January 15, 2021

The circumnavigator's paradox | Science

The circumnavigator's paradox | Science

There is an urban legend that places Christopher Columbus trying to convince astrologers and mathematicians about the roundness of the Earth. Due to the spherical quality of the Earth, it would be possible for Columbus to reach the east by sailing westward. Something like that is what we have been told.

However, by that time, the sphericity of the Earth had ceased to be a contentious issue. It was assumed to have been proven since before the time of Plato, for which the Earth was spherical. It was the poet Hesiod, according to Zeno, who first pointed out the roundness of the Earth, although for Diogenes the first to discover it was Pythagoras. Even, some time later, in darker times, Dante would elaborate his Divine Comedy from the spherical principle of the Earth. In short, from the time of the first philosophers, the roundness of the Earth is accepted and, therefore, what Columbus was discussing with the geographers of the court was nothing other than the distance between Europe and the Indies. However, the urban legend has managed to trick the reality of both repeated. It will be with the expedition of Magellan when it will be demonstrated empirically that the Earth is round. Let's tell it.

Ferdinand Magellan was a hardened Portuguese navigator who, ready to go around the world, departed from the Guadalquivir to command an expedition of five ships where 237 men were distributed, mostly adventurers and fugitives wanting to head for the other side of the world on a journey that would forever erase their crimes. It was the month of August 1519. They would return three years later, when time had already erased their tracks and nobody believed them alive. It was on September 8, 1522, the date on which the Victoria ship appeared wafting. On board were 18 survivors. Ferdinand Magellan had died by a poisoned arrow thrown at him by the Indians of the Philippine Islands. In its place, a ragged Juan Sebastián Elcano was the new boss.

He was a Guipuzcoan sailor, until then a fugitive from justice, to whom King Carlos V would grant him a coat of arms where a globe appears with a Latin legend: Primus circumdedisti me (You were the first to circle me). Before his return, in one of the Cape Verde Islands, the so-called San Jacobo, where they released the felucca to land for victualling, inventory of losses was made. One of the survivors, the chronicler of the expedition, Francisco Antonio Pigafetta, had completed his day-to-day writing of an account of the events that took place in the adventure and that will be published under the title of Relationship of the first trip around the world, also known as Pigafetta's relationship.

In the aforementioned work, Pigafetta tells us that he saw many kinds of birds, including flying fish and came to land where its inhabitants changed him, for a hook, five or six chickens and for a card, the king of golds, as many chickens " with the fear, even, of cheating me. " For them, the newcomers had descended from heaven. As Pigafetta continues to tell us, they also reached the land of giants where a headache was healed by sticking an arrow through their mouths and removing their stomach until they vomited a green paste covered with blood, after the ingestion of a kind of thistle.

Phileas Fogg had advanced one day, since he always traveled eastward and, for each grade, he earned four minutes

Pigafetta wrote down everything, not letting any matter escape in his notebook. Therefore, when they arrived in San Jacobo, once on land, they asked what day they were and the Portuguese said they were on Thursday 10, then Pigafetta realized that for him and the crew was still Wednesday July 9. "I had written every day without interruption, for not having failed my health" writes Pigafetta to highlight, next "But, as we were later warned, there was no error, but, having made the trip all the way to the West, and returning to the place of departure (as the Sun does, exactly), the Sun took us twenty-four hours in advance, as clearly seen. "

That is, that this trip not only served to demonstrate empirically that the Earth is round but also served to highlight what is called the circumnavigator's paradox and that would inspire Jules Verne at the time of writing his novel entitled Around the World in 80 Days. Recall the moment in which his main character – Phileas Fogg – returned to London believing that for five minutes he had lost his bet. But his surprise came when he realized that he had reached London a day earlier than expected and, with that, he had not lost the bet, but had won it.

Phileas Fogg had advanced one day, since he always traveled eastward and, for each grade, he earned four minutes. In this way, the 360º of the planetary circumference multiplied by 4 is equal to 1,440 minutes that, if we divide them by 60 minutes that has one hour, give us a result of 24 hours.

The stone ax it is a section where Montero Glez, with a will to prose, exercises his particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.


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