For a long time, scientifically-minded folks (or at the very least, proto-scientific philosophers) assumed that the rules that governed our daily lives here on poor old Earth were radically different than the rules that governed the heavens. Whatever kept the stars and planets doing their things was completely different to the reasons that things fell to the ground and people got sick.
Of course, they thought that they could divine some understanding of our daily lives from the motions of the heavenly objects – this is the whole point of astrology. But even the most fervent aspirations of the old-school astrologer can’t come close to how deeply and fundamentally we really are connected to the cosmos that surrounds us.
Some deep thinkers had danced around the idea here and there through the centuries, but it was Isaac Newton that really nailed the concept and put it on firm footing. As he watched an apple fall from a tree, he realized that the gravitational force that drew that apple to the ground must be universal: the exact same force also pulled the moon towards the Earth, but it just so happened that the moon travels fast enough that it continually misses the ground – a state of motion known as “orbiting”.
Once he made this realization, he and his good buddy Edmund Halley used this new-found “universal gravity” to explain all sorts of phenomena both on Earth and in space.
The universality of science was born.
Everything we learn about the way things work down here applies equally across the universe. From hydrogen atoms to electricity and magnetism, it’s all the same. Conversely, if we figure out some new law of nature by studying distant galaxies, we can work out the implications for us here on the ground.
It comes in handy.