This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

Did Aliens build this computer? (Hint: no)

Posted by: James Lileks under Gripes, Technology Updated: January 3, 2014 - 12:22 PM

Great rejoicing among the children of the land today: School cancelled three days in advance. This not only means the winter break is extended, it means the first week back is shorter.

SCIENCE! Dogs poop in accordance with the invisible rays of the planet’s magnetic field. Okay then. But what did ancient dogs do? Perhaps they consulted the The Antikythera Mechanism, news about which is making the rounds today. i09:

The mystery of who built the Antikythera mechanism remains. It has been linked to renowned ancient inventor Archimedes by the writings of Cicero, but this particular device was built after Archimedes' death. Still, the engraved words revealed by the new photos pinpoint the device's origin to Corinth, or possibly Corinthian colonies. Sicily was such a colony, and the Sicilian city of Syracuse was Archimedes' headquarters. The researchers theorize that the Antikythera mechanism is based on an Archimedian design, and might even have been built by a workshop carrying on his technological tradition. But if the design has been "industrialized" in such a way, why have we never found another one like it?

Because fools were afraid of it, or destroyed it to sell the metal parts. Does this mean scientists could have come up with clacking steam-powered mechanical calculation devices hundreds of years earlier. with Byzantium (not Constantinople) the Silicon Valley of its day? Hard to say, but the Romans would have loved computers. Any big administrative state finds them useful.

The article’s comments promptly veer off in the expected direction:

One of the commenters actually uses that guy as a source for his arguments, which has a Mobius-strip logic to it. The commenter believes there was - oh, it’s hard to say. Greys visiting earth a long time ago, helping humans build structures, that sort of thing. Anthropologists without the prime directive. Rather unimaginative, or careless: if you know you’re shaping a culture just by showing up and lifting ten-ton boulders with your levitation wands, what can you learn? Primitives are impressed by magic. Well, yes. Anyway, the commenter points to web pages, you guys, so this is serious stuff. Including this one: Ancient City Found in India, Irradiated from Atomic Blast Hmm. Has to be true; it has ANCIENT TEXTS.  

The Mahabharata clearly describes a catastrophic blast that rocked the continent.

"A single projectile charged with all the power in the Universe…An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as 10,000 suns, rose in all its splendor…it was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes an entire race.

And Hister shall vex Venice. In other words, translation and context, pls. Or, for that matter, a primary source. There isn’t any. There is, however, a debunking.

Meanwhile, in the world of serious archeology:

Using NASA data and new computer simulations, researchers say they've discovered how the sun would have lined up with an Egyptian obelisk and the famed Ara Pacis in ancient Rome.

The Ara Pacis, or "Altar of Peace," was dedicated in the year 9 B.C. to honor the Pax Romana, an era of relative peace established by Rome's first emperor Augustus. Today the building is recognized as a masterpiece of Augustan architecture, and it is housed in a glass, cube-shaped museum along the Tiber River. But in ancient times, it would have stood in the northern outskirts of the city, near an Egyptian obelisk that the Romans uprooted from Heliopolis and repurposed as a gnomon, or giant sundial.

I know you’re supposed to say you’d rather hang out with Mark Anthony; the fellow knew how to have a good time. But Augustus, there’s a story. It’s difficult to separate one’s views without consulting the TV shows -

Brian Blessed’s cheerful ruler, manipulated by his steely wily wife, was a great character, but you suspect that the dour, patient, unmovable Augustus of HBO’s “Rome” was probably more to the point.

More Science News of yore: : Matt Novak’s Paleofuture reviews the Electrical Show of 1927.

Or, you could go to BuzzFeed for seriously informative material:

URBAN PLANNING While researching the location of the Mark Twain Cafe in Cairo, IL, I learned something new about Cairo: its downtown is a set for “The Walking Dead.”

Some old photos of the city from 1989, when it was sliding fast but hadn’t hit rock bottom, here.

ADVERTISING Clicked on one of those links at the bottom of a webpage, which is always a mistake.  At Savory, “21 Creepy Old School Ads.” Nothing creepy about them. What’s unnerving is that people fall for this:

Copy: “What they don't tell you in this gender propagating advertisement is what he said after he chugged a few Schlitz.”

It’s fake. Any idiot ought to be able to tell it’s fake. Never mind the trypeface; what does wine have to do with it?

The “use of Schlitz to soften the blow of misfortune” campaign ran in the early 50s; here’s the husband offered beer to deal with all the money his wife spent on hats.

Note how the pipe and slippers are laid out in advance. If we can't understand the context of something from 60 years ago, how can we be expected to understand an ancient computational instrument? How? Well,  research, a grounding in history, and an ability to understand other cultures without  applying our own values and preconceptions, but that's asking a lot. 

Enjoy the warm weather; hammer comes down soon.

  • 0
  • Comments

Be the first to comment

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT