Everyone knows the Galileo story as another instance of the Catholic church flexing its muscles and putting science in the corner. But the actual story is far more complex, and at the center of it lies a pretty spectacular troll.
You see, back in Galileo's day, there were three competing models of the universe. Two of them were your basic theology-approved geocentric theories, while the third, called the Copernican model, held that the Earth and the rest of the planets orbited the sun. Scientists of the time pretty much stuck to the "everything revolves around the Earth" school, because they didn't want to get stoned to death. Also, there were a couple of Mr.-Stay-Puft-sized holes in the Copernican theory, most notably the lack of observable stellar parallax, which is how astronomers determine the relative distance of celestial bodies (while simultaneously being a howlingly bitching name for a space rock band).
"Ladies and gen- wait, really? We wasted that name on these fucking idiots?"
Basically, all the best evidence of the day pointed to geocentrism. Galileo himself was never able to offer conclusive proof of the Copernican theory, and he got key details, like the shape of planetary orbits, completely wrong.
So, Galileo was instructed to teach the Copernican model only as one of many possible theories. After a few chats with Pope Urban VIII about the relevant science (because that was a thing people used to have to do), Galileo told His Eminence that he was going to write a book presenting the theories as objectively as possible and in layman's terms. What he did instead was spray out Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems like a hateful jet of burningly contrary diarrhea into the face of the man who could have his fingernails pulled out for coughing in church.
"You're lucky I'm busy delivering toys to all the world's children this month."
The Dialogue was standard-issue pop science, essentially an Al Gore movie without all the wistful sighing. It was written as a discussion between three characters, although Galileo makes it painfully clear which character he believes is correct and which characters he believes are nose-picking shitheads. To top it off, he used arguments the Pope had made to him in private conversation and had them spoken by the character Simplicio, who was depicted as a 17th century Pauly Shore. He might as well have called the character Idioticci and included illustrations of him in a papal hat. You may recognize this as a world-class piece of troll bait.
And as a result, the "moderators" (the Inquisition) stepped in and banned Galileo from the "forum" (public life). Yeah, trolling doesn't always work out the way you want it to.
Andrew Bensley can be found occasionally writing semi-humorous words on the Twitter, and you can troll Steve on his shoddy blog BuyDemocracy.
For experiments that seem like trolling, check out The 10 Craziest Scientific Experiments Ever Conducted and 5 Psych Experiments That Sounded Fun (Until They Started).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 'The Dark Knight Rises': The 30-Second Version.