Plato’s Surprising Point: The Earth Is Made Out of Cubes

Plato, the well-known Greek philosopher that lived 25 centuries ago, thought that the universe contained five different types of matter water, air, earth, cosmos and fire. Each type of matter had a certain geometry ascribed to it, named a platonic shape. Earth was shaped like a cube.

In these 25 centuries, science progressed quite a lot. We now know that the atom is the building block of the universe, not the cube or even the circle. However, from some point of view, Plato was actually right.

The Study

There is a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, a team from the University of Pennsylvania, together with teams from the University of Debrecen and the Budapest University of Technology, use physics, geology and even mathematics to prove that, on average, the shapes of rocks on our planet is the cube.

Plato’s Brilliance

According to Douglas Jerolmack, a geophysicist affiliated with the Department of Earth and Environmental Science belonging to the Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, Plato was the first person out there to talk about the atom, the very idea that matter is made out of an indivisible component at an incredibly small scale. His understanding, however, was only conceptual and it does not affect the modern understanding of atoms.


Things is, statistically, after analyzing rocks, we can see that the element earth truly is mostly made out of cubes, which is amazing. Using some geometric models developed by Gabor Domokos, we can see how predominant cubes actually are. Essentially, if one takes a three-dimensional polyhedral shape, then slices it randomly into two separate fragments and then slices these fragments time and time again, a very high amount of different polyhedral shapes result. On average, the resulting shape of all these fragments is a cube.

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