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Gift from the sea
on April 4, 2013
As you read this review there are some 3 million ship wrecks lying beneath the waves (most unexplored).
In 1901 one of those ship wrecks -- of a Roman trading vessel that sunk while headed home to port --was discovered by Greek spong divers. Among its treasures were hoards of coins, various statues, amphoras of wine and most importantly an ancient computer.
For most of the past 100 years that ancient computer has been an enigma. Interestingly enough the size of a contemporary laptop, the ancient computer now is basically one rusted hunk of metal through which observers can easily see the evidences of gear mechanisms that it used for whatever its purpose was.
In one of history's great detective stories this DVD removes the rust from the device revealing not only what it looked like in antiquity but also what its purpose was and who probably made it. In terms of its appearance, it's like a larger version of the inside of an old watch, with its interconnected gears toothed gears. Though it lacks it now it used to have a face plate on one side that showed the movements of the moon and also the then known five planets. On the back it had another face which revealed future eclipses showing the year, month, date and time when they would occur. The purpose of the device testified to the importance ancients then ascribed to knowing the movements of the stars in the heavens. Though we no longer employ the practice such matters used to effect decisions on the part of Kings and Emporers as to the timing and fact of whether they'd go to war.
Perhaps most interesting however is the question of who made this device. It's interesting because the man attributed to creating this device was none other than the Greek genuis Archimedes. Archimedes lived in the Greek city/state of Syracuse which was located just south of the main boot of Italy and therefore one of the very first communities to be overrun when the Roman Empire began its campaign of expansion. Today Archimedes is probably best known for his help in trying to prevent that expansion. One story tells of how Archimedes developed a device which was able to lift Roman ships from the water so they could be dashed on the rocks. Another story tells how Archimedes made smoothed mirrors which he used to start fires on board the Roman ships so as to frustrate their efforts at conquest. What is perhaps lesser known is that Archimedes also perfected a system of calculus some 18 centuries before Isaac Newton or that he measured the distance between the Earth and the Sun. If this movie is right then this computer is yet another example of Archimedes great genuis.
Sadly, of course history records that the Romans did overrun Archimedes' Syracuse. In perhaps their only contribution to mathematics, a Roman centurion killed Archimedes with his sword, and in so doing began a dark ages that would hang over Europe for the better part of two thousand years.
This great DVD not illuminates an important find it also makes one wonder just what else awaits us at the bottom of the sea.