Cosmology

More from the “They Thought the Earth Was Flat” file …

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antikythera, main hub (Wiki Commons)

Here we learn,

A mechanical instrument made from bronze and wood in ancient Greece was a calendar for predicting solar eclipses and the dates of the Olympic Games, scientists have discovered.

X-ray analysis of the device, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, has revealed that it marked the timing of sporting events around Greece – including at Olympia. It was made in the 2nd century BC. The device was found by sponge divers in 1900 off the island of Antikythera.

[ … ]

The mechanism ran on a complicated set of dials and bronze gears and was decorated with elaborate but indiscernible inscriptions.


– Steve Connor, “Ancient device was used to predict solar eclipses and Olympic dates”, Belfast Telegraph (26 November 2010). Read more.

Did you know?: They didn’t know where babies come from either.


10 Replies to “More from the “They Thought the Earth Was Flat” file …

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Mrs O’Leary:

    I think this section of the IOSE course will help set a lot of this in context. (It will also help us think about what science is and should be, in an era of ideological captivity and polarisation.)

    There have been some pretty crude strawmen set up in dismissing ancient scientists, philosophers and mathematicians.

    Time to give Jack his jacket.

    GEM of TKI

  2. 2

    Umm… well, yeah. The ancient Greeks and Romans were aware that the earth was round. As were, to be honest, the Europeans of Columbus’ time.

    On the other hand, in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, we can show that they were of the opinion that the earth was flat. And the Bible lays it out for us (so to speak).

    “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ” (Matthew 4:8 NIV)

    “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” (Psalm 104:5 NIV)

    Incidentally, the sun also goes around the earth, not the other way around (a point that Galileo got in so much trouble for).

    “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)

    So what is it that an astronomical device (astrological, possibly, but put that aside for the moment) from a culture known to believe that the earth had 3 dimensions, is proving here?

  3. 3
    tragic mishap says:

    But don’t you know, it was only Christians that believed in a flat earth because the Bible said so. The sun stood still and the earth has four corners, after all. Of course the Greeks would know this, they weren’t Christians!

    tsk tsk

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    TM:

    I guess you are trying to provoke a serious response to the myth that Christians promoted a flat earth dogma and were opponents of knowledge, through a tongue in cheek post.

    Let me indulge:

    1 –> The common sense view of the earth is that it is flat: it certainly appears that way.

    2 –> Going with the common sense perception — absent an education that addresses subtler corrective information — may be an error, but it is not a stupid thing to do.

    3 –> But the more educated persons would long since have been aware of the significance of ships going hull-down on the horizon, i.e. the masts are still above the arc of the horizon when the hull is below it.

    4 –> Similarly, in lunar eclipses, the earth’s shadow on the Moon was always round implying the earth was a sphere; I believe Aristotle emphasised this point.

    5 –> Different constellations are visible from different latitudes, and in fact the elevation of the pole star visibly changes directly with latitude, consistent with its being at a great distance, and the earth being a sphere; a fact useful for crude navigation and readily measurable with a quarterstaff or astrolabe. (C S Lewis was fond of quoting an extract from Ptolemy’s Almagest to the effect that the stars were so remote that the size of he earth was in comparison a mathematical point.)

    6 –> And of course the Eratosthenes measurement meant that the circumference was fairly well known to be about 40,000 km from 200 – 300 BC on. (Did that number make it into Almagest? Anyone know?)

    7 –> In fact [must-read link], the debate with Columbus in the Spanish court was not over whether the earth was flat. It was that he had systematically under-estimated the size of the earth. And, those despised ignoramus Christian monk- objectors were RIGHT.

    (CC was talking of sailing to Japan in 90 days — he only crossed the Atlantic in that span. But CC knew SOMETHING was out there in reasonable reach, based on e.g. bodies in canoes washed up in Ireland, IIRC.)

    8 –> And of course, as Columbus’ Book of Prophecies will reveal, he was Christian himself, though of course that certainly did not mean that he was morally perfect or competent in all spheres of life and work!

    9 –> In addition, the Bible actually nowhere directly asserts a flat earth view as a dogma or canon of faith, or the island on a turtle or whatever views are known from various ancient cosmogenies.

    10 –> It speaks of the roundness/compass/circle — khuwg [- Original: ?? – Transliteration: Chuwg- Phonetic: khoog- Definition: 1. circle, circuit, compass 2. (BDB) vault (of the heavens) [NB: which of course appears as a ball viewed from the inside, so the comment that khuwg can be read as speaking of roundness like a ball is reasonable] ] — of the earth, in Is 40:22. And while sites such as Talk Origins will project into that a flat earth reading, obviously the courtiers CC [many clerical — and remember Monsterrat was named by him after the monastery in Catalonia that was so gracious to him] dealt with knew better and had no difficulties wit the facts and the textual reading.

    11 –> Similarly, the balance of Christian theological scholarship across the ages was not in favour of a flat earth.

    12 –> There was indeed a loss of scholarship as the classical times came to a turbulent end under the impacts of inflation [the penny moved from 95% silver to a copper coin!], ever more onerous government, invasion and chaos. Then Europe and the E Roman Empire [Byzantines] spent centuries fending off wave after wave of invasions, capped off by the plague that wiped out a huge slice of pop in a few years in the mid 1300s.

    13 –> In that time, the church was actually the centre of scholarship and preservation, and actually led for centuries in the recovery of learning once the waves of invasion and disease had settled down.

    14 –> So, it is high time we got the C19 rationalist myths and their C20 and C21 successors exorcised form our education system.

    So, the locus of any flat earth views among ordinary people in Europe in the middle ages, or ordinary people in classical times, would be the obvious one: the common sense observation that is unaware of certain subtleties.

    GEM of TKI

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Cf Fig G.3a here, just scroll down a tad. An astonishing illustration from 1246 AD that should be in every geography textbook and every history book that deals with the story of Columbus.

  6. 6
    tragic mishap says:

    thanks kairos that’s exactly what I was looking for.

    I’m actually doing a four week series on science stuff for my Wednesday night Bible study group.

    Your info will be very helpful. I was already considering discussing the flat-earth and geocentrism BS that most people hear in the media all the time.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    TM:

    This unit of the IOSE will also help you. (Maybe you should print off the Bede article as a handout.)

    You will be astonished as to why Fig G.3a — long since in the public domain and I believe to be found in a museum — is not in every Geography textbook, and in every history book that talks about Columbus.

    No prizes for guessing why; just as no prizes for guessing why this correctivge account of the events of 1925 in Dayton TN (and more recent events in KS, too . . . ) is not widely known.

    Oh, yes, I recently found a dynamite animated, accurate presentation of Plato’s parable of the cave, on false enlightenment. Cf here.

    As in, let us cf. Jesus’ remark about what happens when the light in you is in reality darkness — and how a deceived public will view those who try to correct or truly enligthen it, on the whole:

    Matt 6: 19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

    24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. [NET]

    The Greeks loved to say: “a word the wise is sufficient . . . “

    GEM of TKI

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: I just updated the caption for Fig G.3a, as I have just realised something I did not spot before:
    _________________

    Fig. G.3a: “Illustration of the spherical Earth in a 14th century copy of L’Image du monde (ca. 1246).” [[NB: the cite is from Wikipedia. Correcting the C19 myth that people of the middle ages thought the earth was flat, due to ignorance-inducing dogmatic ideas. Notice, how people in the antipodes were seen as upright relative to the Earth’s centre and their local surface, but inverted relative to one another in absolute space. (Indeed, viewing the image as a cartoon with a brown-cloak and a blue-cloak character, the idea of the illustration is evidently that of walking around the earth in opposite directions and meeting together face to face in the antipodes, inverted in absolute space but upright in the local space.)] (Source: Wiki.)
    ____________________

    Remember, this is 1246.

  9. 9
    Collin says:

    A few years ago I pointed this mechanism out to a friend and he astutely made the comment that if there were brass ones that were preserved, then there probably wooden ones that were not and that they may have been much more complex/sophisticated. We definitely underestimate past cultures.

  10. 10
    Ilion says:

    I wonder: was the direction ‘south’ as important to the ancient cultures of the southern hemisphere as ‘north’ was to those of the northern?

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