Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagGiant Magellan Telescope

collection of alien planets in front of the Milky Way galaxy, nearby exoplanets

Physicist: Copernican Principle Doesn’t Make Earth Insignificant

That, Marcelo Gleiser says, is a philosophical attitude, unrelated to the science

Theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge (2014) offers some thoughts on what the Copernican Principle means and doesn’t mean about Earth’s status as a planet — whether Earth is a special place or a pale blue dot. He has no objection to the Copernican Principle (“a cornerstone of astronomy”) as such. The problem, he points out, is what happened next: Copernicus famously proposed that Earth was not the center of the universe; the sun was. The Earth, he suggested, was just another planet orbiting the sun like Mars or Jupiter… The principle, as understood today, is usually stated as, “Earth is an ordinary planet, and we, human observers, are ordinary too.” There is nothing special about…