Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Other Einstein

A boat sinks off the coast of a Greek isle.  No one can say the precise reason.  Maybe a storm....maybe a leak.....maybe an attack.....maybe just rotted timbers.  None of that matters today.

Roughly a hundred and four years ago.....some people come across this wreck.  It's over two thousand years old, and there are various pieces left from the wreck.

Oddly enough.....there's this one metallic device sitting there amongst the pieces.  It doesn't make much sense.....gears associated with something in a simple wood box, but you have no idea of what.  So, for just kinda sat there.

In the 1970s....some efforts were made to put a date on the device, with 87 BC given the popular nod....because of coins found near the site and believed part of the ships cargo.

This past year....some folks sat down to do a real examination on the year produced and the mission of the device.

The year developed is now sat at 200 BC....which likely will draw more argument.

The purpose?  A system of gears to give you the year itself, the Olympic games schedule, the orbit of the moon on a monthly basis, and at least twelve other calendars.  Why would the orbit of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus matter and need to be each built into the gears?  Unknown.

Accurate?  Some gears are absolutely accurate....some are not accurate.  The inaccurate gears fail because later observations and discoveries put a better timing or explanation into the works, but these would have been four hundred to a thousand years later.  The bulk of the gear box?  Mostly accurate.

So you sit and ponder about this.  Roughly two-thousand-two-hundred years ago.....some smart guy sat there with no computers and simply raw data written onto parchment.  He defined the information at hand, then designed a system of gears to bring this data into use, and then had the gear box built to those spec's.

You could take a dozen of the brightest scientist and engineers of today....lock them into a vault with no computer access....and tell them to build such a device.  Using only written data and manual computations.....the odds are that it'd take at least a decade to build such a device....maybe even twenty years.

Somehow, over the course of two thousand years.....we had tremendous advances in science within our grasp, and lost it.  How many of such gear boxes were built? might have been a dozen....maybe one.....maybe a thousand.  The complications in building such a gear box?  You had to know at least three separate sciences or engineering practices.

All of this leads back to the Greek guy....Archimedes, who lived from 287 BC to 212 BC.  Those studying the gears, and voicing the 200 BC date.....think the box is work of Archimedes.  No proof....just opinion.  As much as one can describe Einstein as being clever and on the cutting edge of knowledge....Einstein might have been only a marginal player compared to the work of Archimedes.  At some point, maybe just to make a point.....Archimedes set about to confirm the number of sands it'd take to fill the universe.  You can was probably more of a test of logic than accuracy....but he sat into motion this idea of counting grains of sand when you could just couldn't know the complete size of the universe.

So we stand today.....a Greek shipwreck.....a mysterious gear box that sat in a wooden case.....a dozen-odd gears for those traveling great distances to judge the day and what might be important....some Greek thinker of epic proportions, and lost history.

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