Friday, March 15, 2013

Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher

Rembrandt, The Young Rembrandt as Democritus the Laughing Philosopher (1628-1629)
According to convention there is sweet and bitter, a hot and a cold, and according to convention there is order. In truth there are atoms and a void.
~Democritus (ca 400 B.C.)
Democritus preached truth without proof more than 2000 years ago. He was forgotten but proven true in the modern age.


  1. Fluid in languish, solid too!

  2. Rembrandt was so profoundly good. What a great painting.

    Chi ride ultimo è il più lento pensatore!

  3. I'd be less fluent if 60 hadn't introduced me to his translator during the German blitz. Given TY's propensity to adjust quotes and El Pollo's bent toward realistic representation (albeit often from a different angle), I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I wanted to accept the quote as presented while harboring a sense of surprise and disbelief over use of the word "atom" that many years ago. Sure enough, what I didn't previously know was confirmed and made visible. In supposing that void exists, the atomists deliberately embraced an apparent contradiction, claiming that ‘what is not’ exists. Thank you chickelit! This sort of historic overview and awareness invites amazement and appreciation in the midst of muddle.

    1. Given its etymology, "atom" is the only Greek word in that quote. He just meant "indivisible" though and had no concept of "electron" or "proton."

      Democritus thought atoms were held together with tiny hooks--to loop back to catfish.

    2. @CL - would atomic velcro be a strong force or a weak one?

  4. Ottimo lavoro, MamaM.

    Yeah, google translate and Rossellini films combine to make my Italian molto meglio.

  5. @MamaM: I went looking for something about Democritus in a favorite resource of mine called "The World Of Physical Chemistry" by Keith Laidler. I didn't find anything but I found something else cool related to atoms and void:

    Newton's belief in the particulate nature was supported by his optical experiments. His view was that light is a stream of corpuscles, and in order to explain the fact that some material is transparent he assumed that some of the corpuscles pass through matter without encountering the particles of which it is composed. Matter must therefore consist mainly of empty space, and he made estimates of the size of the particles. His conclusion was that the particles must be extremely small that if all the particles in the solar system came together the total volume would be that of a nut. Later Joseph Priestly (1733-1804), in his "Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit" (1777), first used the expression "matter in a nutshell" to describe Newton's ideas.