Saturday, February 9, 2008

Time on Our Hands

Why did the ancients concern themselves about things moving in the sky when they were stuck here down on Earth? Chalk it up in part to human curiosity. But their interest also had even more basic motives.
You’re walking down the street, and a passerby asks you for the time. What do you do?
You look at your watch and tell him the time.
But what if you don’t have a watch?
If you still want to be helpful, you might estimate the time, and you might even do this by noting the position of the sun in the sky.

The ancients had no wrist watches, and, for them, time—a dimension so critical to human activity—was measured by the movement of objects in the sky, chiefly the sun and the moon. What, then, could be more important than observing and explaining the movement of these bodies?

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