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We now have more evidence that Galileo likely never said “And yet it moves”

Enlarge / Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans, circa 1640.
Galileo Galilei famously sto..

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Enlarge / Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans, circa 1640.

Galileo Galilei famously stood trial for suspicion of heresy for his insistence—based on astronomical observations through his telescopes—that the Copernican model of the solar system was correct. The Earth revolved around the Sun, not the other way around, contrary to the Catholic Church's teachings at the time. He was never formally charged with heresy, but he was forced to recant his stance. Legend has it that after he did so, he muttered, "E pur si muove" ("And yet it moves"), meaning the Earth.

As with many such legends, it's probably too good to be true. "It would have been crazy for Galileo to say that in front of the Inquisitor," astrophysicist Mario Livio told Ars. Livio is the author of a new biography of the famous scientist, Galileo and the Science Deniers, and while researching the book, he found himself captivated by the longstanding debate about whether or not Galileo really spoke those words. It resulted in a separate academic paper about his findings.

The earliest biography of Galileo was written by his protege, Vincenzo Viviana in 1655-1656, with no mention of the phrase. According to Livio, the first mention in print is in a single paragraph in the 1757 book, The Italian Library, by Giuseppe Baretti, written over 100 years after Galileo's death. That would point to the story being a myth. But then a science historian named Antonio Favaro spent four decades studying Galileo's life and work, publishing a massive tome, The Works of Galileo Galilei. In 1911, he also published several articles detailing his efforts to determine the origin of the famous phrase.

Portrait of Galileo in prison, often attributed to Murillo circa 1643. New evidence suggests it was painted much later by a different artist.
Enlarge / Portrait of Galileo in prison, often attributed to Murillo circa 1643. New evidence suggests it was painted much later by a different artist.Public domain

That year, Favaro received a letter from a man in Belgium named Jules Van Belle, claiming to own a painting, circa 1643—shortly after Galileo's death in 1642— that depicted Galileo in prison, holding a nail in his right hand, having traced the Earth moving around the Sun. Written underneath was the famous motto. The painting was attributed to a Spanish painter named Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and Van Belle thought it may have once belonged to an army commander named Ottavio Piccolomini, brother of the Archbishop of Siena. Galileo served the first six months of his house arrest at the archbishop's home.

That raised the possibility that Galileo had said those words, just not in front of the Inquisitor. Yet the painting was never examined by any independent art historians. When Livio decide to follow up on Favaro's work, over a century later, he found that nobody knew the current location of the Murillo painting. He consulted with four art experts specializing in Murillo's art, and all determined, based on photographs of the canvas, that it was not the Spanish artist's work.

After about a year hunting down various clues, Livio finally rediscovered Van Belle's painting. It had been sold to a private collector in 2007 by one of Van Belle's descendants. The auction house had dated the painting to the 19th century. So it is still far more likely that the famous phrase is just a legend that emerged sometime in the mid-18th century. But no final determination can be made unless the new owner agrees to let the painting be examined by art historians.

Nonetheless, "Even if Galileo never spoke those words, they have some relevance for our current troubled times, when even provable facts are under attack by science deniers," Livio recently wrote at Scientific American. "Galileo's legendary intellectual defiance—'in spite of what you believe, these are the facts'—becomes more important than ever." Ars sat down with Livio to learn more.

Cristiano Banti's 1857 painting <em>Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition</em>
Enlarge / Cristiano Banti's 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman InquisitionPublic domain

Ars: Perhaps Galileo never actually said "And yet it moves." But one of the most famous genuine quotes attributed to Galileo is this: "The book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics."

Livio: That was one of his incredible intuitions. Today, this is so natural to us. We still don't exactly understand it, but it's very natural that all the laws of physics are written as mathematical expressions or equations. But in his time, those laws were not written in any way. So how did he get this intuition that it is all written in the language of mathematics? To me, this is absolutely incredible that he thought about that. In fact, he formulated the very first laws of physics, with the slight exception of Archimedes maybe.

Ars Technica: Galileo is one of the most famous scientists in history and there have been so many books published about his life and work. What led you to write your own take?

Mario Livio: One reason is that all the existing biographies of Galileo, at least the serious biographies, were written mostly by science historians or science writers. None was written by an active researcher in astronomy or astrophysics. So I did think that I can perhaps put his discoveries in the context of what we know today. A second reason is that the very best biographies that exist are not that accessible for a general audience. They are scholarly biographies. So my goal was to write a somewhat shorter, more accessible, focused biography, but I did my best to still keep it entirely accurate.

Finally, I always knew this, but it just struck me even more so recently, that at the end of the day, Galileo was fighting science deniers, and we are unfortunately encountering a rampant science denial today. So I thought that this would be an important book to write. A fight that Galileo fought already 400 years ago, and truly, eventually won, it seems we somehow need to fight again.

Ars: Galileo is still a powerful symbol of intellectual freedom (scientific or otherwise). Why has Galileo captured our imaginations for so long?

Livio: There are many reasons for that. Galileo, by writing the Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, attracted a lot of attention. He was perhaps the best known scientist in Europe, because of his discoveries in astronomy. So his book attracted the wrath of the Inquisition and the Pope, and he was put on trial for this and was humiliated and suspected of heresy and put on house arrest for eight and a half years. This is pretty incredible. We are now in lockdown for what, a couple of months, and we're going crazy.

So he became the symbol for the fight for intellectual freedom. It was not, as sometimes it is portrayed, the fight between science and religion. Galileo was a religious person, like everybody else at that time. All his point was that the Bible is not a science book, and we shouldn't therefore interpret literally what is said there as if these are scientific facts. "The Bible was written for our salvation," he said, "Not as a science book."

"His tongue could be sharp, and his pen even sharper."

If there is an apparent conflict between a literal interpretation of the text in scripture and what experiments or observations tell us, then it means that we didn't understand and we need to change the interpretation. As long as the conclusions of science concerning physical reality are accepted, with no intervention of religious beliefs and no denouncing of provable facts, no conflict between the two realms can exist.

It had also to do with his personal characteristics, of which stubbornness was a chief one, as well as a high degree of self-righteousness.Read More – Source

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China surveillance of journalists to use ‘traffic-light’ system

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bbc– The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern”.

Documents seen by BBC News describe a system that classifies journalists into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red.

Journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”, they say.

The Henan Public Security Bureau has not responded to a request for comment.

The documents, discovered by the surveillance analyst firm IPVM, also outline plans to surveil other “people of concern”, including foreign students and migrant women.

Human Rights Watch said: “This is not a government that needs more power to track more people… especially those who might be trying to peacefully hold it accountable.”

‘Thematic libraries’

The documents, published on 29 July, are part of a tendering process, encouraging Chinese companies to bid for a contract to build the new system, won, on 17 September, by NeuSoft.

NeuSoft has not responded to BBC News request for comment.

The system includes facial-recognition technology linked to thousands of cameras in Henan, to alert authorities when a “person of concern” is located.

“People of concern” would be categorised into “thematic libraries” – in an already existing database of information about and images of people in the province.

The system would also connect with China’s national database.

‘Key concern’

One of the groups of interest to the Henan Public Security Bureau is journalists, including foreign journalists.

“The preliminary proposal is to classify key concerned journalists into three levels,” the documents say.

“People marked in red are the key concern.

“The second level, marked in yellow, are people of general concern.

“Level three, marked in green – are for journalists who aren’t harmful.”

And an alert would be triggered as soon as “journalists of concern”, marked as “red” – or “yellow”, if they had previous criminal charges – booked a ticket to travel into the province.

The system would also assess foreign students and divide them into three categories of risk – “excellent foreign students, general personnel, and key people and unstable personnel”.

“The safety assessment is made by focusing on the daily attendance of foreign students, exam results, whether they come from key countries, and school-discipline compliance,” the documents say.

The schools themselves would need to notify the authorities of students with security concerns.

And those considered to be of concern would be tracked.

During politically sensitive periods, such as the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, “a wartime alarm mechanism” would be activated and tracking of “key concern” students stepped up, including tracking their cell phones.

The documents outline a desire for the system to contain information taken from:

  • cell phones
  • social media – such as WeChat and Weibo
  • vehicle details
  • hotel stays
  • travel tickets
  • property ownership
  • photos (from existing databases)

It should also focus on “stranded women”, or non-Chinese migrant women who do not have the right to live in China.

A large number of women enter China to find work.

Others have been trafficked from neighbouring countries.

And the system would “dock” with the National Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Public Security and Henan police, among others.

The documents were published around the time the Chinese government criticised foreign media outlets for their coverage of the Henan floods.

Conor Healy, Government Director of IPVM, said: “The technical architecture of mass surveillance in China remains poorly understood… but building custom surveillance technology to streamline state suppression of journalists is new.

“These documents shed light on what China’s public-security officials want from mass surveillance.”

China’s facial-recognition system is thought to already be in use across the country.

And last year, the Washington Post reported Huawei had tested artificial-intelligence software that could recognise people belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority and alert police.

Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said: “The goal is chilling, ensuring that everyone knows they can and will be monitored – and that they never know what might trigger hostile interest.”

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QUALCOMM REBRANDS SNAPDRAGON CHIPS THAT POWER MANY OF THE WORLD’S PHONES IN ATTEMPT TO BE LESS CONFUSING

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independent– Qualcomm has announce a major rebrand of its Snapdragon chips, in a move that could make choosing a phone vastly more simple.

The company sells its Snapdragon chips to a vast range of other companies – such as Samsung, HP and OnePlus – which use them to power devices including mobile phones, watches and laptops.

But comparing those devices can often be difficult, because of the confusing name of those Snapdragon processors, which are marked by a host of complex numbers. Since processors are at the heart of the devices, it can therefore be difficult to know whether a given phone is better than another.

But Qualcomm now says that it will simplify its branding in a host of ways, most of which bring new branding to the line.

The most obvious one is that the Qualcomm and Snapdragon brands will be separated. While they will still be owned by the same company as before, the Qualcomm will be removed from the chips itself.

More usefully, however, those complicated names will be changed.

Until now, Snapdragon products have come with three different names. Each of the numbers was intended to show where it was in the line-up: the first indicating the power, the second what generation, and the third used to separate different products within those generations.

But that was difficult to know and to compare. It also led to struggles with Snapdragon running out of names – it has a Snapdragon 695, for instance, and so only space for four more chips in that line-up.

Instead, it will move to a “new simplified and consistent naming structure for our platforms makes it easier for our customers to discover and choose devices powered by Snapdragon”, it says. “This means our mobile platforms will transition to a single-digit series and generation number, aligning with other product categories — starting with our newest flagship Snapdragon 8-series platform.”

It did not give information on what that new naming system would be, and promised more information would be revealed at another event on 30 November.

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Gigabit broadband: Internet seen as top homebuyer priority

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bbc– A fast internet connection is now one of the most important factors for homebuyers, according to a survey of 294 estate agents across the UK.

Questions about connectivity, usually “full fibre” broadband, are up 69% since the pandemic began, the research, by Omdia for telecoms equipment maker Huawei, suggests.

Speeds of more than 300Mbps are being sought by 34% of buyers – and, according to 33% of the estate agents, can add £5,000 to the sale price of a home – while 23% want 1Gbps.

Asked to name the single most important factor is for homebuyers:

  • 23% said the size of the property
  • 20% said broadband quality
  • 18% said the number of bedrooms
  • 10% said the age of the property is
  • 9% said transport links

“In many cases, customers feel that good internet is a ‘must have’,” James Hummerstone-Pope, from Purple Bricks, said.

“And poor wi-fi and a bad mobile signal can be a deal breaker.

“Fibre broadband definitely makes properties more appealing.

“And people will sometimes walk away from a property if they feel the broadband and phone signals aren’t good enough.”

  • Vodafone to offer full fibre broadband to millions
  • Half-a-million homes to get broadband boost

The government has promised to “bring full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025”.

And research from telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests 18.2 million homes (62%) already have access to 300Mbps or faster.

But only a fraction pay for such high speeds.

And the average UK speed is actually 50.4Mbps.

Critical factors

In Scotland and the South West, good broadband is the most important factor for homebuyers, the survey suggests.

But London-based estate agent Foxtons said while buyers considered the internet important – “particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic” – it was usually outweighed by other factors.

“Choosing which property to purchase is an incredibly complex decision that depends on numerous different factors,” a representative said.

“In our experience, the price and perceived value for money, the size and type of property, provision of outside space, as well as proximity to local amenities and schools are some of the most critical factors in the decision-making process.”

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