Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Does Atom Mean Uncut or Uncuttable?
Uncut and uncuttable have different meanings.
I say atom means not cut or uncut.
"At least those atoms whence derives their power
To throw forth fire and send out light from under
To shoot the sparks and scatter embers wide."
-- T. Lucretius Carus, philosopher poet, On the Nature of Things, Book II, 50 B.C.
To Democritus, the polymath, all magnitudes were infinitely divisible.
"... it is highly unscientific to believe that there is an indivisible magnitude. Epicurus would surely never have held that view had he chosen to learn geometry from his friend Polyaenus rather than make Polyaenus himself unlearn it. Democritus thought the sun was of great size, as befits a man of education, well-trained in geometry. Epicurus thought that it was maybe a foot across. He took the view that it was more or less as big as it looked. Thus when he changes Democritus he makes things worse; when he follows Democritus there is nothing original, as is the case with atoms ...." -- Marcus T. Cicero, philosopher, On Moral Ends, Book I, 1st century B.C.
"... divisibility comes about because of the void in compound bodies...." -- Simplicius, philosopher, On the Heavens, 6th century
"The difference between the two men, Democritus and Epicurus, was that Democritus was still modestly aware that he knew nothing, while Epicurus was very sure that he knew very little short of everything." -- Erwin Schrödinger, physicist, Nature and the Greeks, 1954
"Democritus was intensely interested in geometry, not as a mere enthusiast like Plato; he was a geometer of distinction." -- Erwin Schrodinger, physicist, Nature and the Greeks, 1954
"[Thomas] Heath esteems him [Democritus] highly as a mathematician." -- Bertrand Russell, philosopher, A History of Western Philosophy, 1972
"Their [Leucippus and Democritus's] point of view was remarkably like that of modern science, and avoided most of the faults to which Greek speculation was prone. They believed that everything is composed of atoms, which are physically, but not geometrically, indivisible; that between the atoms there is empty space;" -- Bertrand Russell, philosopher, A History of Western Philosophy, 1972
"Democritus invented the word atom...." -- Carl Sagan, professor, Cosmos, 1980
"He [Democritus] was knocking at the door of differential and integral calculus, that fundamental tool for understanding the world that was not, so far as we know from written records, in fact discovered until the time of Isaac Newton. Perhaps if Democritus' work had not been almost completely destroyed, there would have been calculus by the time of Christ." -- Carl Sagan, professor, Cosmos, 1980
"Suppose the following question is put: in what sense did Democritus hold the atom to be indivisible?" -- Stephen Makin, philosopher, How Can We Find Out What Ancient Philosophers Said?, Phronesis, Volume 33, Number 2, Pages 121-132, 1988
"... Democritus seems to have been fully involved in the mathematics of his day and to have been aware of the discussion of infinite divisibility and points with no magnitude, found, for example, in the paradoxes of Zeno. It seems unlikely that such a man would cheerfully hold that his atoms could have shape without having parts and without having magnitude. The different shapes of atoms was a major part of his physical theory, which makes it difficult to see how he could have held that they were partless and thus mathematically indivisible." -- Raymond Godfrey, philosopher, Democritus and the Impossibility of Collision, Philosophy, Volume 65, Number 252, Pages 212-217, 1990
"It is interesting that this contradiction has been exactly predicted by Kant's (1781, 1783) antinomy, namely, Democritus' atom is both indivisible and divisible. Therefore, the atom is a Kantian idea." -- Uri Fidelman, cognitive neuropsychologist, Cognitive and Neuropsychological Basis for Quantum Mechanics: Part II. Quantum-Mechanical Behaviour of Macroscopic Object, Kybernetes, Volume 33, Issue 9/10, Pages 1463-1471, 2004