A Planet Called Earth - download pdf or read online

By George Gamow

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In ancient Rome lead was widely used: for making crockery, styluses, and pipes for the famous Roman water-main. Lead was also used for manufacturing white lead. The island of Rhodes was the biggest exporter of white lead. The process of its preparation is still used as follows: lead pieces are immersed into vinegar and the salt thus obtained is boiled with water for a long time. But red lead was first obtained unexpectedly. When a fire broke out in the Greek port of Piraeus barrels with lead were enveloped in flames.

The Latin argentum originates most likely from the Sanscrit arganta, which means "light, white". Copper According to the French chemist M. Berthelot, mankind came to know copper more than five thousand years ago. Other scientists believe that this acquaintance is much older. Copper and its alloy with tin (bronze) had for a long time been the most widely used metals. These two materials marked a whole epoch in the history of mankind—the Bronze Age. Why did copper play such an important part? Copper is fairly abundant in nature and can readilv be worked.

Now we know that the scientist obtained carbon dioxide which was produced again by the English physicist J. Black only over 100 years later. But J. Van Helmont did not understand his discovery: he saw in the "wood spirit" only a variety of air. Therefore, we have no right to apply the term "the discovery of a new element" in its latter-day sense to the constituents of air and water. On the other hand, the discoveries of hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen differ considerably from those chance discoveries that had taken place in the pre-scientific period.

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A Planet Called Earth by George Gamow

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