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Tycho's illusion


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A cognitive illusion that caused the cosmology of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) to appear physically impossible to his contemporary, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), and to astronomers and cosmologists for the next four centuries, until its illusory quality was pointed out in 1998 in a letter to the journal Nature by the US political scientist Howard Margolis (1932–2009). In Tycho's cosmology, which partially preserved Copernican heliocentrism but avoided the heresy of displacing the Earth from the centre of the universe, the planets revolve round the sun, but the sun together with its orbiting planets revolves round the Earth. When this is depicted diagrammatically, the orbits of Mars and the sun intersect, creating the impression that these bodies would collide with each other in the Tychonic system, whereas Margolis showed, by constructing a cardboard model, that the system implies no such collision.

Subjects: Psychology.


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