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# Mesopotamian science

### The development of astronomy and science through the empires of Mesopotamia

The history part of this outline comes from Houghton Mifflin Historical-Social Science: World History: Ancient Civilizations: Eduplace Social studies review: LS_6_04_01

The integration with science standards was developed by R. Kaiser.

This historical overview is brief, and by necessity, highly simplified.

## Assyrian empire 850 – 609 BCE

### Astronomers of their day discovered a repeating 18-year Saros cycle of lunar eclipses

(data for this GIF is from http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEsaros/SEsaros101.html)

## Post-Chaldean Babylonians

Jesse Emspak, in the Smithsonian, “Babylonians Were Using Geometry Centuries Earlier Than Thought” 1/28/16

As one of the brightest objects in the night sky, the planet Jupiter has been a source of fascination since the dawn of astronomy. Now a cuneiform tablet dating to between 350 and 50 B.C. shows that Babylonians not only tracked Jupiter, they were taking the first steps from geometry toward calculus to figure out the distance it moved across the sky.

Obliquity of the Nine Planets http://solarviews.com/eng/solarsys.htm

Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin found the tablet while combing through the collections at the British Museum. The written record gives instructions for estimating the area under a curve by finding the area of trapezoids drawn underneath. Using those calculations, the tablet shows how to find the distance Jupiter has traveled in a given interval of time.

The distance travelled by Jupiter after 60 days, 10º45′,
computed as the area of the trapezoid whose top left corner is Jupiter’s velocity over the course of the first day, in distance per day, and its top right corner is Jupiter’s velocity on the 60th day.
In a second calculation, the trapezoid is divided into two smaller ones,
with equal area to find the time in which Jupiter covers half this distance.

Photo credit: Trustees of the British Museum/Mathieu Ossendrijver
http://www.space.com/31765-ancient-babylonians-tracked-jupiter-with-math.html

Until now, this kind of use of trapezoids wasn’t known to exist before the 14th century.

“What they are doing is applying it to astronomy in a totally new way,” Ossendrijver says. “The trapezoid figure is not in real space and doesn’t describe a field or a garden, it describes an object in mathematical space—velocity against time.”

Scholars already knew that Babylonians could find the area of a trapezoid, and that they were quite familiar with the motions of planets and the moon. Previous records show that they used basic arithmetic—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division—to track these celestial bodies.

By 400 B.C. Babylonian astronomers had worked out a coordinate system using the ecliptic, the region of the sky the sun and planets move through, Ossendrijver says. They even invented the use of degrees as 360 fractions of a circle based on their sexagesimal, or base 60, counting system. What wasn’t clear was whether the Babylonians had a concept of objects in abstract mathematical space.

The trapezoid method involves learning the rate at which Jupiter moves and then plotting the planet’s speed against a set number of days on an x-y graph. The result should be a curve on the graph. Figuring out the area of trapezoids under this curve gives a reasonable approximation of how many degrees the planet has moved in a given period.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ancient-babylonians-were-using-geometry-centuries-earlier-thought-180957965/#mZ1dTRBAhrGx6wA6.99
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Babylonians Were Using Geometry Centuries Earlier Than Thought, Smithsonian Magazine

## External references

Babylonian Astronomy, Wikipedia article

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_astronomy

# Learning Standards

### 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

Understandings about the Nature of Science:  Science knowledge has a history that includes the refinement of, and changes to, theories, ideas, and beliefs over time.

Science Is a Human Endeavor:  Scientific knowledge is a result of human endeavor,
imagination, and creativity. Individuals and teams from many nations and cultures have contributed to science and to advances in engineering.

### Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

Mesopotamia: Site of several ancient river civilizations circa 3500–1200 BCE
7.10 Describe the important achievements of Mesopotamian civilization.

### Next Generation Science Standards

HS-ESS1 Earth’s Place in the Universe
Construct an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future. (HS-ESS1-2)
Apply scientific reasoning to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion. (HS-ESS1-6)

Engaging in Argument from Evidence: Use appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

Connections to Nature of Science:
Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena.
A scientific theory is a substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment, and the science community validates each theory before it is accepted. If new evidence is discovered that the theory does not accommodate, then the theory is generally modified in light of this new evidence. (HS-ESS1-2),(HS-ESS1-6)

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