Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds
 

Greek evidence for the Earth's shape and spin

A round Earth 
Pythagoras' pupils, if not the great man himself, knew that the Earth is round. Traveller's tales of ships disappearing over the horizon and the Pole Star shifting to a higher position in the sky as one journeyed north suggested a curved Earth.

Evidence for round earth

Aristotle (about 340 BC), two centuries later, supported the idea of a spherical Earth, Moon and planets because:  

  • the sphere is a perfect solid and the heavens are a region of perfection 
  • the Earth's component pieces, falling naturally towards the centre, would press into a round form 
  • in an eclipse of the Moon, the Earth's shadow is always circular: a flat disc would cast an oval shadow 
  • even in short travels northwards the Pole Star is higher in the sky. 

This mixture of dogmatic reasons and experimental common sense was typical of him and he did much to set science on its feet. 
 
A spinning Earth

Evidence for spinning