Principally Uncertain

It’s Greek to Idaho

By Steve Carr

Many historians maintain that the celebrated Greek physicist and fly fisherman, Archimedes, was in Greece, not Idaho, when he realized the water his body displaced in the bathtub was the result of a law of physics, which coincidentally was known as the Archimedes Principle. He was so excited that a law of physics shared his name, he ran into the street naked, dripping wet, screaming “Eureka,” which in Greek means, “I have found it.”

There is some debate, however, as to exactly what he found. It may have been the solution to a problem he was noodling. We can safely assume it wasn’t his tunic or the pin that held it in place. What makes this story so extraordinary is that his epiphany about the Archimedes Principle came on the very same day Archimedes debunked his mother’s old maxim, “You will catch your death of cold if you go outside with wet hair.” Think about how big this is. Being responsible for two scientific discoveries originating from the same bathwater would have been more than enough to make Archimedes a household name—had “Archimedes” been easier to spell.

That’s some of the neat stuff I learned from an exhibit currently showing at the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls. In case you want to go, it’s entitled, “Archimedes, Not Beyond Bathing for Science.”  Or now that I think about it, maybe it was, “Who Has My Tunic? Going Beyond Archimedes’ Behind.”

Anyway, as you read this, eastern Idaho fly-fishers are gearing up for the stonefly hatch on the Henrys Fork and beyond. (“Beyond” is code for, “Find the transcendent fishing hole yourself.”) We are blessed in Idaho with some of the world’s most delicious outdoors—and beyond. What does this have to do with museums and Archimedes? Well, sometimes epiphanies strike when two disparate ideas bump up against each other in the bathtub. As I soaked last night, it hit me. When Archimedes ran from his campsite naked, screaming, “Eureka,” (literal translation: “I have found the mother of all secret fishing holes”) he must have been in Idaho. There’s some evidence for this.

I had the advantage of being taught to fish by my friend Randy, the world’s happiest, and arguably best, fisherman and life explorer. Randy was always “fabulous,” and, like Archimedes, he found and lived his “aha” moment. These two enlightened men fish today in the Great Beyond. But before Archimedes passed on, I think we can safely assume he did more than just fish and bathe while vacationing in Idaho. Perhaps he enjoyed the company of an alluring Fish and Game officer—who knows? It makes sense. Look around you.  I’m thinking he left a curious and happy progeny to populate this land, my fishing buddy Randy included. Our state could have just as well been named “Archimedes,” or better, “Eureka,” but then, “Idaho” is easier to spell.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Note: I won’t be offended if you choose to fact check me on some of the unimportant details such as dates, places, and science. The Archimedes exhibit at the Museum of Idaho runs through  September.  Idaho’s unparalleled outdoor offerings run year-round.

(In grateful memory of Randy Scott Francis.)

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Steve Carr

About Steve Carr

Since you asked, Steve Carr is a recovering attorney, who can be reached at [email protected].

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