Home > Essays

Da Vinci's Paintbrush

Capillary Action is my favorite Wikipedia article


When Leonardo da Vinci observed capillary action he remarked that the paintbrush was a gift from the gods. He correctly observed that his paintbrush had an unnatural affinity to paint, given human understanding at the time. If you place a brush in a cup of paint and come back sometime later, the brush will have pulled the paint into itself noticeably above the surface of the paint in the cup.

To Da Vinci, his paintbrush was magic.

It wasn't until the 1800s that we had the early versions of the Young-Laplace equation which attempted to quantitatively explain the phenomenon.

Fast forward to 1900, Albert Einstein's first paper was still exploring Da Vinci's paintbrush.

This Wikipedia entry reminds me that this world is full of magic and wonder if you just slow down and look. Something as simple as a paintbrush can reveal a quite peculiar thing that takes generations of study by the brightest of human minds to try and explain.

Go outside and turn over a rock, any rock, and there is a lifetime of wonder and mystery under it.

And, just because we can explain it now, doesn't mean Da Vinci's paintbrush isn't magic.

It just means that the magic is real.