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How Galileo dropped the ball and Fermat picked it up

Roberts, Bryan W. (2009) How Galileo dropped the ball and Fermat picked it up. [Preprint]


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This paper introduces a little-known episode in the history of physics, in which a mathematical proof by Pierre Fermat vindicated Galileo's characterization of freefall. The first part of the paper reviews the historical context leading up to Fermat's proof. The second part illustrates how a physical and a mathematical insight enabled Fermat's result, and that a simple modification would satisfy any of Fermat's critics. The result is an illustration of how a purely theoretical argument can settle an apparently empirical debate.

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Item Type: Preprint
Roberts, Bryan W.
Additional Information: Forthcoming in Synthese.
Keywords: foundations of physics, history of mathematics, freefall, acceleration, Galileo, Fermat
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Bryan Roberts
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:18
Item ID: 4917

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