19 February 2010

Etymology fact of the day ("Archimedes bathing edition")

the ragbag | raynor | words wholly related: eureka! & heuristics

both words come from the greek verb εὑρίσκ (to find). the former was exclaimed by archimedes when he discovered some boring principle that nobody cared about (literally, “i have found it.”) the latter is a method of problem solving and is used widely by computer programmers and identity thieves.
Hmmmm. Cool.

I'll need to find a way to work that into the next conversation I have with the computing theory and algorithm types when the start going off the rails about wether my methods are provably optimal. Yeah, I get it, they're "just" heuristic. Get over it.

Not that I expect this etymological gem will actually convince them of anything, but it might provide enough distraction to make good my escape.

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This is totally geek-bragging but I can't resist mentioning it — I've been to the (probable? apocryphal?) site of Archimedes' tomb, and it was a pretty moving experience. He was such a scientific giant. I remember as a young kid first learning solid geometry and being blown away by the relationship between the volumes of spheres, cylinders and cones, which he discovered.  Math, science, engineering: he did it all.  He calculated irrational numbers to silly precisions.  He built one of the first orreries, making huge strides in differential gearing.  He invented block-and-tackle pulleys.  The Archimedes Screw is still in use today.  He built the first odometer.  An odometer on a chariot!  That's stranger-than-fiction stuff.

He was killed by a Roman legionary who was mad that Archimedes told him to bugger off because he was busy doing geometry. Is there a more badass death in the history of Science?  No.  No, there is not.


"Back off, dude! Can't you see I'm doing Science?"

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