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anaxagorus [at] circlesquaring [dot] net

So just who was this Anaxagorus? Let’s see if we can paint a picture.

Athens – 450 BCE. It is August. Anaxagorus is sitting in the city center waiting for his friends Pericles and Euripides.

Two schoolmates from his home town of Clazomenae arrive.

Schoolmate-1: Hey Anaxagorus. Is that you? I heard you were here.

Anaxagorus: Yeh it’s me. How are you. Haven’t seen you in…what…25 years or so.

Schoolmate-1: Yeh, yeh, long time. Just got here yesterday. We’re having a look around.

Anaxagorus:  Oh great. Two friends and I are going to get a latte, would you care to come with us? We could show you around. There’s some great architecture being built.

Schoolmate-1: Oh thanks, but we’ve been walking around and I’m hot so I think I’m going to go back to the baths and try to cool down. Another time maybe?

Anaxagorus: Oh sure. It is summer and being that close to the sun heats things up.

Schoolmate-1: Being that what to the sun?

Anaxagorus: Close. Close to the sun. You know, that huge mass of burning rock in the sky.

Schoolmate-1: Huge mass of burning what?

Anaxagorus: Rock.

Schoolmate-1: C’mon “Naxi”. What are you talking about?

Anaxagorus. Don’t call me “Naxi”. No one has called me that since grade school.

Schoolmate-1: Sorry mate. But what’s that you were saying about burning rock?

Anaxagorus:  Yeh. That’s what the sun is.

Schoolmate-1: You’ve had your brain cooked by the sun. That’s blasphemy!

Anaxagorus: I have not.

Schoolmate-1: You have too. Rocks doesn’t burn.  (He picks up a rock and holds it in front of Anaxagorus)

Anaxagorus:  I’m telling you, (pointing towards the sun) that is a mass of burning rock. And I’ll tell you something else. The stars are also pieces of burning rock, but we don’t feel their heat because they’re too far away. Also, the moon is a rock rotating out in space. When the moon passes between us and the sun, we have an eclipse.  Remember when the sun partially disappeared a few years ago?

Schoolmate-1: Sure do. I thought Zeus was up to his usual shenanigans.

Anaxagorus: Nope, it was an eclipse. A temporary condition caused by the moving planets in the cosmos.

Schoolmate-2: Whispers to Schoolmate-1, (obviously uncomfortable)

Schoolmate-1: Uh, well listen Anaxagorus, it’s been great seeing you, but we should be going.

Anaxagorus: You sure? You’ll miss Pericles and Euripedes knows lots of great one-liners.

Schoolmate-1: Yeh, uh, we need to get going. But if those friends of yours are encouraging these thoughts, you might want to create some distance from them so you can come to your senses. Thoughts like that can get you killed. Or, if you’re lucky, just exiled.

Well, he was exiled. That could have been due to his association with Pericles, but these teachings didn’t help his case. Still, how could somebody have this understanding in 450 BC? I have no idea. But, I thought he deserved a remembrance. Other Greeks shared some of his notions. However, it took a long time for them to become the popular/accepted opinion. Sometimes, popular opinion is lagging. In this era of quantum physics and its inherent popular misunderstandings (in addition to its yet-to-be-appreciated properties), it’s probably good to keep this in mind.