Interesting Science Fact You May or May Not Know: Archimedes’ Bad-Ass Lever

Archimedes (287 BC – 212 BC) is quoted as having once said, “Give me a big enough lever, and a place to put the fulcrum, and I will move the world.” (English translation)cigar_label_600dpi[1]

It was of course, a theoretical statement, but based on the scientific principle of leverage Archimedes was so eloquent at explaining.

But this then begs the question, what’s the math on his theoretical question? So let’s take a look!

We don’t know what Archimedes weighed, but let’s assume he was an even 200 lbs., an average weight for an adult male, and a nice round number to do our math with.

First, let’s understand leverage.If you have a fulcrum (pivot point) in the middle of a lever supporting two bodies of mass, and those masses are the same distance from the lever, assuming the lever is a uniform weight its entire length, the two bodies will balance.

If however, one mass is twice as heavy as the other, then the lighter item needs to be twice as far from the fulcrum to balance with the heavier one…and so on.snap2[1]

If he was indeed 200 lbs., and wanted to lift Earth (which is believed to be approx 5.9 sextillion tons) one foot, he would place the fulcrum 1 foot away from the end of his lever under the Earth, and the other side of the lever would have to be approximately 5,587,121,210,000,000 miles away.

Archimedes Lever
Archimedes Lever

This then also means he would have to move vertically 5,587,121,210,000,000 miles as well, in order to lift the other side just one foot.

This is of course theoretical, for fun, let’s think about some of the other things that would have to be true.

  • It assumes the lever is some miracle material that is unbreakable, it is being asked to lift 5.9 sextillion tons, after all.
  • Yet somehow, this unbreakable lever must have no mass of its own. Otherwise, it changes your equation, and you’d have to account for that.
  • It requires that Earth would be laying on top of another body that has the same mass as Earth, because something needs to be not only providing a gravity force to pull earth down, but also, he needs some place to put his fulcrum.

Any physicists out there want to add any critique or additional insights, please feel free to do so in the comments section below. Always an honor to have my work reviewed.

Interesting Science Fact You May or May Not Know: Insanity

The Definition of Insanity

Have you ever heard the expression that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result? Rest assured, you probably didn’t hear it from a psychiatrist, because it’s utter nonsense.

Psychiatrists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as the standard listing of all the recognized disorders that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) agrees upon.americanpsychoass[1]

Know what condition is not in there? Insanity.

As it turns out, insanity is a rather generic term used in the legal realm for many disorders that would in fact be listed in the DSM, that would render a suspect unable to distinguish right from wrong, and therefore unable to assist in their defense.Diagnostic Statistical Manual DSM

Any numbers of diseases could be cause for finding someone legally insane, but the APA calling you insane, would be akin to the American Medical Association (AMA) giving you an official diagnosis of “Having a cold.” It’s simply a very broad and generic term that isn’t really used in the clinical world in any official capacity.

This quote has been attributed to Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, and others. None of whom seem to pan out as the actual origin of the quote.

However, all that being said, there are many conditions and behaviors insanity could be attributed to. Certainly one of them might be someone who bangs their head up against a wall and thinks, “Ouch, that hurt.” Then, does it again nonetheless. Bang Head Against Wall

So while someone who does the same thing and expects a different result might in fact have a condition that would qualify them for an insanity defense in a court of law, it is in no way the definition of insanity.

So I’d like to quash this silly anecdote by not using it, and explaining to those who do, that it’s incorrect. Why, you might ask?

Because, as P.C. Hodgell once eloquently wrote in Seeker’s Mask, “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.”