The Archimedean Point: From Fixed Positions to the Limits of Theory


There is no authoritative biography of Archimedes, but there are moments from his life which, apocryphal or not, have become the stuff of legend. These include accounts of Archimedes running naked through the streets after realizing that his body displaces water in the bath (“Eureka!”), how he sat musing over diagrams in the sand as sword-bearing Romans descended upon him during a siege of Syracuse, and of course, his mechanically-informed claim that a firm resting place is all he would need to dislodge the world from its axis. This is the birth of the Archimedean point, which latter-day interpretations craft into a figure of thought that works according to the mechanical principle it describes: effortlessly, it turns a simple law of physics into an image of unlimited strength, absolute stability, and world mastery.

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