An Atomistic Understanding of Knowledge


Translated by :

Livia Bellardini


Maja Urukalo Franov


Átomos is Greek for “not cut”, thus “indivisible”.

The concept at its core is that of an individual substance impossible to even chip. Some ancient philosophers, likely from Leucippus and Democritus onwards, explained the foundation of the universe through the atom, commonly known as the smallest unit of life.

However, contrary to what the Ancients thought – and to how we ourselves still picture it today – the atom’s indivisibility is not the only feature that identifies it as such.

As a matter of fact, irreducible to one another, atoms create aggregates, mold into playful combinations and bestow a world that is exactly how we ourselves perceive it.

The atomistic gaze upon reality has endured over the centuries, to the point of it becoming the cornerstone of the overarching scientific world-view. This is why in the introduction to his Lectures on Physics, British scientist Richard Feynman ponders over the most important idea that mankind has ever expressed.

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis, Feynman specifies, meaning that that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied”.


In some ways, the atom functions as a link between antiquity and modernity, or better put, it is a dynamic individuality that survives through coalescence, it is philosophy performed though physics, or Lucretius’s poetry that embraces Planck’s quantum.  

Yet, following in Feynman footsteps, we could equally ask ourselves if there actually is a difference between Bohr’s imagination, scientist of the Nineteenth century, and that of Lucretius, Latin scholar of the First century B.C., since both of them, although in their own personal way, described the world in atomistic terms.

Yet, on the other hand, there can be no denying that when we think about the atom, Bohr’s physical descriptions is what comes to mind, or at most Rutherford’s planetary model, where the atom is described as a structure made of a nucleus and small spheres in constant motion – electrons – gravitating around it.

An apparently simple concept to which Modern Physics managed to give deep substance, and it is precisely from this fascinating idea that our project departs. In other words, we want to streamline [academic] language for better clarification. Accordingly, our goal is to publish a series of contributions that are meticulous, clear and captivating, yet allow students to break down the suffocating walls of academic language and meet in dialogue.


Our topics of discussion will avoid the maze of contorted sentences we have become so used to reading good specialized essays. If anything, we will use technical terms reasonably, that is by providing readers with their proper explanation, allowing them to grasp the essential and profound meaning of the words they encounter.

Imagery, metaphors and rhetorical speech will be our helpers in making the various topics more understandable. In fact, we are definitely not interested in the cryptic and puzzling language employed by those ancient scholars.

Moreover, will also give serious thought to irony, a fundamental tool to keep by our side when dealing with the truth.

But do not worry: seriousness and precision are going to be our faithful companions, as well as yours if you are patient enough to follow us and embark with us this journey. We will try to start a dialogue with the authors we are studying, have a chat with them, and maybe also yell at them…yet, without giving up an objective eye on the matter; in other words, we will try to add color and intensity to the dullness that some literary writings have accustomed us to.


“And yet… nothing new to see here!” is what you may be thinking, and you are not completely wrong about it. However, you’ll be happy to hear that we do not care about originality for originality’s sake, but we do care of genuinely good subjects that are worth discussing, and topics that are clear and transparent as much as they are compelling. We may sound redundant, but let us clarify, once again, that an innovation that is self-celebrating is not what we are going after.


So let us look at Literature, Philosophy, Neuroscience, History, Sociology, Psychology – and many others – as crazy and chaotic atoms, eager to find their way, and their place, into this project that, by all means and purposes, we call atomistic.


This, is a safe space to be brave, a space where our conventional knowledge is challenged, scoured, questioned and combined together by shedding a new light of what we are studying. However, if sometimes we exaggerate and – God forbid!- have some fun, please be kind to us; we are thrust by the passion of those enthusiasts that have held our hand along the way, and although enthusiasts are known to exaggerate sometimes, they are also known to have a little fun and enjoy themselves.





La redazione de l'Universitario è composta perlopiù da studenti dell'Università di Trento

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