Using Spring to Focus on Scientific Principles

A holiday once celebrated by an ancient civilization can showcase the progress that man has made, in terms of understanding and using scientific principles. That specific holiday was celebrated on the first day of spring. For ancient Persians, that day marked the start of their new year.

Persians have been celebrating their New Year for more than 25 centuries. At the time of the earliest celebrations, no one had heard of scientific principles. By the same token, no one understood why the hours of daylight and the hours of night were exactly the same each year, on one day in March.

In the absence of facts, a myth became accepted as an explanation for what was taking place. According to that myth, the world rested on the horn of a bull. Every spring that same bull would transfer the world from one horn to the opposite one.

By studying over time, the hour of spring’s arrival, learned men could predict when the first day of spring would arrive. Hence, the people of the Persian Empire could prepare to celebrate at that same time. Their celebration always included lots of music.

In many homes, the table with the mandatory decorations also included a mirror, with a boiled egg sitting on that same mirror. The Persians expected to see the egg shake, when the bull transferred the world from one horn to the opposite one. So, since we realize that no such bull existed, should we expect every Persian to express a bit of disappointment each year?

We might expect that, but we would be wrong. The egg on the mirror did shake at the time that the season known as spring commenced. The Persians viewed that shaking as proof that their myth must be true.

The Persians had formed a theory, a hypothesis. In their minds, the egg on the mirror provided them with a way to test that hypothesis. But their testing method had an obvious flaw. It failed to account for the added variant, the one thing that got introduced at the same time as spring’s arrival.

That was the music that played so loudly. In fact, it was so loud that it vibrated the air, and made the egg on the mirror move. In the absence of any positive or negative control, the Persians did not connect the egg’s movement with the vibrating air from the musical instruments. Hence, those ancient people failed to grasp the significance of a basic scientific principle.

persian new year

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