The Clockwork Universe

The Clockwork Universe

The philosophical and practical problems associated with Newtonian Gravity are simply stunning:

1) Newtonian Gravity has no mechanism and relies upon a magical action at a distance.

2) Newtonian Gravity somehow travels “instantaneously” throughout the universe.

3) Newtonian Gravity travelling at infinite speed implies the associated mass is a source of infinite energy.

4) Newtonian Gravity produces a force that intelligently adjusts itself so that all objects are uniformly accelerated regardless of their mass.

[See: ]

5) Newtonian Gravity fails to provide a viable explanation for the three-body problem presented by the Sun-Moon-Earth at New Moon.

[See: ]

6) Newtonian Gravity fails to provide a viable explanation for the horseshoe orbit of Asteroid 2010 SO16.

[See: ]

7) Newtonian Gravity is falsified unless 84.5% of the total matter in the universe is composed of a hypothetical form of invisible Fairy Dust called Dark Matter.

[See: ]

However, these mechanical and magical mysteries disappear if the phenomenon of Gravity is deemed to be the [net] resultant force that is primarily [but not exclusively] defined by:

a) A centripetal force generated by an enveloping mechanical system.

b) A centrifugal force generated by a rotating body within a mechanical system.

Clockwork Animation

‘Clockwork Flowers,’ animation by Apostolescu


The dense sand moves to the centre and forms a hemispherical island.
Initially, the less dense plastic bead orbits the island.
As the circular motion dissipates the plastic bead moves closer to the island.
When the circular motion has dissipated the plastic bead rests against the island.


Forced Vortex Demonstration

The concept of a mechanical system was embedded in the cosmology of the Clockwork Universe.

Wikipedia as at 16th September 2012 – see Footnote Two.

The clockwork universe theory compares the universe to a mechanical clock wound up by a supreme being.

It continues ticking along, as a perfect machine, with its gears governed by the laws of physics, making every single aspect of the machine completely predictable.

Before the emergence of quantum mechanics, many scientists believed that the universe was completely deterministic in this way.

What sets this theory apart from others is the idea that God’s only contribution to the universe was to set everything in motion, and from there the laws of science took hold and have governed every sequence of events since that time.

A similar concept goes back, to John of Sacrobosco’s early 13th-century introduction to astronomy: On the Sphere of the World.

In this widely popular medieval text, Sacrobosco spoke of the universe as the machina mundi, the machine of the world, suggesting that the reported eclipse of the Sun at the crucifixion of Jesus was a disturbance of the order of that machine.

This conception of the universe consisted of a huge, regulated and uniform machine that operated according to natural laws in absolute time, space, and motion.

God was the master-builder, who created the perfect machine and let it run.

God was the Prime Mover, who brought into being the world in its lawfulness, regularity, and beauty.

This view of God as the creator, who stood aside from his work and didn’t get involved directly with humanity, was called Deism (which predates Newton) and was accepted by many who supported the “new philosophy”.

The analog technology embraced by the Clockwork Universe was incorporated into Volvelles which can be traced back to the days of Babylon in [about] 1,750 BC.

A volvelle or wheel chart is a type of slide chart, a paper construction with rotating parts.

It is considered an early example of a paper analog computer.

Volvelles have been produced to accommodate organization and calculation in many diverse subjects.

Early examples of volvelles are found in the pages of astronomy books.


They can be traced back to “certain Arabic treatises on humoral medicine” and to the Persian astronomer, Abu Rayhan Biruni (c. 1000), who made important contributions to the development of the volvelle.

Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī [973-1048] known as Alberonius in Latin and Al-Biruni in English, was a Persian Muslim scholar and polymath from the Khwarezm region.

Al-Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist.

He was conversant in Khwarezmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac.

He spent a large part of his life in Ghazni in modern-day Afghanistan, capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty which was based in what is now central-eastern Afghanistan.

In 1017 he traveled to the Indian subcontinent and became the most important interpreter of Indian science to the Islamic world.

He is given the titles the “founder of Indology”. He was an impartial writer on custom and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustadh (“The Master”) for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.

He also made contributions to Earth sciences, and is regarded as the “father of geodesy” for his important contributions to that field, along with his significant contributions to geography.

Abu Rayhan Biruni

The most ancient example of a simple volvelle was the pentagram from Hammurabi’s day that has become the symbol of witchcraft.

It is actually the path of Venus in 8 years and it does rotate in full circle in a span of 1199 or 1215 years. (1200×365 days or 5×243 years) But owing to Venus averaging 583.92 days, the 750 synodic orbits in 1200 years (750×584 days) has a correction of 60 days less, or 30 days less in 600 years. This is to be noted when the ancient Great Year of 600 years is said to be oriental, and the oriental calendar includes a 60-day cycle. However, the 600-year calendar (cycle) is assumed to be Jupiter by equating it with 12-year calendar.

Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, “the kinsman is a healer”, from ʻAmmu, “paternal kinsman”, and Rāpi, “healer”; died c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of Babylon (that is, of the First Babylonian Dynasty) from 1792 BC to 1750 BC middle chronology (1728 BC – 1686 BC short chronology).

He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire following the abdication of his father, Sin-Muballit, extending Babylon’s control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms.

The analog technology embraced by the Clockwork Universe was incorporated into Astrolabes which can be traced back to the Hellenistic world of [about] 150 BC.

Persian astrolabe

An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers.

Its many uses include locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and vice-versa, surveying, triangulation, and to cast horoscopes.

It was used in classical antiquity, the Islamic Golden Age, the European Middle Ages and Renaissance for all these purposes.

In the Islamic world, it was also used to calculate the Qibla and to find the times for Salat, prayers.


An early astrolabe was invented in the Hellenistic world in 150 BC and is often attributed to Hipparchus.

A marriage of the planisphere and dioptra, the astrolabe was effectively an analog calculator capable of working out several different kinds of problems in spherical astronomy.

Theon of Alexandria wrote a detailed treatise on the astrolabe, and Lewis (2001) argues that Ptolemy used an astrolabe to make the astronomical observations recorded in the Tetrabiblos.

Astrolabes continued in use in the Greek-speaking world throughout the Byzantine period.

About 550 AD the Christian philosopher John Philoponus wrote a treatise on the astrolabe in Greek, which is the earliest extant Greek treatise on the instrument.

In addition, Severus Sebokht, a bishop who lived in Mesopotamia, also wrote a treatise on the astrolabe in Syriac in the mid-7th century.

Severus Sebokht refers in the introduction of his treatise to the astrolabe as being made of brass, indicating that metal astrolabes were known in the Christian East well before they were developed in the Islamic world or the Latin West.

However, the most astonishing example of the analog technology embraced by the Clockwork Universe is the Antikythera Mechanism from [about] the 2nd quarter of the 1st century BC which [amongst everything else] emulated the hypotrochoid nature of the lunar orbit.

The Antikythera wreck is a shipwreck from the 2nd quarter of the 1st century BC.

It was discovered by sponge divers off Point Glyphadia on the Greek island of Antikythera in 1900.

The wreck manifested numerous statues, coins and other artifacts dating back to the 4th century BC, as well as the severely corroded remnants of a device that is called the world’s oldest known analog computer, the Antikythera mechanism.

Antikythera mechanism

Virtual Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism – M. Wright and M. Vicentini

Ancient computer 2,000 years old NOVA HD Full Documentary

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient analog computer designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses. It was recovered in 1900–1901 from the Antikythera wreck, a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Although the computer’s construction has been attributed to the Greeks and dated to the early 1st century BC, its significance and complexity were not understood until the 1970s when it was analyzed with modern X-ray technology. Technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks began to be built in Western Europe.

Hypotrochoid orbits

Disregarding this wonderful analog heritage the academic mainstream eventually endorsed Newtonian Gravity [after a lot a haranguing and cajoling by the great man himself] and busied themselves forgetting all about the Clockwork Universe as they conjured up their miraculous action at a distance and imagined the infinite possibilities presented by instantaneous propagation.

The Wikipedia article from 2012 indicates that the Clockwork Universe is still a very sensitive subject that the mainstream pro-actively criticises when it is not busy ignoring it.

Wikipedia as at 16th September 2012

Suggested arguments against this theory include: the concept of free will; the second law of thermodynamics (the total entropy of any isolated thermodynamic system tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value); and quantum physics with its mathematical description which some interpret as unpredictable, random behaviour.

However, Wikipedia in 2012 also stated that Sir Isaac Newton was a “prominent opponent of the clockwork universe” because he thought “the clockwork universe theory wrongly reduces God’s role in the universe”.

Wikipedia as at 16th September 2012

Isaac Newton has been recognized as a prominent opponent of the clockwork universe theory, though the theory has often been wrongly attributed to him.

Edward B. Davis has acknowledged Newton’s belief that the clockwork universe theory wrongly reduces God’s role in the universe, as reflected in the writings of Newton-supporter Samuel Clarke.

Responding to Gottfried Leibniz, a prominent supporter of the theory, in the Leibniz–Clarke correspondence, Clarke wrote:

The Notion of the World’s being a great Machine, going on without the Interposition of God, as a Clock continues to go without the Assistance of a Clockmaker; is the Notion of Materialism and Fate, and tends, (under pretence of making God a Supra-mundane Intelligence,) to exclude Providence and God’s Government in reality out of the World.

Therefore, it safe to assume that Sir Isaac Newton believed he was restoring God’s role in the universe when he published Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687.

Tragically, 327 years later, the mainstream is still deeply embroiled in the magic and mysticism of Newtonian Gravity.

However, for anyone who is unmoved by Newton’s magic and mysticism, the rich heritage of the Clockwork Universe was further developed by René Descartes [1596–1650] into a Vortex Theory of Planetary Motion.

Descartes’ vortex theory of planetary motion proved initially to be one of the most influential aspects of Cartesian physics, at least until roughly the mid-eighteenth century.

A vortex, for Descartes, is a large circling band of material particles.

In essence, Descartes’ vortex theory attempts to explain celestial phenomena, especially the orbits of the planets or the motions of comets, by situating them (usually at rest) in these large circling bands.

The entire Cartesian plenum, consequently, is comprised of a network or series of separate, interlocking vortices.

In our solar system, for example, the matter within the vortex has formed itself into a set of stratified bands, each lodging a planet, that circle the sun at varying speeds.

The minute material particles that form the vortex bands consist of either the atom-sized, globules (secondary matter) or the “indefinitely” small debris (primary matter) left over from the impact and fracture of the larger elements; tertiary matter, in contrast, comprises the large, macroscopic material element (Pr III 48–54).

This three-part division of matter, along with the three laws of nature, are responsible for all cosmological phenomena in Descartes’ system, including gravity.

As described in Pr III 140, a planet or comet comes to rest in a vortex band when its radially-directed, outward tendency to flee the center of rotation (i.e., centrifugal force; see Section 6) is balanced by an equal tendency in the minute elements that comprise the vortex ring.

If the planet has either a greater or lesser centrifugal tendency than the small elements in a particular vortex, then it will, respectively, either ascend to the next highest vortex (and possibly reach equilibrium with the particles in that band) or be pushed down to the next lowest vortex – and this latter scenario ultimately supplies Descartes’ explanation of the phenomenon of gravity, or “heaviness”.

More specifically, Descartes holds that the minute particles that surround the earth account for terrestrial gravity in this same manner (Pr IV 21–27).

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Descartes’ Physics


Footnote One
Mainstream academia [and Wikipedia] displays a very elitist prejudice when it comes to Western Civilisation and zealously promotes the idea that the Astrolabe and the Antikythera Mechanism were invented in ancient Greece.

However, this attribution is far from certain given the long history of analog computing that has been traced back to Babylon in [about] 1,750 BC.

Clearly, there is a period of about 1,600 years [for the further development of analog computing techniques] before the Astrolabe and the Antikythera Mechanism surfaced in ancient Greece around 150 BC.

Footnote Two
Wikipedia again shows its sordid and shabby side when it comes to the Clockwork Universe.

The version of the Wikipedia article published on the 16th September 2012 is definitely more balanced and explanatory than their current condensed version.

However, the 2012 version did include this startling opening line:

“The clockwork universe theory compares the universe to a mechanical clock wound up by a supreme being, or initiated by the Big Bang”.

The surreal final six words are totally bogus because the linked article clearly explains that Georges Lemaître only “proposed what became the Big Bang theory in 1927”.

Accordingly, I removed these surreal six words from the Wikipedia quotation used earlier in this posting.

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11 Responses to The Clockwork Universe

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  2. George says:

    Ah, I read the articles in the wrong order. Should have spotted this one first!

  3. Stephen Kovaka says:

    Plenty of food for thought here! I think the scientific enterprise went astray by adopting the philosophy of naturalism, which excludes any consideration of God or the supernatural. However, IF God did indeed create the universe, then to exclude this vital fact from consideration will certainly lead to all sorts of other errors. In essence, Naturalism has bet the farm on black. But if the ball actually drops into the red slot??? Strenuous denials that there IS no red slot do not make it so. How much effort has been wasted trying to imagine how everything has created itself in an immensely long process of evolution, if in reality it was created from “outside the frame” by an intelligence infinitely superior to our own?

    • George says:

      What difference does it make if God created the universe, if the universe’s creator remains outside of it after its creation? If he simply “sets it in motion” and leaves it alone, it doesn’t matter. We are still left with a universe that (one assumes) follows certain rules or trends that we can study.

      Of course, if you mean that God created the universe as we see it right now rather than having created it billions of years ago, this is a different thing altogether. Which do you mean?

      A. God kick-started the universe with certain properties, and it’s been running ever since (the “God created the big bang” idea), with atoms and planets gradually forming and life eventually taking hold, and so on. Evolution is fine here.
      B. God created the universe with planets and life and all that. No evolution, it was just all created as we see it now.
      C. Somewhere in between.

  4. malagabay says:

    However, IF God did indeed create the universe
    Which begs the question: Who made God?
    Therefore, I always prefer to just follow the observational evidence…
    And let “the cards fall where they may”….

    • George says:

      Yeah, I think it’s a losing approach, that, you’re right.

      You can circumvent it, of course, as various traditions do. Effectively, they say that God is the name of the “material from which all things are made, all object rise from and fade into”. Like a big infinite cloth which, although having no material or shape itself, takes on various shapes and the form of various substances, changing over time. Y’know, like in I Heart Huckabees!

  5. Stephen Kovaka says:

    George, I had B. in mind. The fullest description of a creator God and the universe he made is in the bible, which does not describe the deistic clockwork universe, but something perhaps closer to an oil refinery, which has a certain ability to run itself in the short term, but also has an owner who keeps it up, and has the ability to intervene in ongoing processes. If we do not exclude this possibility a priori, it does answer some real observational questions, like the origin of order and the tremendous amount of detailed information contained and preserved in the genome of living creatures. Information is a product of intelligence, not known to arise spontaneously.

    The question, “Who made God?” becomes meaningless, since if he exists from all eternity (outside of time and space, which are also his creation) he had no beginning (a time dependent concept). We cannot apply our analytical tools to God because he is not part of the space/time universe. So we have to acknowledge our limitations as created beings – we can’t take God apart to see how he works, but we can get a lot of clues from carefully observing his creation.

    I understand that his is not what Tim’s site is about, but I mention it since the subject was raised in the original post. After all, numerous professional scientists do their daily work while believing in the biblical god, and historically including Newton himself and many of his contemporaries. It is only about 200 years since the naturalist philosophy came to dominate institutional science, which now seems to be running into problems, as so well demonstrated here.

    And with that, I am willing to let the subject drop.

    • George says:

      Let’s have a final quick go-round though, before we stop and become rude to our host! 🙂

      What you call “information” is actually complexity, perhaps, which tends to increase over time in any system. I’m not excluding the operation of intelligence in the universe as a formational mechanism, but I would tend to attribute it – for arguments sake – to us, not an “external independent supervisor”. It’s more likely to be something akin to Sheldrake’s morphic fields – i.e. the universe as a whole contributes to its own evolution (as in, development, non-Darwinian), because all of our actions contribute intelligently to that progress in a way that is not simply direct, and forms feed back into themselves.

      Yes, beginnings and endings are conceptual things and our not being able to imagine infinity is really just because we imagine things pictorially, and you can’t imagine “nothing” without a “something” and you can’t imagine a “thing” without a “start”.

      It’s true that many physicists, if not fans of a “Literal Biblical God”, do subscribe to a form of mysticism. Most of the early 20th century physicists had an interest in this regard because they saw science as a way of capturing observations, not as capturing “fundamental truth”. Schrodinger, for instance, says this in the conclusion to his lectures What is Life? – please indulge the quote:

      So let us see whether we cannot draw the correct, non-contradictory conclusion from the following two premises: (i) My body functions as a pure mechanism according to the Laws of Nature. (ii) Yet I know, by incontrovertible direct experience, that I am directing its motions, of which I foresee the effects, that may be fateful and all-important, in which case I feel and take full responsibility for them.

      The only possible inference from these two facts is, I think, that I –I in the widest meaning of the word, that is to say, every conscious mind that has ever said or felt ‘I’ -am the person, if any, who controls the ‘motion of the atoms’ according to the Laws of Nature. Within a cultural milieu (Kulturkreis) where certain conceptions (which once had or still have a wider meaning amongst other peoples) have been limited and specialized, it is daring to give to this conclusion the simple wording that it requires.

      In Christian terminology to say: ‘Hence I am God Almighty’ sounds both blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard these connotations for the moment and consider whether the above inference is not the closest a biologist can get to proving also their God and immortality at one stroke.

      A final comment on the Bible. It is obviously highly metaphorical, parables and so on, and should not be taken literally. Also, all parts are not equal (the history of how the current edition came to be, etc, needs to be taken into account). However, it certainly was an early attempt to capture “knowledge about the universe”, something beyond simply mechanical interactions. And it’s interesting because of that. (e.g. Neville Goddard takes it as a manual of how our internal behaviour affects the external world.)

      And with that, Malaga Bay please accept my apologies for going so off-topic! I do think, however, it is interesting that the motivations of the early “Natural Philosophers” were more mystical/spiritual than we may nowadays assume, given the more cynical age of science we are presently in.

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  8. Such a homocentric point of view!

    What of other, older Galaxies? Souls from these would try to not repeat the mistakes made earlier….

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