One Two Three . . . Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science - Chapter VI: Descending Staircase Summary & Analysis

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Chapter VI: Descending Staircase Summary and Analysis

The Greek Idea

In studying the structure of matter, the properties of heterogeneous materials is the first step toward understanding. In the cases of substances like copper or glass, a probing microscope will not find any varying properties. But strong magnification reveals a micro-crystalline structure in copper and most other substances. Ancient Greek philosopher Democritus believed that no matter how homogenous matter looked it was probably formed from small separate particles which he dubbed "atoms" or "indivisibles." He called them indivisibles because he theorized that nothing could be smaller. Democritus thought all atoms were the same. His colleague, Empedocles, differed and thought there were different atoms which configured in different combinations and amounts to create different substances. Empedocles listed the four basic elements as fire, water, air and rocks. As we know today, there are...

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