Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

HOW do we describe the universe and origins of life? Through images. Some theorists argue that particles are not point-like objects, but two-dimensional patterns of vibrations, like `strings'. Charles Darwin argued that life began in a sort of `soup', the sunshine cooking up a rich mixture of ingredients in shallow pools. Now we learn that space `dust' - or is it `seeds'? - may hold the key to life.

Popular ancient Greek thought imagined the various elements of the world copulating to produce other elements. In the beginning there was chaos (`chasm'). Out of this various entities sprang, like Earth and Underworld and Night, and Eros as well: Eros was needed to ensure they all got going. And so they did. Underworld and Night produced Air and Day, Earth produced Heaven and allowed Heaven to cover her every night, producing Ocean, and so on.

This caused problems - Epicurus turned to philosophy when his teacher was unable to tell him where chaos came from - and Greek thinkers groped for different images. …

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