iSoul In the beginning is reality.

Galileo’s reciprocity

From Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, translated by Stillman Drake (UC Press, 1967):

Salv. Now imagine yourself in a boat with your eyes fixed on point of the sail yard. Do you think that because the boat is moving along briskly, you will have to move your eyes in order to keep your vision always on that point of the sail yard and to follow its motion?

Simp. I am a sure that I should not need to make any change at all; not just as to my vision, but if I had aimed a musket I should never have to move it a hairsbreadth to keep it aimed, no matter how the boat moved.

Salv. And this comes about because the motion the ship confers upon the sail yard, it confers upon you and also upon your eyes, so that you need not move them a bit in order to gaze at the top of the sail yard, which consequently appears motionless to you. [And the rays of vision go from the eye to the sail yard just as if a cord were tied between the two ends of the boat. Now a hundred cords are tied at different fixed points, each of which keeps its place whether the ship moves or remains still.] p.249-250

Galileo is portraying motion as viewed by a human observer. The implication is that the observer in another ship would be observing the same kinds of things. Then two observers in motion with respect to one another who observe one another must face one another. That is, they are positioned opposite one another, effectively each turned 180º from the other.

This is the Galilean Reciprocity Principle, the convention that an observed frame has the opposite orientation of the frame from which it is observed, which ensures that corresponding velocities are equal.

Post Navigation