Wednesday, 16 May 2007

MAD SCIENTIST - Naked truth

Eureka! Eureka! – there’s a tale behind these famous words.
While reading a book about Galileo, I learnt the legend of Archimedes and his bath-time brilliance.
My husband looked at me amazed. “What, you didn’t know that story?”
There’s always a first time for learning something, and maybe I was just more focused on the phrase than the reason for the exuberant expression.
From now on, I’ll be the one looking down my supercilious snout at those who don’t know the Eureka! story. To save you that embarrassment, here it is.
Greek mathematician, physicist and engineer, known as Archimedes of Syracuse (287BC-212BC), came up with the principles of buoyancy while taking a bath.
The king of the day suspected his crown maker of adding base metal to his headpiece, but he didn’t know how to find the facts without having it melted down.
This got Archimedes thinking.
The answer to the puzzle came when he was getting into his bath and water slapped over the side.
He realised that an object could be measured by the amount of water it displaced.
If the king’s crown was immersed in water, then the water it pushed out could be weighed. Archmides was so delighted with his discovery he leapt from the bath and, as legend has it, streaked bare through the town shouting: “Eureka! Eureka!”
The sting in the tale for the crown maker was that Archimedes proved the king had been tricked.
But more importantly, the scientist showed that metals have different specific gravities, which can be measured against the density of water. So there it is – the naked truth.

No comments: