Friday, April 20, 2012

What the Anikythera Mechanism tells us about the Ancient Greeks

This is my formal outline for a presentation I gave regarding the Antikythera Mechanism.

Purpose: To inform my audience about Greek technology.
Central Idea:  The Greeks had technology that rivaled that of 18th century Europe.
Type of Organization: Topical

Attention getter.
I.  The Greeks had technology far ahead of what most people believe.
    A. Based on a survey from this class, 45% of you said the Greeks were agricultural (WSCC Survey, 2012).
    B.   50% of you said that the Greeks were also city dwellers (WSCC Survey, 2012).
    C.  Only one of you knew that the Greeks were able to build advanced computers (WSCC Survey, 2012).
Reveal topic.
II. Early last century a discovery was made that would change our view of the Greeks forever (, 2012).
A.  A large chunk of complex corroded gears, named the Antikythera Mechanism, was found near a sunken ship by sponge divers (, 2012).
B. For many decades the mechanism was misidentified as being from another, later era (, 2012).
Establish Credibility and goodwill.
III.  I am a lifelong user of technology and a  computer programer.
A.  In Fall quarter I took an Astronomy class and have been an amateur astronomer for a few years.
B. When I found out that the Greeks were far in advance of what we historically believed, I was intrigued and interested.
Preview the Body.
IV.  In this speech I am going to talk about what the Antikythera Mechanism is, what the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism tells us about the ancient Greeks,  and finally, how the Antikythera mechanism influenced modern views of the world.

I.  Let’s first discuss the Antikythera mechanism.
A. Was found by sponge divers in 1900  (, 2012).
B. Researchers finally realized what the device was in the 1940s  (, 2012).
C.  An ancient craftsman built the device from bronze using steel tools (, 2012).
C.   Turning a crank on the side advanced the time on the dial (, 2012).
D. The Antikythera mechanism can track the orbits using dials that rotate around the zodiac of the 5 known planets, the sun, the moon, and tell when eclipses were going to happen (Marchant, 2010).
E.   Modern reconstruction made in 2006 (Marchant, 2010).
II.  Next , the Antikythera mechanism tells us about the true level of technology in Greek society
A.  X-rays of the mechanism shows us that Greeks had to have advanced knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, metalworking, and the same skill as a 14th century clockmaker  (Marchant, 2010).
B.  Much of the knowledge the Greeks had about science and astronomy came from ancient Babylonia and Sumeria and without the traditions followed for hundreds of years by these older cultures the Greeks would not have been able to build a machine like the Antikythera mechanism (Marchant, 2010).
C.  Without the knowledge and advances that the Greeks made and passed onto the rest of us, we would not have been able to make the advances that we have made (Norton, 1995).  
III. Finally, we are going to see how the Antikythera mechanism influenced views for over 1600 years.
A.  Ptolemy, in 100AD, described the orbit of planets as the motion of a gear, with observation errors corrected with more gears. (Marchant, 2010).
B. The reason that later astronomers, such as Copernicus, described the solar system as a machine with gears is because the Greeks had machines like the Antikythera Mechanism and the descriptions of orbits were still described as gear movements for 1500 years after these machines had vanished from history (Marchant, 2010).
C.  Because Kepler, in the 1600’s, could not get this gear model of planetary motion to exactly match the true motions of the planets, he was able to finally figure out that planets have elliptical orbits, which was an amazing leap forward (Marchant, 2010).

I.  In conclusion, I have told you about the Antikythera mechanism and how the view of the world machines like it created finally helped solve a huge problem in astronomy.
A.  The idyllic, historic view of the Greeks were of a people with a few large cities and many farms, but this view is inaccurate (WSCC Survey, 2012).
B.  Discoveries such as the Antikythera Mechanism demonstrate that this view of the Greeks is too simplistic and they were much more advanced than we thought.
C.  Even though we had forgotten about these ancient machines our view of the world and the development of science was influenced by this ancient clockwork worldview.
II.  How much of what we know came from work started by someone looking up and wondering about that bright light in the night sky, work that continued for over 3000 years with people across many cultures and which continues to the present day?

References (2012). The Antikythera mechanism research project. Retrieved April 09, 2012 from
Marchant, J. (2010). Ancient Astronomy: Mechanical Inspiration. Nature, 468, 496-498| doi:10.1038/468496a.
Norton, J. D. (1995). The Norton History of Astronomy and Cosmology. New York, New York.
WSCC (Speech 151 Survey, April 03, 2012)

No comments:

Post a Comment