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Isaac Newton's Scientific MethodTurning Data into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology$
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William L. Harper

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570409

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570409.001.0001

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Unification and the Moon‐Test: Critical Assessment

Unification and the Moon‐Test: Critical Assessment

(p.220) 6 Unification and the Moon‐Test: Critical Assessment
Isaac Newton's Scientific Method

William L. Harper

Oxford University Press

Part I argues that the precision of Newton’s moon-test calculation goes beyond what modern least squares assessment can support from his cited data and that his data afford no support for his precession correction to offset the action of the sun; but, that Newton is innocent of Westfall’s main accusation of data fudging in the moon-test. Part II argues that Newton’s inference does not depend on his precession correction or on his selection of which lunar distance estimates to include. It argues that a correction for syzygy distances can defend the larger lunar distance Newton assigns in his moon-test of corollary 7 of proposition 37. Appendix 1 discusses the details of Newton’s moon-test calculation from corollary 7 of proposition 37 of book 3. It shows that Newton’s moon-test inference continues to hold up when simplifying assumptions of his basic calculation are replaced by more realistic approximations.

Keywords:   lunar distance estimates, syzygy, precision, precession correction, least squares, Westfall, data fudging, simplifying assumptions, realistic approximations

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