RE: Reference needed for "Newton's comets"

From: Hofmann, Jim (
Date: Sun Sep 28 2003 - 12:20:02 EDT

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    I would recommend Comets, Popular Culture, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology, by Sara J. Schechner (1997, Princeton University Press).
    Jim Hofmann
    Cal State Fullerton

            -----Original Message-----
            From: Loren Haarsma []
            Sent: Tue 9/23/2003 11:47 AM
            To: _American Sci Affil
            Subject: Reference needed for "Newton's comets"

               I recall reading that when Isaac Newton calculated the orbits of the
            planets, he believed that they would become unstable after a few hundred
            or thousand years due to mutual gravitational attraction; that Newton
            proposed that God occasionally sent comets through the solar system with
            just the right mass and trajectories to correct these instabilities; and
            that LaPlace eventually showed that planetary orbits were stable for much
            longer periods of time.
               Does someone know of a published reference for this? All I can find so
            far is page 91 of Colin A. Russell's "Cross-currents: Interactions Between
            Science and Faith" (InterVarsity Press), and that doesn't give
            much detail.
            Thank you.
            Loren Haarsma

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