Easter, Chicks and Eggs
April 13, 2017
Tikalon is on a short Easter holiday. Our next article will be published Thursday, April 20, 2017. Fuzzy chicks and eggs are Easter traditions, and this break will allow your contemplation of the classic chicken or egg problem.
This ancient problem is simply stated as "what came first, the chicken, or the egg," the apparent problem being that you need a chicken to make an egg, and an egg to make a chicken. The Internet abounds with supposed evidence that Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) considered this problem directly and concluded that neither were first, since both are eternal.
However, all this evidence is from secondary sources, and I was not able to uncover a primary source. This question is missing from the logical place to find it, Aristotle's Generation of Animals (De Generatione Animalium, Περι ζωων γενεσεως), which contains considerable information about egg-laying animals.[1-2]
The first discussion of the chicken-egg problem is in Plutarch's Moralia, a collection of short essays on diverse topics.[3-4] Along with a discussion entitled, "Which Was First, the Bird or the Egg," are discussions of whether flute-girls should be allowed at a feast, whether women have a hotter temper than men, and the proper time for sex (night).
In Question III of the Moralia, we read that the egg should be first, since eggs are simpler than birds, and complexity arises from simplicity.
"if we suppose that small things must be the principles of greater, it is likely that the egg was before the bird; for an egg amongst sensible things is very simple, and the bird is more mixed, and contains a greater variety of parts."
In light of our mastery of genetics, scientists can assuredly answer that the egg came first. The domestic chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus is thought to have arisen from a union between the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and its grey junglefowl counterpart (Gallus sonneratii), both of these being wild birds. So this chicken egg, not made by a chicken, became a chicken.
- Aristotle, "On the Generation of Animals," Arthur Platt, Trans., via Wikisource.
- Aristotle, "Generation of animals," Greek, with an English translation by Arthur Leslie Peck, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1943), 708 pp..
- Plutarch, "Symposiacs," from "The complete works of Plutarch: essays and miscellanies," Vol.III, Crowell (New York, 1909) via the University of Adelaide Library.
- Plutarch, "Moralia," Frank Cole Babbitt, Trans., Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1957), 410 pp., via Archive.org.
Permanent Link to this article
Linked Keywords: Tikalon; Easter; holiday; chick; egg; contemplation; chicken or egg problem; pre-1917; Russian; Easter; postcard; Wikimedia Commons; chicken; riddle; problem; Internet; evidence; Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC); eternity; eternal; secondary source; primary source; Generation of Animals; oviparity; egg-laying animal; Plutarch; Moralia; essay; flute; girl; feast; women; temperament; hotter temper; men; sexual intercourse; night; complexity; principle; sense; sensible; genetics; scientist; domestication; domestic; Gallus gallus domesticus; crossbreed; union; red junglefowl (Gallus gallus); Grey junglefowl; Gallus sonneratii.
Latest Books by Dev Gualtieri
Thanks to Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing for his favorable review of Secret Codes!
Blog Article Directory on a Single Page
- J. Robert Oppenheimer and Black Holes - April 24, 2017
- Modeling Leaf Mass - April 20, 2017
- Easter, Chicks and Eggs - April 13, 2017
- You, Robot - April 10, 2017
- Collisions - April 6, 2017
- Eugene Garfield (1925-2017) - April 3, 2017
- Old Fossils - March 30, 2017
- Levitation - March 27, 2017
- Soybean Graphene - March 23, 2017
- Income Inequality and Geometrical Frustration - March 20, 2017
- Wireless Power - March 16, 2017
- Trilobite Sex - March 13, 2017
- Freezing, Outside-In - March 9, 2017
- Ammonia Synthesis - March 6, 2017
- High Altitude Radiation - March 2, 2017
- C.N. Yang - February 27, 2017
- VOC Detection with Nanocrystals - February 23, 2017
- Molecular Fountains - February 20, 2017
- Jet Lag - February 16, 2017
- Highly Flexible Conductors - February 13, 2017
- Graphene Friction - February 9, 2017
- Dynamic Range - February 6, 2017
- Robert Boyle's To-Do List for Science - February 2, 2017
- Nanowire Ink - January 30, 2017
- Random Triangles - January 26, 2017
- Torricelli's law - January 23, 2017
- Magnetic Memory - January 19, 2017
- Graphene Putty - January 16, 2017
- Seahorse Genome - January 12, 2017
- Infinite c - January 9, 2017
- 150 Years of Transatlantic Telegraphy - January 5, 2017
- Cold Work on the Nanoscale - January 2, 2017
- Holidays 2016 - December 22, 2016
- Ballistics - December 19, 2016
- Salted Frogs - December 15, 2016
- Negative Thermal Expansion - December 12, 2016
- Verbal Cues and Stereotypes - December 8, 2016
- Capacitance Sensing - December 5, 2016
- Gallium Nitride Tribology - December 1, 2016
- Lunar Origin - November 27, 2016
- Pumpkin Propagation - November 24, 2016
- Math Anxiety - November 21, 2016
- Borophene - November 17, 2016
- Forced Innovation - November 14, 2016
- Combating Glare - November 10, 2016
- Solar Tilt and Planet Nine - November 7, 2016
- The Proton Size Problem - November 3, 2016
- Coffee Acoustics and Espresso Foam - October 31, 2016
- SnIP - An Inorganic Double Helix - October 27, 2016
- Seymour Papert (1928-2016) - October 24, 2016
- Mapping the Milky Way - October 20, 2016
- Electromagnetic Shielding - October 17, 2016
- The Lunacy of the Cows - October 13, 2016
- Random Coprimes and Pi - October 10, 2016
- James Cronin (1931-2016) - October 6, 2016
- The Ubiquitous Helix - October 3, 2016
- The Five-Second Rule - September 29, 2016
- Resistor Networks - September 26, 2016
- Brown Dwarfs - September 22, 2016
- Intrusion Rheology - September 19, 2016
- Falsifiability - September 15, 2016
- Fifth Force - September 12, 2016
- Renal Crystal Growth - September 8, 2016
- The Normality of Pi - September 5, 2016
- Metering Electrical Power - September 1, 2016
Deep Archive 2006-2008