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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Curtiosity about atoms

First, a note about "curtiosity": it is the key attribute of Rudyard Kipling's 'Elephant's Child. It isn't a typo. The curtiosities were collected originally as possible epigraphs, and then as a possible book in their own right, but it all seemed too hard.

Most collections of "quotes" on the web lack the necessary details of chapter and verse and are commonly spurious. You get my notes, so you know where they came from, and any agile mind will recognise the occasional traps laid for mindless plagiarists. Verb. sap. (Look that up, if you need to!)

Mind you, the lack of a full source may just mean I was busy the day I collected that quote, but such information as I give should be reliable.

Atoms move in the void and catching each other up jostle together, and some recoil in any direction that may chance, and others become entangled with one another in various degrees according to their shapes and sizes and positions and orders, and they come together and thus the coming into being of composite things is effected.
— Simplicius (c. 400 BC), De Caelo

To understand the very large, we must understand the very small.
— Democritus (470 - 380 BC

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton's Particles of Light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
— William Blake (1757 - 1827), Complete Blake (Oxford Paperback, 1974), page 418.

1. From nothing comes nothing. Nothing that exists can be destroyed. All changes are due to the combination and separation of molecules.
2. Nothing happens by chance. Every occurrence has its cause from which it follows by necessity.
3. The only existing things are atoms and empty space; all else is mere opinion.
4. The atoms are infinite in number and infinitely various in form; they strike together and the lateral motions and whirlings which thus arise are the beginnings of worlds.
5. The varieties of all things depend upon the varieties of their atoms, in number, size, and aggregation.
6. The soul consists of fine, smooth, round atoms like those of fire. These are the most mobile of all. They interpenetrate the whole body and in their motions the phenomena of life arise.
— Robert Andrews Millikan quotes these (translated) words of Democritus in his book The Electron, saying that they are from [Sir John] Tyndall.

When any body exists in the elastic state, its ultimate particles are separated from each other to a greater distance than in any other state; each particle occupies the centre of a comparatively large sphere, and supports its density by keeping all the rest, which by their gravity or otherwise, are disposed to encroach upon it, at a respectable distance.
Chemical analysis and synthesis go no further than to the separation of particles one from another, and to their reunion. No new creation or destruction of matter is within the reach of the chemical agency. We might as well attempt to introduce a new planet into the solar system, or to annihilate one already in existence, as to create or destroy a particle of hydrogen. All the changes we can produce consist in separating particles that are in a state of cohesion or combination, and joining those that were previously at a distance.
— John Dalton, A New System of Chemical Philosophy, 1808.

They may say what they like. Everything is organised matter.
— Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821

We shall never get people whose time is money to take much interest in atoms.
— Samuel Butler (1835 - 1902), Notebooks

The first support of the isotope theory among non-radioactive elements was given by the anomalous behaviour of the inactive gas neon, when analysed by Sir J. J. Thomson's method of positive rays . . . This peculiarity was that whereas all elements previously examined gave single, or apparently single, parabolas, that given by neon was definitely double. The brighter curve corresponded roughly to an atomic weight of 20, the fainter companion to one of 22, the atomic weight of neon being 20.20.
— Francis Aston (1877 - 1945), address before the Royal Institution, 1921. This established the existence of isotopes.

No one has ever seen, nor probably ever will see, an atom, but that does not deter the physicist from trying to draw a plan of it, with the aid of such clues to its structure as he has.
— Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906 - 1972), 'The Structure of the Nucleus', Scientific American Reader (1953), page 116.

In fact it may be logically impossible for anyone to be able to correctly visualize certain physical systems, such as atoms, because they contain features that simply do not exist in the world of our experience.
— Paul Davies, The Mind of God, Penguin Books, 1990, p. 18.

There have been almost innumerable attempts to reduce the differences between atomic weights to regularity by contriving some formula which will express the numbers which represent the weights with all their irregularities. Needless to say, such attempts have in no way been successful.
— Sir William Ramsay (1852 - 1916), address to the British Association, Toronto, 1897.

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