Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - Epicurus on Particle Physics

Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - Epicurus on Particle Physics

Article excerpt

According to a top TV scientist, in the beginning there was 'empty space' and 'energy'. After a big bang, the universe started out as a 'featureless void'. But emerging particles 'organised themselves into the universe we see today' by 'clumping together' because of 'deviation' from perfect smoothness in 'warped' space.

Meanwhile, cosmic light particles are zooming along in straight lines and still going strong, creating billions of other universes. This 'astonishing idea' is the 'cornerstone of modern cosmology'.

Ancient, too.

According to the farmer-poet Hesiod (7th century bc), in the beginning there was Khaos ('empty space') and the world was 'featureless void', till the 'energy' was supplied by Eros, 'Lust', to populate it with mountains, seas, etc.

Epicurus (4th century bc) was worried about this: 'when he was still young, he asked the schoolmaster what the Khaos came from if it came first. The master replied that he did not know: that was a job for philosophers. "Right, " said Epicurus, "I'll have a few words with them if they know the truth about things that exist. …

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