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Thread: Were the Greeks really the first to understand the atom?

  1. #1 Were the Greeks really the first to understand the atom? 
    Forum Sophomore NimaRahnemoon's Avatar
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    I think that the Greeks were not truly the first to understand that there are atoms everywhere. I think that taos were the first ones to understand the atom. If you read the tao te ching, you will understand how this man, Lao Tze, born in 600 B.C., wrote about the atom about 150 years before the Greeks. Lao tze says that there are five shapes, or elements, found in nature: water, fire, metal, wood, and earth, and the Greeks found out that there were five forms in nature which they called: tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, cube, dodecahedron. Something else that I found really interesting was that the taoist already had the basic structure of the atom recognized. What am I talking about? I am talking about the Yin Yang symbol. The Yin (Good) is represented as the protons, and the yang the bad is represented as the electrons, and it shows how there is a balance in between the two. If you really are interested you can go to this website "http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/ttcstan3.htm#1" (there are other translations, but I find this one the best translation), while you read this short book always have the atom in mind. There are a lot of other things that can prove that the taoist were the first ones to find the atom. I have a copy of the tao te ching that I got from the library, and I think that the first chapter perfectly depicts the atom: "Tao is beyond words and beyond understanding. Words may be used to speak of it, but they cannot contain it. Tao existed before words and names, before heaven and earth, before the ten thousand things. It is the unlimited father and mother of all limited things. Therefore, to see beyond boundaries to the subtle heart of things, dispense with names, with concepts, with expectations and ambitions and differences. Tao and its many manifestations arise from the same source: subtle wonder within mysterious darkness. This is the beginning of all understanding." Every time I read that, I understand more and more about how the tao relates to the atom. I love chapter four: "Tao is a whirling emptiness, yet when used it can not be exhausted. Out of this mysterious well flows everything in existence. Blunting sharp edges, untangling knots, softening the glare, settling the dust, it evolves us all and makes the whole world one. Something is there, hidden in the deep! But I do not know whose child it is- it came even before god." (sorry if this is offensive to anyone, but that's what it says, and you don't have to believe it). "The heart of Tao is immortal, the mysterious fertile mother of us all, of heaven and earth, of everything, and of not-thing. Invisible yet ever-present, you can use it forever without using it up." The more I read this book, the more I like it, a lot like how wine's quality increases by age. Then chapter 67 says that the tao is infact small, which was remained a secret throughout the entire book. "Everyone under heaven says that my Tao is great, but inconceivable. It is its very greatness that makes it inconceivable! If it could be conceived of, how small it would be!" Oops I missed chapter 14: "Looked at but not seen, listened to but not heard, grasped for but not held, formless, soundless, intangible: the Tao resists analysis and defies comprehension. Its rising is not about light, its setting not a matter of darkness. Unnameable, unending, emerging continually, and continually pouring back into nothingness, it is formless form, unseeable image, elusive evasive unimaginable mystery. Confront it, and you won't see its face. Follow it, and you can't find an end. Perceive its ancient subtle heart, however, and you become master of the moment. Know what came before time, and the beginning of wisdom is yours." This next part I found really shocking, because it is saying that the only way you can understand an atom, is by not trying to understand it and it will come after you, possibly saying that everything that has been published to date may be incorrect, end of chapter 15: "Those who aspire to Tao don't long for fulfillment. They selflessly allow the Tao to use and deplete them; They calmly allow the Tao to renew and complete them." Lol a good reason to learn tai chi. Chapter 21: "The greatest virtue is to follow Tao, and only Tao. You might say, 'But Tao is illusive! Evasive! Mysterious! Dark! How can one follow that?' By following this: out of silent subtle mystery emerges images. These images coalesce into forms. Within each form is contained the seed and essence of life. Thus do all things emerge and expand out of darkness and emptiness." This next quote is something that I myself can not comprehend yet: end of chapter 21 " Because its essence is real and evident in the origins of all things, the name of the Tao has survived since the beginning of time. How can I know the circumstances of the origins of all things? Exactly by this phenoenom." I can guarantee that each chapter will make a person think. I forgot to mention that the guy who wrote this book in about 550 B.C. was an alchemist. He also wrote the "I Ching", which is also really interesting. I also forgot to mention that the yin yang symbol ( the picture of the atom) is actually older than taoism. I tried to research online to see if any websites compared the discovery of the atom to taoism, and I sadly did not find any good ones, a few that have one or two lines about it.


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  3. #2 How could have the Greeks gained this knowledge? 
    Forum Sophomore NimaRahnemoon's Avatar
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    One might ask so how did the Greeks get the tao books. The truth is I don't really know. The best guess I could take is either the Greeks just happened to realize it by themselves. Or it could be because of the following:

    1. Persians and the Chinese have been trading from since 700 B.C. 600 B.C. is when trade began to increase through the silk road. The "Tao te Ching" was somehow transported to the Persians before 600 B.C..

    2. War is not always bad. The Persians tried to conquer the Greeks, and by doing so there was a transfer of information during that war. The Greeks eventually one.

    3. The Greek-Persian war ended in 479 B.C. 19 years later many great thinkers like Democritus were born.

    Just philosophy... I am not saying that the Greeks did not make any discoveries for the atom, but they may have gotten their basis from the Taoists.

    I myself am not Taoist nor Chinese, so this isn't a bias post.


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  4. #3 Re: Were the Greeks really the first to understand the atom? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nima Rahnemoon
    I think that the Greeks were not truly the first to understand that there are atoms everywhere. I think that taos were the first ones to understand the atom. If you read the tao te ching, you will understand how this man, Lao Tze, born in 600 B.C., wrote about the atom about 150 years before the Greeks. Lao tze says that there are five shapes, or elements, found in nature: water, fire, metal, wood, and earth, and the Greeks found out that there were five forms in nature which they called: tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, cube, dodecahedron. Something else that I found really interesting was that the taoist already had the basic structure of the atom recognized.

    What am I talking about? I am talking about the Yin Yang symbol. The Yin (Good) is represented as the protons, and the yang the bad is represented as the electrons, and it shows how there is a balance in between the two. If you really are interested you can go to this website "http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/ttcstan3.htm#1" (there are other translations, but I find this one the best translation), while you read this short book always have the atom in mind. There are a lot of other things that can prove that the taoist were the first ones to find the atom. I have a copy of the tao te ching that I got from the library, and I think that the first chapter perfectly depicts the atom: "Tao is beyond words and beyond understanding. Words may be used to speak of it, but they cannot contain it.


    Tao existed before words and names, before heaven and earth, before the ten thousand things. It is the unlimited father and mother of all limited things. Therefore, to see beyond boundaries to the subtle heart of things, dispense with names, with concepts, with expectations and ambitions and differences. Tao and its many manifestations arise from the same source: subtle wonder within mysterious darkness. This is the beginning of all understanding." Every time I read that, I understand more and more about how the tao relates to the atom. I love chapter four: "Tao is a whirling emptiness, yet when used it can not be exhausted. Out of this mysterious well flows everything in existence. Blunting sharp edges, untangling knots, softening the glare, settling the dust, it evolves us all and makes the whole world one. Something is there, hidden in the deep! But I do not know whose child it is- it came even before god." (sorry if this is offensive to anyone, but that's what it says, and you don't have to believe it).


    "The heart of Tao is immortal, the mysterious fertile mother of us all, of heaven and earth, of everything, and of not-thing. Invisible yet ever-present, you can use it forever without using it up." The more I read this book, the more I like it, a lot like how wine's quality increases by age. Then chapter 67 says that the tao is infact small, which was remained a secret throughout the entire book. "Everyone under heaven says that my Tao is great, but inconceivable. It is its very greatness that makes it inconceivable! If it could be conceived of, how small it would be!" Oops I missed chapter 14: "Looked at but not seen, listened to but not heard, grasped for but not held, formless, soundless, intangible: the Tao resists analysis and defies comprehension. Its rising is not about light, its setting not a matter of darkness. Unnameable, unending, emerging continually, and continually pouring back into nothingness, it is formless form, unseeable image, elusive evasive unimaginable mystery.


    Confront it, and you won't see its face. Follow it, and you can't find an end. Perceive its ancient subtle heart, however, and you become master of the moment. Know what came before time, and the beginning of wisdom is yours." This next part I found really shocking, because it is saying that the only way you can understand an atom, is by not trying to understand it and it will come after you, possibly saying that everything that has been published to date may be incorrect, end of chapter 15: "Those who aspire to Tao don't long for fulfillment. They selflessly allow the Tao to use and deplete them; They calmly allow the Tao to renew and complete them." Lol a good reason to learn tai chi. Chapter 21: "The greatest virtue is to follow Tao, and only Tao. You might say, 'But Tao is illusive! Evasive! Mysterious! Dark! How can one follow that?' By following this: out of silent subtle mystery emerges images.


    These images coalesce into forms. Within each form is contained the seed and essence of life. Thus do all things emerge and expand out of darkness and emptiness." This next quote is something that I myself can not comprehend yet: end of chapter 21 " Because its essence is real and evident in the origins of all things, the name of the Tao has survived since the beginning of time. How can I know the circumstances of the origins of all things? Exactly by this phenoenom." I can guarantee that each chapter will make a person think. I forgot to mention that the guy who wrote this book in about 550 B.C. was an alchemist. He also wrote the "I Ching", which is also really interesting. I also forgot to mention that the yin yang symbol ( the picture of the atom) is actually older than taoism. I tried to research online to see if any websites compared the discovery of the atom to taoism, and I sadly did not find any good ones, a few that have one or two lines about it.

    Using paragraphs would be helpful when writing long thoughts. I have broken your thoughts into paragraphs and wouldn't you agree that it is easier to read now, the way I arranged it? Paragraphs help to show a small change in what your talking about and when that happens a new paragraph should be used. At least to me paragraphs are important.
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  5. #4 Re: Were the Greeks really the first to understand the atom? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nima Rahnemoon
    I think that the Greeks were not truly the first to understand that there are atoms everywhere. I think that taos were the first ones to understand the atom. If you read the tao te ching, you will understand how this man, Lao Tze, born in 600 B.C., wrote about the atom about 150 years before the Greeks. Lao tze says that there are five shapes, or elements, found in nature: water, fire, metal, wood, and earth, and the Greeks found out that there were five forms in nature which they called: tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, cube, dodecahedron. Something else that I found really interesting was that the taoist already had the basic structure of the atom recognized. What am I talking about? I am talking about the Yin Yang symbol. The Yin (Good) is represented as the protons, and the yang the bad is represented as the electrons, and it shows how there is a balance in between the two. If you really are interested you can go to this website "http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/ttcstan3.htm#1"
    First to say that the Greeks understood the atom would be a gross exageration. But the atomists did have the idea of indivisible units of substances that differed from one another by quantitative measures such as size. The real advance here was the idea in the tradition of the Pythagoreans that nature could ultimately be described by mathematic. I do not see that same advance in Taoism. I appreciate you love of Taoism. My father is an avid student/believer in the writings of Lao Tsu, but when anyone starts to claim that their ideas are everything there is, thats where the trouble starts. You turn something which is insightful, lovely and harmless into something which is blind, ugly and dangerous.
    Beware the trap of ideology.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

    I now have a blog too: http://astahost.blogspot.com/
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