Saturday, September 20, 2014

Origins of Science in Greece

As I was studying for the SAT Physics subject test, I came across the origins of the word "electron." An inequality of electrons (negatively charged particles) and protons (positively charged particles) causes a material to have an electric charge. Circa 600 BC, the Greeks discovered that if they rubbed wool on a piece of the stone amber, they could attract small objects with the amber. I'm sure that way back then they attributed this attraction to one god or another, but nowadays we know the attraction to be entirely electrical in nature ("opposites attract"). The Greek word for amber is (pronounced) elektron. It wasn't until millennia later that scientists proved the identity, placement, and weight (Millikan's oil-drop experiment). It is astounding to me how much scientific progress the Greeks made alongside the cultural advancement we've studied with tools as simple as wool and amber (keep in mind that this is still the archaic period of Greek history).

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