I find it tremendously awe inspiring to read about work that continues on in spite of fierce opposition. Researchers or writers who bring up concepts which fall outside of so called “mainstream” academia invariably receive a fair share of ridicule if they are acknowledged at all before some traction takes hold and support for their work begins to build. Sometimes their life’s work becomes accepted and confirmation becomes undeniable. Though it’s just as likely that they are never welcomed into the world of accepted knowledge. A few eventually have their thesis accepted and incorporated into the textbooks.
Let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that the earth’s rotation was still in doubt. On January 3, 1851, Leon Foucault set about to test the rotation of the earth.
In his fascinating book Pendulum: Foucault and the Triumph of Science, Dr Amir D Aczel recounts what a struggle it was for Leon Foucault to convince the nation’s mathematics that the earth was rotating on its axis. He tells us of the struggle and eventual triumph of this self-taught physicist.
Foucault had been working on making the perfect pendulum for months. Wires, metal cutters, measuring devices, and weights were all employed in its construction. What he finally came up with was a 2 meter long steel wire attached to the ceiling of his cellar in a way that allowed for free rotation without resulting torque. At the other end of the wire, he attached a 5 kilogram brass bob. It was a free-swinging pendulum, suspended from the ceiling.
He held his breath as the pendulum began to swing. Suddenly the wire snapped, and the bob fell heavily to the ground. Three days later, he was ready to try again. He care- fully set the pendulum in motion and waited. The bob swung slowly in front of his eyes, and Foucault attentively followed every oscillation. Finally, he saw it. He detected the slight but clearly perceptible change he was looking for in the plane of the swing of the pendulum. The pendulum’s plane of oscillation had moved away from its initial position, as if a magic hand had intervened and pushed it slowly but steadily away from him. Foucault knew he had just observed the impossible. The mathematicians—and among them France’s greatest names: Laplace, Cauchy, and Poisson—had all said that such motion could not occur or, if it did, could never be detected. Yet he, not a mathematician and not a trained physicist, somehow always knew that the mysterious force would be there. And now, he finally found it. He saw a clear shift in the plane of the swing of the pendulum. Léon Foucault had just seen the Earth turn.”