Friday, May 04, 2007

Jonathon Swift and the two moons of Mars - some comments from Donald Patten

Quotes and comments;
- in chapter 12. of his book 'The Biblical Flood and the ice age epoch' Patten comments on the curious incident of J. Swift (in Gulliver's Travels) having offered accurate information about the moons of Mars, some 150 years before they were discovered and described by astronomers.

1. "The Laputans, according to Swift, possessed superior telescopes to the Europeans.3 The Laputans apparently knew all about the satellites of Mars, their physical diameters, their orbital diameters, and their speed of revolution some 150 years before such was discovered by later astronomers who eventually built better telescopes."
- Isaac Asimov called this a mere coincidence; "the luckiest guess in all of literary history." (A not surprising comment from an opponent of Velikovsky :=)
- but I agree with Patten that this was no blind guess. It was probably based on either etymology or stemmed from a belief the ancient myths held accurate information about the heavens.
- if you check a source on etymology you'll see the moons (Phobos and Deimos) have roots for fear, dread, panic.
- it's Patten's claim that Mars once passed close enough to Earth that people could see these moons with the naked eye.
- In his poem Shield of Herakles, the Greek poet Hesiod offers the following description of Phobos:
"In the centre [of the Shield of Herakles] was Phobos (Fear) worked in adamant, unspeakable, staring backwards with eyes that glowed with fire. His mouth was full of teeth in a white row, fearful and daunting, and upon his grim brow hovered frightful Eris (Strife) who arrays the throng of men."
- people wonder how Swift 'guessed' one of the moons orbited 'backward' - I suggest it might have to do with this description of Phobos looking backward.


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