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Q & A: Aristotle and proper places

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Most recent answer: 10/18/2017
Q:
Aristotle describes motion of objects as directed to their proper place. Do you agree that there is a proper place for objects on Earth?
- Elle (age 17)
Philippines
A:

There's something a little like that idea in modern physics. Left alone without external influences, things settle into something called thermal equilibrium. The thermal equilibrium positions of things are generally what Aristotle might have called "proper" positions.  We now know how to calculate and predicate many of these, all based on one simple principle: in equilibrium, all the possible quantum states are equally likely to be found. That means that you almost always see things in the form consistent with the most quantum states.

For example, a ball settles down on the ground. That's because that releases the energy it would take to lift it and that energy can make lots of quantum states by jiggling atoms around. So that what's makes "sitting on the ground" the proper thing for a ball.

Mike W.


(published on 10/18/2017)

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