The shape of bodies will not account for their moving upward or downward in general, though it will account for their moving faster or slower. The reasons for this are not difficult to see. For the problem thus raised is why a flat piece of iron or lead floats upon water, while smaller and less heavy things, so long as they are round or long-a needle, for instance-sink down; and sometimes a thing floats because it is small, as with gold dust and the various earthy and dusty materials which throng the air. With regard to these questions, it is wrong to accept the explanation offered by Democritus. He says that the warm bodies moving up out of the water hold up heavy bodies which are broad, while the narrow ones fall through, because the bodies which offer this resistance are not numerous. But this would be even more likely to happen in air-an objection which he himself raises. His reply to the objection is feeble. In the air, he says, the drive (meaning by drive the movement of the upward moving bodies) is not uniform in direction. But since some continua are easily divided and others less easily, and things which produce division differ similarly in the case with which they produce it, the explanation must be found in this fact. It is the easily bounded, in proportion as it is easily bounded, which is easily divided; and air is more so than water, water than earth. Further, the smaller the quantity in each kind, the more easily it is divided and disrupted. Thus the reason why broad things keep their place is because they cover so wide a surface and the greater quantity is less easily disrupted. Bodies of the opposite shape sink down because they occupy so little of the surface, which is therefore easily parted. And these considerations apply with far greater force to air, since it is so much more easily divided than water. But since there are two factors, the force responsible for the downward motion of the heavy body and the disruption-resisting force of the continuous surface, there must be some ratio between the two. For in proportion as the force applied by the heavy thing towards disruption and division exceeds that which resides in the continuum, the quicker will it force its way down; only if the force of the heavy thing is the weaker, will it ride upon the surface.
We have now finished our examination of the heavy and the light and of the phenomena connected with them.