (but not revolutionary since defending Copernicus was not done in an empirical fashion and the astronomical data matched better with the Ptolemy's Geocentric model at that time). "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences" gives insight to the mind and experiments of Galileo along with his debates on the nature of bodies and varieties of motion.
For those interested in some the works Galileo discusses in "Dialogues Concerning Two Chief World Systems" please look at Ptolemy's Ptolemy's Almagest, Copernicus' On the Revolutions: Nicholas Copernicus Complete Works (Foundations of Natural History), and Aristarchus of Samos' Aristarchus of Samos: The Ancient Copernicus (Dover Books on Astronomy) (he is called an ancient Copernicus by some).
In terms of "On the Revolutions", Copernicus himself dedicated the work to the Pope in the Preface. In this work, he models two different ideas: 1) the sun, not the earth, is at the center of the universe and 2) the earth rotates on its axis. Furthermore, Copernicus' ideas were not novel since he was aware of Aristarchus of Samos' heliocentric model and also other heliocentrists and earth axial rotationists like the Pythagoreans Herakleides and Ekphantus, and also Hicetas the Syracusean. He mentions them in the text. Numerous arguments had been laid out for doubting that the earth rotates in previous centuries, mainly empirical arguments.
A good review of the geocentric-heliocentirc debates is Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution: Second Revised Edition. The situation was not obvious and both models had their merits and problems. Of course the Ptolemaic and Copernican models weren't the only contest either. Tycho Brahe, a contemporary, had made a "geo-heliocentric" model from his observations which spliced both Ptolemy and Copernicus in an interesting way (both the earth and sun were essentially at the center of the universe). At the time there was no conclusive evidence to decide for or against any of the 3 models. The direct evidences that supported heliocenrtrism came about century or more after Galileo had lived (1564-1642): James Bradley (1725-1729) - stellar aberration of light (implied that the earth rotated on its axis as it orbited around the sun) and Friedrich Bessel (1838) - stellar parallax (the apparent shift of position of any nearby star against the background of distant stars).
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This is the wrong book!1 Jun. 2005
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The publishers and Stephen Hawking evidently think they are reprinting Galileo's famous book supporting the Copernican viewpoint, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems". Instead, they've given us "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences", a magnificent book (I use it as a text in my Galileo and Einstein course, see my website) BUT this book has nothing to say about planets or Copernicus -- the furthest object from earth in this book is a cannonball in flight! It's a five star book, but not if you want to find out what Galileo thought of Copernicus...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
difficult but rewarding insight into one of the greatest minds in physics22 April 2007
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Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences contains information, in the form of a dialog, about the results of Galileo's experiments in materials science and the physics of motion. There are a a few great thought experiments within like the poof that two objects of different masses fall at the same velocity for example. I found the book hard going at times as Galileo relies mostly on written explanations of the concepts rather than mathematical equations. Galileo makes frequent use of geometry to prove his points so some knowledge of geometry is desirable as a prerequisite for reading this book. Although the book was written a long time ago I learned some things from it, including why small particles of sand will suspend in water. This is because when objects are small the ratio of surface area to volume is greater and particles of water "catch" on the indentations of the surface of the grain of sand thus retarding it's progress deeper into the water. This is a great book and still worth reading.