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Archie: What a Guy!

John W. Pinkerton


Archimedes, or as I prefer to call him, Archie, was quite a guy who was given to sudden earth altering proclamations.

While casually lounging in his bath, he solved a problem presented to him by his King and cousin, Heiro, who wished to know if a goldsmith had cheated him by creating a crown which was partially made of silver instead of pure gold.  The crown weighed the same as the gold Heiro had presented the goldsmith, but rumors were rampant that Heiro had been cheated by the goldsmith.  Heiro turned to his geek cousin, Archimedes, for resolution.

While puzzling over the problem presented to him, Archie lowered himself into his bath; water overspilled the sides; and the lower he placed himself, the more water spilled.  “Eureka!” or “I have found it!” or as we say in the South, “Hot damn!”  He had solved the problem, and being a Greek geek, he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse---Greece, not New York of course----to deliver the news to Heiro. 

By measuring the amount of water displaced by the crown and then measuring the amount of water displaced by an amount of gold presented to the goldsmith, Archimedes and Heiro could determine if silver had replaced some of the gold in the crown. 

The amounts displaced were not equal: bad news for the goldsmith: good news for Cousin Archie.

“Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth,” proclaimed Archie to his friends one day.  I’m sure that Archie’s friends gave him a lot of “Say w-h-a-t-s-?,” but he pronounced that the power of the lever is infinite: the longer the lever on the side one wishes to stand and the shorter the lever beneath the thing one wishes to lift…well, the easier the object is to lift.  Therefore and henceforward and even before, it would be possible for Archimedes to move the earth.  Got it?

When as a teenager, I first became familiar with Archimedes’ musings on the fulcrum, my reaction was, “Well, duh!”  But I immediately went on to my second thought: “What does he mean by ‘place’?  Will any place be sufficient?  If your fulcrum is sufficient, can it overcome the weakness of the ‘place’?”

Being a brother geek to Archimedes, I concluded that place was not nearly as important as the fulcrum…thus, Somerville, Texas, was the place for me.

I never had much desire to move the earth, but with advances in technology, my fulcrum has become more sufficient, and occasionally if I jump up and down with all my might, the earth moves…just a little, but I swear it moves.

“Do not disturb my circles”: oops, these were Archimedes’ final words: although Archie might have been playing marbles in the dirt: the traditional story is that he was trying to work out a mathematical problem by drawing circles in the dirt when a Roman soldier, apparently a circle-hating lunkhead, came upon the dirt-drawing Archimedes, took offense to his apparently ill-conceived comment, “Do not disturb my circles,” and killed him dead.  Wow!  You got to love the Romans.

Personally, I have tried these many years to avoid speaking the phrase, “Do not disturb my circles,” in order to avoid a similar fate.  So far it’s worked out well for me. Occasionally I have had a “Eureka!” moment which I always welcome,  but the most meaningful quote for me is the one about fulcrums.  It caused me to remain in my “place” in Somerville from which I could move the world---or at least Lyons.

Thanks, Archie, old buddy.