I spend a lot of time in the car with my dad these days driving him to and from his doctor's appointments. For one, I'm his chauffeur because he doesn't drive anymore, and two, I'm his interpreter. Being a child of immigrants, it's a hat I've worn for as long as I can remember. Mostly, we spend the time talking about the Bruins or he'll get on my case about what he perceives as my lack of a marriage-and-having-kids plan. But, it's becoming clear to me that car rides are also his favorite time to talk about science.
Yesterday morning was no exception. On our way home from my dad's dentist appointment he decided he wanted to talk about Copernicus, the Renaissance astronomer who put forth a mathematical model (heliocentrism) that placed the Sun at the center of the solar system and the planets orbiting around it. Except he didn't know Copernicus' name so he kept referring to him in Vietnamese as nó, which could mean "he" or "it", so for all I know he also could have been referring to science the "institution." It was sort of unclear to me. Anyway, it was a subject he said that he'd learned in grade school, which made me think, "Grade school?" I thought about it some more and I couldn't really remember when Copernicus and heliocentrism was taught in school.
Image of heliocentric model from Nicolaus Copernicus' "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium"
Halfway into our conversation, he turned to me and asked, "Hey, remember how the Church thought the Earth was at the center and the Sun revolved around it? Boy did they get that one wrong, huh?" It's funny because I don't think I can ever recall my dad being critical of the Church. He chuckled and looked out the passenger side window.
"They just couldn't argue with the science in the end, could they?"