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Kepler, Johannes - The planets’ songs are polyphonic

Identifier

003969

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

The planets, as we know from scientifc evidence, rotate around the sun in an elliptical course.  Their course is plotted or mathematically described by a series of laws capable of being expressed using scientific formula and also capable of being simulated on a computer.

It was Johannes Kepler whose work first led to a more profound understanding of their movements.  Kepler's laws are: 

  • The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at a focus.
  • A line joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
  • The square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit

If we ran these laws expressed in code through the music interpreter of a computer, you would not get much of a melody, probably all you’d hear is a short burst of song a few notes at the most.  This was what Kepler discovered in the 1600s.

Up unto this time, people had ‘heard’ the music of the spheres on a very regular basis, but had only been able to perceive it as a single note.  Kepler showed it to be slightly more complex if you listened hard.

A description of the experience

Joscelyn Godwin – Music, Mysticism and magic

In Harmonices Mundi Libri V (Five books on Cosmic Harmony 1619) [Kepler] returned to interpret [his laws of planetary motion] in the light of 25 years of painstaking calculation and concentrated questioning of his Creator.

His mathematical studies of planetary motion had not only led to the discovery of the three laws for which he is most celebrated and which provided the starting point for Isaac Newton’s further work; they now called for a refinement of the harmonic laws which were only adumbrated in his earlier book.  By 1619 he was able to give a rational notation of the planets’ songs, confirming that their real music is polyphonic, and not some static scale of distances or periods such as previous writers had struggled with in their efforts to pin down their intuitions of cosmic harmony.  Advances in astronomy since the seventeenth century have only served to confirm and amplify Kepler’s findings.

The source of the experience

Kepler, Johannes

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Suppressions

Inherited genes
Premature birth

Commonsteps

References