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<   No. 2743   2010-07-31   >

Comic #2743

1 Caption: Prague, 1605.
1 Johannes Kepler: Aha! Tycho's observations lead to four laws of planetary motion! Firstly, the planets move in ellipses, not circles!
2 Johannes Kepler: Secondly, they sweep out equal areas in equal times. Thirdly, the square of the period is as the cube of the major radius. And fourthly and most importantly...
3 SFX: ZUUURCH!! {time machine appears}
4 Isaac Newton: Johannes Kepler?
4 Johannes Kepler: Yes? Err... sorry, what was I thinking just now?

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Johannes Kepler has been mentioned before in these annotations. He is most famous for his laws of planetary motion:

These laws were empirically based on observations, not worked out theoretically. Kepler used the observations of Tycho Brahe, at the time the best and most comprehensive set of astronomical observations available in the world. They were accurate enough to allow Kepler to finally divest science of the mystically based notion that the planets must move in circles (the reasoning being that otherwise the heavens would not be "perfect").

Kepler's House A theoretical basis for Kepler's laws had to wait for a certain Isaac Newton. Nevertheless, Kepler's deductions played a crucial part in the unravelling of the mysteries of planetary motion.

Kepler lived the last years of his life in Regensburg, Germany - a town I visited in 2007. Naturally I visited his home, which has since been turned into a small museum. I took the photo at right in an upstairs room - probably Kepler's bedroom. Being a 17th century house, the building is slightly cramped by modern standards, and the walls and floors have subsided and settled a bit. In particular, there is a beam over the staircase that is a bit low, and I banged my head into it while walking down the stairs.

I like to think that Johannes Kepler himself also banged hs head into that very same beam on a few occasions.

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Last Modified: Saturday, 31 July 2010; 03:11:01 PST.
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