Engines of our Ingenuity, No. 1576: THE WIND by John H. Lienhard
- What do you suppose a medieval miller thought it was that caused the wind to drive his mill? What invisible efficacy rode in the air to grind his grain? The wind still captures our imaginations, even when we know about air, kinetic energy, and force balances. What must it have meant when people knew none of that?
- The ancient languages offer a remarkable answer. All of them used the same word for wind, for breath, and for soul. In Sanskrit that word is atman; in Latin it's either spiritus or anima; in Hebrew it's ru-ach; and in Greek it's pneuma. You find pneuma and spiritus in air-related words like pneumatic and respiration. Atman shows up again as the German verb atmen which means to breath and ru-ach is probably kin the the German word rauch, for smoke. The Russian word for spirit, duh, has many wind-related cognates. Duhovyia intrumenti, for example, means wind instruments.