The Greek philosopher Plato, who lived in THE 5th century BC, believed that the entire universe is made up of five different types of matter -- earth, air, fire, water and cosmos. The philosopher described each of these matters with a particular geometry which he called the platonic shape. He also claimed that the platonic shape of Earth is the cube.
Plato's Predictions Were Right
Now, a new study conducted by a team of researchers has suggested that Plato's prediction was indeed right. The new study carried out by experts from the University of Pennsylvania, Budapest University of Technology and Economics and the University of Debrecen found that the average shape of rocks on Earth is a cube.
"Plato is widely recognized as the first person to develop the concept of an atom, the idea that matter is composed of some indivisible component at the smallest scale. But that understanding was only conceptual; nothing about our modern understanding of atoms derives from what Plato told us. The interesting thing here is that what we find with rock or earth, is that there is more than a conceptual lineage back to Plato. It turns out that Plato's conception about the element earth being made up of cubes is, literally, the statistical average model for the real earth. And that is just mind-blowing," said Douglas Jerolmack, a geophysicist in Penn's School of Arts & Sciences, in a recent statement.
The new research was based on geometric models developed by mathematician Gábor Domokos of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Domokos predicted that natural rocks will gradually fragment into cubic shapes.
"If you take a three-dimensional polyhedral shape, slice it randomly into two fragments and then slice these fragments, again and again, you get a vast number of different polyhedral shapes. But in an average sense, the resulting shape of the fragments is a cube," said Domokos.
Practical Experiments Proved Plato Was Right
To test whether the mathematical model used in the study was right in nature, researchers measured a wide variety of rocks taken from various parts of the world, under different geological conditions. The team found that rocks followed a cubic pattern.
However, researchers made it clear that certain special rock formations existed on Earth actually break the cubic rule. But most of the rocks on Earth follow the rule, which means Plato was right on his prediction.
"When you pick up a rock in nature, it's not a perfect cube, but each one is a kind of statistical shadow of a cube," added Jerolmack, substantiating the hypothesis put forward by Plato.