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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Un(s)even: the multiverse

(a bit cropped)

The years in which Torquato Tasso wrote Il Mondo Creato were those between the formulation of Copernicus' theory and the breaking out of the Galileo Affair. The heliocentric pattern already existed, but had not yet become the subject of red-hot, and dangerous, controversies. Tasso, personally, did not accept heliocentrism -- or rather, he did not accept it as a physical law, but he subscribed to its deepest 'spiritual' meaning: Man was no longer the center of the universe. The many lines he devotes to the issue also show another interesting side of the astronomical debate in the late 16th century, namely that, against all simplifications, there did not exist one geocentric pattern, but many, and quite different from one another. On the other hand, it had been so from the Greek philosophers onwards.

On this subject, it is both instructing and amusing to read, among others, Fortunato Lanci's hypotheses about Dante's cosmology (see) and Umberto Eco's 1994 novel L'isola del giorno prima / English version: The Island of the Day Before, set in the early 17th century. Not to speak of William Blake's theory on the shape and position of the Earth, expressed in his long poems Milton (Plate 28) and Jerusalem (Plate 83); while John Milton himself, notoriously, chose not to choose. Ludovico Ariosto, in the early 16th century, loved to joke about the whole issue by saying that the Sun did turn around the Earth, alright, but witches could make it work the other way round thanks to their great powers.