Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview with Archimedes

Tammy: Hello folks! Welcome to The Past Times. Today we have the brilliant thinker Archimedes, who has written several thought provoking books on math.

Archimedes: and variations on the subject

Tammy: Yet you never traveled from your hometown …

Archimedes: Except for when I went to Alexandria. I often thought about going back, but I never did.

Tammy: Why not?

Archimedes: I found that my own city needed me more.

Tammy: What sort of things did you do there?

Archimedes: Well, we were at war, so I built war machines. They were various types of catapults that could throw stones much larger than others that had been made before.

Tammy: Who were you at war with?

Archimedes: Rome.

Tammy: Tell me about your early life.

Archimedes: There isn’t much to say. My father was Phidias the astronomer, and I grew up like just about any other boy in Syracuse.

Tammy: Your home city?

Archimedes: yes.

Tammy: I heard somewhere that you were a favorite with the king in that city.

Archimedes: No, the Tyrant, King Hiero. I solved many a knotty problem for him.

Tammy: Like what?

Archimedes: One time he had had a solid gold crown made, but it didn’t seem to weigh enough. He had it weighed and it was the same weight as the original piece he had given the goldsmith, but it seemed to be too big. The only he could account for it was if the goldsmith had mixed the gold with silver.

Tammy: Because silver is lighter than gold?

Archimedes: Yes. But he couldn’t be sure. So he sent for me. I didn’t want to come. I was already on a very interesting problem. Hiero persisted and I finally reluctantly came. The crown proved to be one of my more interesting problems.

Tammy: Did you solve it?

Archimedes: It took a long time. I sat and looked at it for days on end. If it hadn’t of been for my slaves I never would of figured it out.

Tammy: How’d they help?

Archimedes: Whenever I got really involved with solving a problem, I ignore everything. I even forgot to eat and bathe. They’d bring me food to eat, so I didn’t starve, but I would get very dirty. When that happened, they would pick me up and, despite my screaming and kicking, carry me to the public baths. This time the bath master filled the tub almost to overflowing. Then they tossed me in.

Tammy: And water spilled out?

Archimedes: Exactly. I thought to myself, If water spills out when I get in, maybe it takes up the same amount of space as I do, and if the amount— I jumped out of the tub and ran back home, yelling, “Eureka!” which means “I have found it”

Tammy: Was it pure gold?

Archimedes: Nope. It took up more room than the piece of gold I had borrowed that was the same size as the original piece.

Tammy: I see. But I learned that back in high school geometry!

Archimedes: Yes, thanks to me.

Tammy: I heard that you once pulled a boat one-handed.

Archimedes: I did. And were I to have but another earth to stand on I could move this earth itself! It’s simple really; all I needed were pulleys and screws.

Tammy: Amazing!

Archimedes: Hiero thought sure so. After that event, he always had me solve all his difficult problems.

Tammy: Like the crown?

Archimedes: Exactly.

Tammy: Any other times you helped him?

Archimedes: I defended the city for him.

Tammy: How’d you do that?

Archimedes: With math.

Tammy: would you mind explaining?

Archimedes: Not at all, I designed several different types of machines and Hiero had them built and men trained to run them. The attack didn’t occur in his lifetime, but when it did, we were ready.

Tammy: What kinds of machines were there?

Archimedes: Rock catapults, arrow catapults, boat grabbers, mirrors… stuff like that.

Tammy: mirrors?

Archimedes: I made some with a curve that was just the right angle to focus the sun’s rays in one point in such a way that the object focused on melts or bursts into flames.

Tammy: That’s – amazing.

Archimedes: It’s just math. Anybody could figure it out.

Tammy: If they work at it. You do it seemingly effortlessly.

Archimedes: I don’t exactly figure things in five seconds though

Tammy: You find some things we can’t even fathom simple

Archimedes: You don’t think hard enough.

Tammy: Let’s not argue.

Archimedes: Anything else you would like to know?

Tammy: Yes, I heard that you were killed because of math.

Archimedes: Yes, when Syracuse was finally conquered, the Roman leader told his men that he wanted me brought to him alive, because he wanted to talk to me. I was working on an interesting problem at that point and didn’t want to go anywhere. The soldier who found me just laughed and stood on my work. I got mad and stabbed him with my drawing stylus. He got mad and ran me through with his sword.

Tammy: What did the Roman leader do?

Archimedes: had the soldier killed as a common murderer and me buried with highest honors. On my grave stone, he had the figure of a sphere inside a cube engraved.

Tammy: Why?

Archimedes: I always considered that my most important achievement and had asked for it to placed there.

Tammy: Well, that’s about all the time we have for today. Thank-you Archimedes for being with us today. I’m Tammy Turnback and this has been The Past Times.

Written 11/20/2009

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