This is interesting: a recent translation of a previously untranslated Babylonian text indicates that the ancients were on the path towards developing the rudiments of calculus, using some mathematical cleverness to predict the path of Jupiter across the sky. This is not an easy or straightforward task, but “the Babylonians did so by tracking Jupiter’s speed as a function of time and determining the area under a time-velocity curve.”
The recognition that the area under a time-velocity curve related to distance traveled did not re-appear until Europe in the mid-14th century; it’d be another three centuries before Newton and Leibnitz invented calculus.
Couple this with the Antikythera Mechamism and the fact that Archimedes was also on the path to calculus, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the ancient world was a lot closer to industrialism that we might have thought. Had science flourished and not been squashed by mysticism, we could well be a thousand to fifteen hundred years further along technologically.
A discussion with a friend today raised an interesting ponderable: how might history have been different if the Moon was seen to rotate, rather than being tidally locked? Assuming that it was at the same distance yet still rotated (thus minimizing issues with tides), I have the feeling that science just might have had a chance to triumph. Plato and the Pythagoreans believed that the heavens were perfect and inviolate; if the Moon rotated, it might have been clear that the Moon was a flawed, imperfect *place,* rather than some flawless celestial crystal or a great mirror reflecting Earth.