Long before the 1940’s

SPACE explores a 2,000 year old mystery at their latest event 

By Alexandra Giubelli

“Whoever has done this has done it extremely carefully…in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa,” Professor Michael Edmunds, from Cardiff University, once said.

In this quote, he was refering to the the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions, which was the topic of last Wednesday’s Science Participating with Arts and Culture in Education (SPACE)  event.

The meeting took place in the conference room where several students and teachers gathered around to hear the speakers.

Jiri Tucker, a History teacher at Dawson, started the discussions with a PowerPoint presentation and a short introduction, telling the audience that the speakers were from different domains of expertise, and that they will talk about the aspects surrounding the mechanism and the Greek civilisation.

The first speaker was Adamo, a Classic History student who introduced the history of Ancient Rome and Greece, starting with Alexander the Great and the results after his death. He also introduced Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, inventor, engineer and astronomer who is believed to be connected to the Antikythera mechanism.

Following his presentation was Physics teacher Chris Whittaker, explaining how carbon dating works. 

“Dead things can be dated by measuring the relative amount of different kinds of carbon in them,” Whittaker said.

Things that live or have once lived all have carbon in them. Ones that never live, for example metla structure, scientists have to look at their surroundings, like a piece of the wooden ship, he was one to evalute the approximate age of the object.

The Antikythera Mechanism is said to be dated beween 220 B.C. and 130 B.C.

The third speaker was Biology teacher Francesca Thibault. She spoke about how the Mediterranean was environmentally destroyed as Rome’s needs for lumber, minerals and wealth grew.

Wood was really important at that time as they used charcoal to warm their houses, causing major air pollution in the cities.

“We think of Antiquity with those beautiful stone and marble houses, but, guess what, they started doing it because they were running out of forests,” Thibault said.

Many environmental issues appeared due to the deforestation, like flooding, soil exhaustion, siltating and the progression of the desert as the forest moved back.

Economics teacher Micheal Mayer was next, explaining how technology, as Archimedes showed in the ancient work, makes any economy grow.

“They were expanding, which meant more people, more land and more food. They needed new technology to succeed that,” Mayer explained

The Romans had already gotten the basics of what we are seeing today, trying to do more with less. Mayer also explained that the more capital and labour they had, the more output they had, making the economy grow.

Physics student Sophie Nitoslawski, demonstrated and explained Archimedes theories, speaking about the astronomy in Ancient Greece, showing that Polish Astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, followed Archimedes studies.

The last speaker of the night was Technology teacher Mark Van Vliet. He passed around some motor gear to show how the mecanical movement, found in the Antikythera Mechanism, worked.

“You have to build things wrong for a long time [in order] to learn how to get it right,” Van Vliet said.

The night finished with tickets distributed to the participants, giving them the chance to win a replica of a Antikythera Mechanism.


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