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Bruno a born rebel.

Bruno a born rebel.

Imagine the world before telescopes, when the universe was only what you could see through the naked eye. It seemed like our planet Earth was motionless and everything including the sun, the moon, planets and stars revolved around us making ‘US’ the centre of the universe. And then a Polish astronomer Copernicus made a radical proposal that Earth was not the centre of the universe. It was just one of the planets that revolved around the sun. This was not accepted back then as it was against the scripture (Bible).

Giordano Bruno was a young Dominican monk in Naples, and a natural born rebel. There was a time when there was no freedom of thought. Bruno was curious about the God’s creation. He dared to read the books banned by church. He came across a very old book titled ‘On the nature of things’ by Lucretius. In that book Lucretius asked the reader, to imagine standing at the edge of the universe and shooting an arrow outward. If the arrow keeps going, then clearly the universe extends beyond what we thought was the edge. But if the arrow doesn’t keep going, say it hits a wall or some boundary, then that wall must lie beyond what we thought was the edge of the universe. Now stand on that wall and shoot another arrow, there are same two possible outcomes, it either flies for ever or hits another boundary where we can shoot yet another arrow. Either way the universe is unbounded. The cosmos must be infinite. This made perfect sense to Bruno, the God he worshiped was Infinite!

Bruno became an evangelist, spreading the gospel of infinity throughout Europe. He thought that other lovers of God would naturally embrace the idea of an infinite universe as it is grander view. He was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church in his homeland, expelled by the Calvinists in Switzerland, expelled by Lutherans in Germany. He couldn’t keep his soaring vision of the cosmos to himself, despite the fact that the penalty for doing so in his world was the most vicious form of cruel and unusual punishment. Giordano Bruno lived at a time when there was no such thing as the separation of church and state or the notion that freedom of speech was a sacred right of every individual. Expressing an idea that didn’t conform to traditional belief could land you in deep trouble.

Recklessly Bruno returned to Italy. His homeland was one of the most dangerous places in Europe he could possibly go. The Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the Inquisition and its sole purpose was to investigate and torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs. He was languished in confinement for eight years. Through relentless interrogations he stubbornly refused to renounce his views. Why did the church go to such lengths to torment Bruno? What were they afraid of? If Bruno was right, then the sacred books and the authority of the Church would be open to question. He was turned over to the secular authorities. On Ash Wednesday, 17 February 1600, in the Campo de’ Fiori (a central Roman market square), with his “tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words”. He was hung upside down naked before he was finally burned at the stake.


Excerpt from the TV show Cosmos : A Spacetime Odyssey.