Thursday April 27th 2017

Archimedes in the Fence

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According to ancient historians, Archimedes spent the last moments of his life drawing figures in the dirt, so deeply entranced with the pleasures of geometry that he failed to notice the bloody pillage of Syracuse right outside his door. Aloofness, it’s tempting to conjecture, was his fatal flaw. By many accounts, he paid scant attention when a Roman soldier barged in and demanded that the old, prolific genius identify himself. Archimedes didn’t state his name or plea for his life. Instead, he responded with some version of, “Please, don’t disturb my circles.” At which point the Roman soldier ran him through with a sword. (Valerius Maximus adds a dramatic flourish to his account of those last seconds: “… and with his blood he confused the lines of his art.”)

 

So ended Archimedes.

 

I can’t help but see Archimedes’ ghost—his circles, his aloofness—in a violent, natural drama that plays out every year in my backyard. (Anthropomorphism should probably be reserved for children’s booksand special occasions. I claim the latter in this case.)

For more on Archimedes and the bees, see the full post at the Last Word on Nothing

 

Image: Pollinator via Wikipedia

 

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