This story deserves a detour – and more than that: a staging.
We are in Syracuse, in Sicily, around 265 BC.
King Hieron II has just had a golden crown made.
It is a magnificent crown.
It is complex, braided, interlaced.
It presents sculpted elements of an incredible finesse.
It is all in gold.
All in gold?
The king looks at his crown – it is beautiful, this crown. But it is? …. something is wrong.
This crown is not for him, the king.
It is for the King of all Kings, the King of the Gods – it is for Zeus.
Everyone knows that it is dangerous to make fun of Zeus.
So Hieron calls his young scientist friend. He is still a boy, the scientist, he is 22 years old, at most.
His name is Archimedes.
Hieron wonders if the jeweler might have stolen him. If he had mixed silver with gold – covering it with gold leaf.
But this crown should not be broken – it cost a lot of money.
Wouldn’t Archimedes have an idea whether the crown is made only of gold?
Without damaging the crown?
Archimedes sees absolutely no solution.
Nothing at all – the silver is not hard enough for him to try the metal bite. Besides, it would damage the crown.
The silver may have been hidden in those beautiful folds, in those beautifully carved leaves.
He leaves the palace, thoughtful – vexed not to find a solution.
The ceremony that will pay homage to Zeus is scheduled for two days from now.
If only Zeus was known for his patience – his sense of justice – his fairness.
But he isn’t – one king upsets him and the whole city dies of the plague, at least.
Like any civilized Greek, Archimedes goes to the baths.
This story turns his head – he doesn’t realize anything at all.
He looks at the others who are there, wading in the pool, without seeing them.
The silver bracelet of a patrician is sinking.
There is a commotion around the young scientist – he dives in, pulls the bracelet out, and a necklace comes off and sinks – slowly.
Archimedes looks at it – he looks. He looks. He doesn’t move, he doesn’t speak. He doesn’t see anything at all. He is stunned.
The bracelet – the necklace.
The bracelet that sinks to the bottom
The necklace that sinks so slowly
He comes out of the baths like a madman, he doesn’t bother to get dressed, he runs around Syracuse shouting: Eurêka! Eurrêka ! I have found, I have found!
He locks himself in his house – he takes identical pots, filled with water to the same height, up to the edge.
He takes a scale – he weighs the same weight of pebble, copper, crater, tomato.
He drops the pebble – it sinks and the water overflows. The copper – it sinks less quickly, the water overflows less – the tomato, it floats, it overflows hardly – the clay crater, it sways and sinks a little, it overflows a little.
He runs to the palace, asks for two pots and two identical weights, one in gold, the other in silver.
Everyone thinks he’s fallen on his head, poor boy – so young -.
And then, you are kind, Archimedes, but in the palace, everyone has something else to do – the ceremony for the temple of Zeus is taking place just now.
Why do idiots have to come out of their shells every time things are serious and urgent?
He tries – in vain – to convince them – he tries, even more in vain – to be led to Hieron – the King is busy, boy. He wastes time. Yet he is sure of himself – he is sure.
But it is necessary to know – before – it is necessary to arrive with the proof.
He rushes to the jeweler’s – where else can he find these metals in equal mass?
He has neither the time nor the ability to speak.
He overturns the jars of pearls – the jeweller squeals like a pig being slaughtered.
He fills them exactly with water.
Throws a weight of gold into one of them
A weight of silver in the other.
Silver has less density than gold – it doesn’t overflow the jar. It is less dense, and until Archimedes no one knew this, especially not the jeweler.
Archimedes can run to the palace – now he has enough to ensure the safety of their city, and not to upset the great Zeus.
He arrives – inevitably – at the last moment –
He forces his way in – yes, this is a serious matter.
He makes so much noise and fuss that Hieron stops.
He recognizes the boisterous hair of Archimedes and lets him approach. The priests will wait.
Note the immense confidence of the King in this young man.
When Archimedes asks for the instruments – the gold weight that had been given for the crown – two jars also filled with water – the King is astonished – but has the objects brought.
Then, while the crowd is getting impatient, while the priests are ranting and reminding that Zeus is not disturbed for nothing, while the jeweler is trying to lock up the madman who has devastated his store, Archimedes carries out the experiment.
He puts down the weight given in gold: the jar overflows largely
He puts down the crown: the jar hardly overflows.
Of course, there is silver in the crown.
And finally, it was thanks to a dishonest jeweler that mankind embarked on the understanding of fluid mechanics – the discovery of density and all that amazing science, derived directly from the evil instincts of a naughty craftsman, fought by a young man who had a quick, logical and wonderfully intelligent head.
By the way, there is a video game called exactly : Archimedes Eureka – even if it is based on another invention of this great man. And that’s another reason to keep this show in reserve for Altair
Featured Image : from Archimedes: Euraka ! – video game – Jetdogs studios
Merci 🙂 see you on Friday