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Galileo's Equations

Galileo expressed his discoveries mathematically.

Galileo made many discoveries about falling objects. One important discovery was that falling bodies could be described more simply by quantifying time.

Previously, most scientists had used distance to describe falling bodies. This is because these scientists used geometry, and geometry describes shapes and lengths.

Geometry had been trusted by scientists ever since Euclid. Galileo himself used geometrical methods to express his results. However at this time, another kind of mathematics was being developed—algebra. Algebra allowed arithmetical calculations to become as sophisticated as geometric ones.

Algebra also allowed the discoveries of scientists such as Galileo—as well as later scientists like Newton, Maxwell and Einstein—to be summarised by mathematical equations. These equations described physical relationships in a precise, self-consistent manner.

Scientists like it when equations are symmetrical and (relatively) simple. Surprisingly, these kinds of equations often describe the world quite well. This leads some scientists to describe mathematics as "the language of the Universe".

Equations have proved to be very powerful for modern physical science. Much of this science can be traced back to a moment before equations were used—when Galileo quantified time.

Galileo Galilei
magnifyGalileo Galilei

Galileo's equation
Galileo's equation

Newton's equation
Newton's equation

Einstein's equation
Einstein's equation
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