Atomos: The Atomic Theory We Forgot About

Atomism In Ancient Greece

Over 2400 years ago Atomos was the idea Democritus, an ancient Greek man, had when considering how far matter or “stuff” could be split into its component parts. The uncanny similarities to the modern idea of the atom sometimes grant him the title of, “Father of (ancient) Science”. Still, the kind of insight required to make a guess that lands anywhere near our modern concept of an atom was unbelievably lucky and or pure human genius mixed with a bad batch of wine.

What Democritus Really Saw…

I think that Democritus did see an atom but not in the physical world. He may not have thought to question it further due to a simple and very common cause-and-effect error and the rest of us since didn’t question it because we stopped being curious after “lucky guess”. We can throw Democritus a pass here no problem. Not only was this around before science was invented but there is that pesky cause-and-effect error.

The Mind’s Scientific Method

The First Theory of Information?

So, what am I giving Democritus credit for? Maybe Democritus’ brilliant atomic theory was something like our first theory of information. I think most people would agree that his guess couldn’t have been right with what we knew back then. So, perhaps he was right for another reason. What if atoms are fundamental parts of the universe, not because they were physically small but because they were conceptually small and so fundamental that they lost meaning when broken apart?

Information loss/gain from one element to another results in a different atom or concept

Making the Invisible, Visible

As I mentioned earlier, we don’t have a good framework to keep track of the things we can’t see and that list of invisible things is getting longer every day. It would be nice to have a simple starting point that is sufficiently abstract to serve as a template for tackling problems we can’t see. If it can also apply to things we can see that would be incredibly convenient.

Bifurcation of Atomism
Carina Nebula: Artificial Coloring

“Through advanced space telescopes like the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, we have plenty of gorgeous imagery of nebulae. Most of these are formed through infrared and false-color images but they all are striking.” —

This is an example of modifying dimensions so we can see what would otherwise be invisible. Giving dimensions is the same, just with extra steps.


Aside from a similar graphical appearance, Democritus’ and modern atomic theory contains important principles about the origin, integrity, and behavior of information when modified. The idea that concepts lose meaning when split apart is very helpful for explaining a lot of what we see. For the rest, we just need to do what we’ve done before, guess and check. Atomos is a conceptual template for laying out information an understanding of the relationships between concepts. At this stage, it is very granular but over time Atomos can easily evolve into conceptual molecules and anything else we care to think up.

Expert Modeler | Scientist | Teacher | Engineer

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