Author Topic: The world in 710 words  (Read 7538 times)

Joe Carillo

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The world in 710 words
« on: November 16, 2023, 12:44:32 AM »
If I were asked to describe the world today, I would say that it had hardly changed since 2,200 years ago when Archimedes, the Greek mathematician and physicist, bragged that he could move the world if only he had the lever to lift it. For all his ingenuity, I think he went way too far off in making that claim. He definitely couldn’t have done that. This is because the world is an ovaloid sphere 12,760 km in diameter rotating on its axis in 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.09 seconds and it is revolving around the sun. It has a mass in tons of about 5.98 x 10 raised to the 21st power and a volume in cubic meters of about 1.08 x 10 raised to the 21st power. That’s simply too heavy, too massive, and too fast-moving for Archimedes to lift with a lever.

The world was simply too heavy, too massive, and too fast-moving for Archimedes
to lift with a lever—and on what did he think he would be standing on?

Despite his overarching audacity, Archimedes was understandably not in a position to know during his time those attributes of the world. It was in fact only 1,750 years later that the Polish astronomer and polymath Nicolaus Copernicus, after long and sustained observation, concluded that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe but was just one of the planets orbiting the bigger—and he thought stationary—sun. But on this even Copernicus himself was only partly right. Centuries later, in the early 1600s, the Italian astronomer-mathematician Galileo Galilee demonstrated that the sun wasn’t stationary in the heavens at all. It was rotating on it own axis in a perpetually moving spiral arm of the galaxy that we now call the Milky Way.

All these are now well-established certainties about Archimedes’s world and ours. Even with this body of knowledge, however, most of humanity are still as mired as ever in superstition, in belief without proof, and in religious fundamentalism. Still, organized religion, superstition, and nationhood have been strong civilizing forces that marshaled both the motive and creative energies for such marvels as the Stonehenge in England, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the stately cathedrals in Europe, the great mosques in the Middle East and Asia, the Borobudur temples in Cambodia, and the huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan.

Through the centuries, however, enmity and intolerance have always plagued mankind, leading to so many of the horrible depredations by either side of the major religious or geopolitical divides. Just to mention the major ones—the long series of expeditions in the Middle Ages by armed Holy  Crusaders from Europe to wage punitive wars against Islamist believers so they can wrest Jerusalem from Muslim rule back to the Christian fold, leading to casualties estimated at 2 to 6 million people just from Western Europe alone; in World Wars I and II, the long and bitterly fought conflict among the various world powers, resulting in horrendous destruction, combatant casualties estimated at 20 million, and civilian casualties at 40 million; in September 11, 2001, the suicide aerial crash-bombing by Islamist terrorists of the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001 wiped out almost 3,000 noncombatant lives; from February 24, 2022 to date, the sustained large-scale armed attacks waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine led to recorded estimates of 7,550 killed and 14,638 injured; and today, at this very moment, a bloody war is being savagely fought between Israel and  Hamas-led Palestinian militants, a war triggered by the latter’s stealthy invasion of Israel last October 7 during which an estimated 1,200 Israelites were massacred at the Gaza Strip and over 200 civilians and soldiers were taken as hostages.*

Thus, the great flowering of scientific knowledge and rational thinking that began with Archimedes and pursued with vigor by the great scientific minds of Copernicus, Galileo Galilee, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein have amounted to nothing much in fostering amity and peace among the world’s peoples. It is then not a surprise that today, on a shocking improvement on Archimedes’ claim that he could upend the world with a lever, nations of various religious, political, or ideological persuasions could claim that they could move the world simply by virtue of pure belief—no lever, no fulcrum, no hands or physical effort even—just their firm belief and their leaders’ overpowering threat of violence and annihilation against nonbelievers.
*These casualty figures have been collated from figures of the United Nations Human Rights Commission,, and other observers as published in Wikipedia.

This is a condensed and updated version of the author’s 854-word essay that appeared in this column in the June 21, 2017 issue of The Manila Times.

Read this essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
The world in 710 words      

Next: Don’t let “can,” “could,” “will,” and “would” baffle you anymore        November 16, 2023   

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« Last Edit: November 16, 2023, 08:11:58 AM by Joe Carillo »