Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794)

At the time:

  • There was no cell theory of biology
  • Nobody knew about DNA
  • Nobody knew about thermodynamics, that "matter can't be created or destroyed". If you focus the Sun on a goop of antimony, it'd billow a thick white smoke for a while, and then weigh 10% more than before, and people thought why not? They saw no reason the sun couldn't add weight to some things.

It was a time when you'd look at your hands, flex them, and have absolutely no idea what moves them, why they move, while clay molded into the shape of hands just sits there.

Lavoisier discovered fire, i.e. combustion, and that we organisms also do some form of combustion, because like a fire, we consume "vital air" (oxygen) and replace some of it with "fixed air" (carbon dioxide), and the more so when we do physically demanding work. Here was why we need oxygen just as badly as a fire does: we operate by the same process! Amazing!

He discovered that if you weigh not only the thing being burned but also the gases in the room, the total weight of both stays the same before and after a fire. Burning wood releases the wood's matter into the air, while burning antimony sucks some matter out of the air, hence why the burnt antimony weighs more.

Reality is laced together🔗

In the book The Incomplete Enchanter, the hero is transported to a magical world based on Norse myth, where technology doesn't work, so naturally when the hero tries to strike a match, it fails to catch aflame.

But if you were transported into such a system of physics, you would die… because your cells live on combustion too.

This is an example of why you usually can't retcon any part of our physics, because you end up with an universe that can't support life. All the physics laws tie into each other; reality is laced together a lot more tightly than people realize.

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Created (12 months ago)