Posted by: Mark | June 19, 2017

De Rerum Natura : Chapter 2

After Finnegans Wake anything seems like an easy read, even a Roman poem about the nature of atoms.

In Book Two, “Movement and Shape of Atoms,” some of what Lucretius argues holds up. He claimed that atoms do not have colors. Depending on how you define “have color,” that’s true. Also, “it must not be supposed that atoms of every sort can be linked in every variety of combination.” Definitely true as seen with noble gasses.

However, not surprisingly, most of his atomic theories are wrong.

Lucretius was attempting to explain natural phenomenon without relying on the gods. Good for him. That’s better than most Americans. Still he made a mistake in assuming that everything is made of atoms, even sound.

Sweet music is made of smooth, round atoms but the screech of a saw is made from jagged, cutting atoms. Without the concept of either molecules, sound waves, and subatomic particles, Lucretius didn’t have a chance.

In fairness, how much farther will science go with atomic theories in another 2,000 years?

Even when Lucretius was dead wrong, he argued in a rational manner. Again, Americans have no right to look down on him.

Looking forward to the next chapter about Life and Mind.


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