A truly amazing device
The discovery of this machine often makes me wonder just how much science and technology has really been lost in the past and why.
Archaeologists have set out on another expedition to the Antikythera wreck site, with the aim of finding the missing pieces of the site's famous “ancient computer”. The Antikythera Mechanism is a device which has fascinated the world ever since its discovery in 1901, since it seemed to embody technology far beyond the roughly …
...just how much science and technology has really been lost in the past and why
That's all neatly explained in a brochure you're most welcome to pick up at the souvenir shop in the Atlantis Visitor Centre - a word of warning though, you'll have to bring your own scuba gear...
There was a programme on this and it's on youtube
features specially built 3d X-ray machine and 50 angle light to obtain layer and text detail not available in plain sight.
A completely fascinating programme that has had 3 or 4 runs on BBC4. IMHO it is worth committing the time to watch this from end to end
This goes a long way to understanding how this was constructed and how it works
"since it seemed to embody technology which used to be considered far beyond the roughly 60 BC societies that created it." FTFY
According to the post-19th C Spinners-of-Tales that classed themselves as "historians". There's plenty of surviving sources and artifacts that clearly show knowledge of what we would class as "machinery" including gear systems, and a level of technological ability that rivalled if not surpassed our own in some ( now "obsolete" ) areas.
Most of that stuff would have been trade secrets, and would not have been widely known, but you can see the *results* in the existing archaeology and whatever has been preserved. No tinfoil hat needed.
But I do hope they manage to find more pieces. It's an elegant thing, judging from the recreations I've spotted around, and a really nice piece of brainsweat.
Occasionally I've wondered that the epicyclic celestial model might be more useful. It's all very well to know that the planets all move in more or less exact ellipses around the sun, but then how do you calculate how the fixed stars and the other planets will appear at any given time when seen from a rotating body itself moving on an elliptical path?
The use of epicycles might well be the most practical approach to producing a picture of the sky at a given time and place in the future.
On a similar vein - and just as impressive - was the discovery in London, of a machine to provide water to Roman London (I think it was discovered by the Crossrail team).
It was a series of buckets, on an iron chain, driven (presumably) by donkey power.
Completely and utterly unknown anywhere else in the Roman world, which is why they struggled (with modern technology) to recreate a working model.
Anyone know of Trajans bridge ? Parts of which still stand.
It annoysme when people assume that our ancestors were somehow less clever than us. They weren't. As James Burke so eloquently put it "They just knew different things."
Notice that the Antikythera device and Trajan's Bridge were created by Greeks, not Romans, and that the London water-lifiting device seems to have been devised in Britannia, not Rome.
I suspect the Roman empire was responsible for holding back, or even reversing, the development of science and technology over a large part of the 'old world'. If it didn't serve to strengthen the empire or amuse the emperor, they weren't interested.
Wander the ancient world and you see the difference between Greek and Roman technology. The Greeks carved things from stone (e.g. amphitheatre in Agrigento), where as the Romans used concrete and casting (the Coliseum in Rome).
Gears are not the big deal, as casting was obviously available to the ancients. The mathematics to make real machines however, perhaps not.
One of the most amazing things about Greek philosophy was that they chronicled all of the previous philosophers and what they had all shown. In the 13th century when they rediscovered palimpsests of Euclid's works, they knew there were bits missing partly because of the mathematics(!), but also the chronicles.
But how did we lost the secret of concrete for 10 centuries...?
I suspect the Roman empire was responsible for holding back, or even reversing, the development of science and technology over a large part of the 'old world'.
I vaguely recall reading somewhere - perhaps in A History of Pi? my copy is on another continent at the moment, or I'd try to find the passage in question - that the engineers of the much-vaunted Roman aqueducts thought water flow was proportional to the radius of the conduit, rather than to its cross-sectional area1 (neglecting edge effects). The suggestion was that Roman engineering mostly consisted of "I dunno, try making it bigger" rather than actually doing the math.
But I haven't looked into the matter at all myself.
1And thus to the square of the radius.
There are at least four discoveries of bucket chains in London - for example a near complete one was found during development at 30 Cheapside in 2001. Part of the problem for Roman engineers was that the Walbrook stream was the only surface water risng within the walls and was insufficient for the population. Hence they had to dig down to the clay layer and put in the buckets. I'm not sure whether they were known or not elsewhere - in more peaceable territories presumably they would have just scooped the water out of the river with a Noria (a sort of river driven water wheel). That's a technology that still exists.
A lot of ancient technology is lost because they are replaced by more efficient ways of doing things and pretty soon all the people who can make them are dead and the knowledge is largely lost.
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