All rocks on Earth break down to an average cubic shape, proving Plato right, Phys.org reported. The philosopher was the first to consider that matter could be broken down into a state so small it would be indivisible any further. Plato’s “Myth of the Cave” famously described reality.
According to the Phys.org article, part of the nature of the Earth was correctly assumed nearly 2,500 years ago—it just took a little while to prove it. “Plato, the Greek philosopher who lived in the 5th century BCE, believed that the universe was made of five types of matter: earth, air, fire, water, and cosmos,” the article said.
“Each was described with a particular geometry, a platonic shape. For earth, that shape was the cube.”
The article goes on to explain that a new study of math, geology, and physics from a multi-university team of scientists demonstrated that “the average shape of rocks on Earth is a cube.”
According to the article, it started with Gábor Domokos, a mathematician whose work predicted that natural rocks would break down into cubes. This is because components that break out of formerly solid objects must fit together with no gaps. The only shape that does so, they found, is a cube.
Plato, a student of Socrates, spent his life trying to understand the nature of the world philosophically. His work Republic explained much of his theory.
It’s All Greek
“Plato’s asking these two big areas of questions: What’s going on out there in the world, and how can we know about it—and what’s the moral life, what’s the best life to live?” said Dr. Thomas F. X. Noble, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.
“There are real things out there in the world, confusing and unalike and complex though they may be, that conform in some sense to this idea [of their form] that is in our mind. Such knowledge as we have of the form is true knowledge. Everything else, Plato says, is mere opinion.”
Dr. Noble gave Plato’s famous “Myth of the Cave” as an example. Published in Plato’s Republic, the allegory takes place in a cave in which people are chained to a wall. In front of them is another wall, while behind and above them is a passageway or walkway. Other people move back and forth along the walkway, carrying objects whose shadows are projected onto the wall in front of the chained people. Plato considered this the most accurate way to describe how humans function in the real world.
“We see shadows, we see hints, we see suggestions, we see intimations,” Dr. Noble said. “But those people are up there on the pathway; they are carrying real things around. Reality exists, but it is not in what we actually see around us—the nature of reality in the world around us is as copy to original.”
Finally, Plato believed that if a person were to loosen their chains in the cave and climb to the passageway, seeing one of the held objects for the first time, they wouldn’t recognize it. This is because they had never seen it in remotely the same way before, but rather as a flat, black, distorted shape on a cave wall.
A cave wall that breaks down into little cubes.
Dr. Thomas F. X. Noble contributed to this article. Dr. Noble is Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He earned his BA in History from Ohio University and his MA and PhD in Medieval History from Michigan State University.