How the Greeks Knew the Earth was a Sphere


‘As long ago as 340 BC the Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his book On the Heavens,
was able to put forward two good arguments for believing that the earth was a round sphere rather than a Hat plate. First, he realized that eclipses of the moon were caused by the earth coming between the sun and the moon. The earth’s shadow on the moon was always round, which would be true only if the earth was spherical. If the earth had been a flat disk, the shadow would have been elongated and elliptical, unless the eclipse always occurred at a time when the sun was directly under the center of the disk. Second, the Greeks knew from their travels that the North Star appeared lower in the sky when viewed in the south than it did in more northerly regions. (Since the North Star lies over the North Pole, it appears to be directly above an observer at the North Pole, but to someone looking from the equator, it appears to lie just at the horizon. From the difference in the apparent position of the North Star in Egypt and Greece, Aristotle even quoted an estimate that the distance around the earth was 400,000 stadia. It is not known exactly what length a stadium was, but it may have been about 200 yards, which would make Aristotle’s estimate about twice the currently accepted figure. The Greeks even had a third argument that the earth must be round, for why else does one first see the sails of a ship coming over the horizon, and only later see the hull?’

– Hawking. S. (1998) A Brief History of Time New York, United States: Bantam Books p. 2

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Catharsis


‘Using his ideas about the fictional status of art, Aristotle made a particular study of the emotions aroused by tragic drama. This formed the basis for his theory of “catharsis”. Aristotle perceived how tragic drama draws on the audience’s feeling of pity and fear – it was common for Athenian spectators to weep openly at stage performances.

[Aristotle]
“These feelings are aroused particularly when the hero suffers a significant reversal of fortunes such as when Oedipus, in Sophocles’ drama Oedipus Rex, discovers that Jocasta, his wife, is in fact his mother. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that the messenger who reveals Oedipus’ true identity initially came to deliver joyous news.”

Catharsis is the feeling of sympathy aroused in the audience for Oedipus in this tragic moment of reversal. Aristotle argued that the fictional status of the play creates a sense of distance between the spectator and the tragic hero, and that because of this it is possible to enjoy tragedy and take aesthetic pleasure in it.’

– Kul-Want. C. (2012) Aesthetics London, United Kingdom: Icon Books p. 21-22

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In New Zealand, snakes of any kind are illegal.

Aristotle defined space by the things inside it according to his theories, if one were to remove the things then the space would no longer exist.

The word unfriend first appeared in print in 1659.

The Norwegian Armed Forces have unisex dormitories, ‘meatless Mondays’, and allow male soldiers to sport ponytails.

A male rhinoceros beetle can lift 850 times its own body weight.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Friend


What is a friend exactly? After some deliberation, it turns out to be very difficult to provide an uncontentious analysis. Because of its many different conceptions and dimensions, the full value of the word ‘friend’ is surprisingly hard to capture. To that end, below is a list of quotations to help sketch a definition of the word ‘friend’.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
– Elbert Hubbard

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
– Aristotle

“To like and dislike the same things, that is indeed true friendship.”
– Catiline‎

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
– Anaïs Nin

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
– Linda Grayson

“Friendship is Love without his wings!”
– Lord Byron

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
– C.S. Lewis

See more: Approximations

Geologic Time Scale


When Aristotle (384-322 BC) observed that fossil seashells from rocks were similar to those he found on the beach, he concluded that those fossils were once living animals. He further deduced that the positions of land and sea had changed over time and thought these changes occurred over very long periods.

Of course, Aristotle was in no position to accurately determine the length of those long time periods. Nowadays however, thanks to radiometric dating (the measurement of decay in radioactive isotopes), we know that the Earth is approximately 4.54 billion years old.

“The geologist takes up the history of the earth at the point where the archaeologist leaves it, and carries it further back into remote antiquity.” – Bal Gangadhar Tilak, The Arctic Home in the Vedas

In order to accurately document the enormous history of the Earth, a system known as the Geologic Time Scale has been developed to divide the history of our planet into units. The Geologic Time Scale is made up of the following units of time:

  • Supereon (approximately 4 billion years)
  • Eon (half a billion years or more)
  • Era (several hundred million years)
  • Period (between tens and one hundred million years)
  • Epoch (tens of millions of years)
  • Age (millions of years)

Because each unit of time summarizes the major events and characteristics of a certain geological time span, there are no fixed time frames for the different units of time.

“Geology gave us the immensity of time and taught us how little of it our own species has occupied.” – Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History

See other: History of the Earth

Why did the Chicken Cross the Road?


‘To get to the other side’ is a bit too simplistic. So, to remedy that, here are a number of interesting and more original replies to this famous – and surprisingly old – anti-humour riddle joke:

‘There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this: ‘Why does a chicken cross the street?’ – The Knickerbocker, or The New York Monthly, March 1847, p. 283

Douglas Adams: 42.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential. It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.

Julius Caesar: To come, to see, to conquer.

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an Herculean achievement formerly relegated to Homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurrence.

Salvador Dali: A melting fish.

Charles Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees. After all, chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross roads.

Jacques Derrida: What is the difference? The chicken was merely deferring from one side of the road to other. And how do we get the idea of the chicken in the first place? Does it exist outside of language? Also, any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is dead.

Rene Descartes: It had sufficient reason to believe it was dreaming anyway.

Bob Dylan: How many roads must one chicken cross?

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.

Epicurus: For pleasure.

Michel Foucault: It did so because the discourse of crossing the road left it no choice – the police state was oppressing it.

Sigmund Freud: The chicken was obviously female and obviously interpreted the pole on which the crosswalk sign was mounted as a phallic symbol of which she was envious, selbstverständlich. However, the fact that you are at all concerned about why the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Stephen Jay Gould: It is possible that there is a sociobiological explanation for it, but we have been deluged in recent years with sociobiological stories despite the fact that we have little direct evidence about the genetics of behaviour, and we do not know how to obtain it for the specific behaviours that figure most prominently in sociobiological speculation.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Heraclitus: A chicken cannot cross the same road twice.

Adolf Hitler: It needed Lebensraum.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Doug Hofstadter: To seek explication of the correspondence between appearance and essence through the mapping of the external road-object onto the internal road-concept.

James Joyce: To forge in the smithy of its soul the uncreated conscience of its race.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Immanuel Kant: Because it would have this be a universal law.

Martin Luther King: It had a dream.

Gottfried von Leibniz: In this best possible world, the road was made for it to cross.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained. In any case, the end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

Karl Marx: To escape the bourgeois middle-class struggle. It was a historical inevitability.

Sir Isaac Newton: Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest. Chickens in motion tend to cross the road.

Moses: And the LORD spake unto the chicken, “Thou shalt cross the road.” And the chicken crossed the road.

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The chicken, sunlight coruscating off its radiant yellow- white coat of feathers, approached the dark, sullen asphalt road and scrutinized it intently with its obsidian-black eyes. Every detail of the thoroughfare leapt into blinding focus: the rough texture of the surface, over which countless tires had worked their relentless tread through the ages; the innumerable fragments of stone embedded within the lugubrious mass, perhaps quarried from the great pits where the Sons of Man laboured not far from here; the dull black asphalt itself, exuding those waves of heat which distort the sight and bring weakness to the body; the other attributes of the great highway too numerous to give name. And then it crossed it.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Kurt Vonnegut: There is no “why”, there only “is”. So it goes.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of “crossing” was encoded into the objects “chicken” and “road”, and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Philia


Philia is a shared experience. The love we feel for people with whom share our innermost feelings and dreams, or with whom we strive with to achieve a shared goal. Philia

Philia is what the Greeks called friendship, and they valued it far more than the base sexuality of Eros. It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them.

Aristotle takes philia to be both necessary as a means to happiness. He argues that to be a wholly virtuous and fulfilled person necessarily involves having others for whom one is concerned; without them, one’s life is incomplete – “No one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods”.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
– Elbert Hubbard

We can all ask ourselves how much of this philia we have in our lives. It’s an important question in an age when we attempt to amass “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter—achievements that would have hardly impressed the Greeks.

See other: Kinds of Greek Love

Philautia


Philautia is self-respect. The love we give to ourselves. This is not immediately vanity, like narcissism, but our joy in being true to our own values. The strength to care for ourselves so that we can in turn care for others.Philautia

The clever Greeks realized there were two types. One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed and focused on personal fame and fortune. A healthier version enhanced your wider capacity to love.

“I cannot conceive of a greater loss than the loss of one’s self-respect.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others (as is reflected in the Buddhist-inspired concept of “self-compassion”). Or, as Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”

See other: Kinds of Greek Love