Jan 292016
 

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.

This Babylonian Astronomy Text Changes History

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.

 

 Posted by at 1:40 am
  • James

    Very interesting. Once again the people of the ancient world were probably as smart if not smarter than we today. The weak got weeded out pretty steadily.

    Also we have found quite a few times that the ancient world was damn near industrialized. Honestly, doubt it could have gone on to become it though. The problem is why build a better way to do something yourself when you can just buy a hundred slaves to do it.

    Forget the name off the top of my head but there was a Alexandrian who probably discovered steam power. Amazingly nothing happened. Others seem to have discovered many other amazing things but these were one off things and often just forgotten.

    The three things which seem two have caused the industrial revolution were the mass deaths in Europe, the lack of slaves/extra surfs, and last the death of so many of the nobles and rich merchants meant suddenly the kings and queens etc suddenly had extra money.

    Actually this Mysticism is basically the reason you had so much learning. It was an attempt to explain the world and their place in it.

    Science and religion have no great argument. For a religious person science should be held in high regard. Its a tool which allows us to explore the universe around us.

    I’ve always figured the “go forth and multiply” could be seen as a commandment from god to go forth and spread life.

    • Scottlowther

      > Forget the name off the top of my head but there was a Alexandrian who probably discovered steam power.

      Heron (AKA Hero) of Alexandria. May not have discovered steam power, but he sure made use of it. Invented quite a number of steam-powered machines. But from the descriptions, they were all toys for the rich or religious tricks for the temples. If he had an idea for something useful like a steam engine to power a boat, I’ve not heard of it.

      > Mysticism is basically the reason you had so much learning. It was an attempt to explain the world

      This is true. What it’s *not*, unfortunately, is a way to discover how the world actually works. Mysticism, religion, magic, spiritualism… those are all largely based on “this here is the revealed Truth, don’t bother digging deeper.”

      > Science and religion have no great argument.

      Depends on the religion. And on how seriously the adherents take the claims the religion makes about the world.

      • James

        Yes, though mysticism and other such things lead us to tracking the stars, seasons, maths etc. It was something more than what is this in front of me.

        And yes the person in the religion matters. Islam was at one time VERY scientific. Worked out a lot of things similar to the Greeks and built off of what the Greeks did. Of course this was before the fall of Baghdad and the Mongols burning the whole place to ashes and effectively killing hundreds of millions around the region.

        • Scottlowther

          > mysticism and other such things lead us to tracking the stars, seasons, maths etc

          Sure. But more often than not those were put to awful uses. Mars is in Sagittarius? Why… invade!!!

          > Islam was at one time VERY scientific.

          The supposed golden age of science in Islam has always seemed pretty dubious to me. Most of the “Islamic science” seems to have been not their own doing, but simply translating the work of Greeks and Indians. It’s good that for a brief while the Islamic world thought it was worth recording what pagans and heathen had to say; if the old texts hadn’t been translated from Greek into Arabic, they likely would have vanished entirely as the Christians descended into uttermost mysticism and burned off their own back story.

          Remember, the Romans, the Christians and the Muslims all took their turns At burning the Library of Alexandria to the ground. At least Caesar did it for purely practical reasons, while the Christians and Muslims did it out of hatred of knowledge.