Roger Bissell

How the Martians Discovered Algebra

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3 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Explains why football, basketball, baseball, and hockey are universally shunned and ridiculed.

Would this also apply to polo? :wink: 

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syrakusos    0

The truth of progress is somewhere between "social forces" and "the great man."  Obviously, someone invents new ideas.  But many of the seeds never took, apparently having died for lack of fertile soil. 
 

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Baal wrote:  If only Archimedes had the zero (sigh).  We would be traveling about in Star Ships rather than jet propelled airplanes. 

 

I point to the discussion of the Antikythera Device here in OL, especially my comments, not Baal's.  I got my information from the best lecture, not Nova or Discovery.  And I referenced the papers of the best discovery for those who want to explore the details for themselves.  The point here is that the Antikythera Device, attributable perhaps to Archimedes or perhaps to a collaboration among Euclid, Apollonius, and Archimedes, was not a singular creation. It was obviously the result of a long development and could not have existed in isolation. Yet, where are the other evidences?  We know from references about coin-operated  prayer machines, and the steam engine of Heron.  But we have not much else...  I point also to a reference that the First Citizen ("emperor") Claudius wrote a multivolume history of the Etruscans. He may have included a grammar of the language. All of that, too, is lost, and it came from the center of power of the time.  

I am not one of the doomsayers here an in O-land who seem to look forward to the coming collapse of civilization. (See The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel.) Civilization is not collapsing. The end is not in sight. ... no matter what they want to believe.  That said, however, if you consider the Bronze Age Collapse, and the decline of Rome, it is clear that all of this is very fragile. It deserves respect and protection.

If Archimedes had had the zero, we would likely be pretty close to where we are today. See The Invention of Enterprise by Joel Mokyr, ed. and Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein.  Every civilized society - and many other cultures - has "merchants" but capitalism only came from the confluence of Renaissance and the invention of statistics. The Romans of Archimedes' time had merchants. But their society valued conquest more. Successful merchants turned their enterprises over their freedmen and slaves, and retired to the countryside to live as gentleman farmers. You could have given them Alan Turing, and it would not have made any difference.

(And I apologize for sidetracking the discussion of Roger's book.  I will make up for it in a later post. The book is due here Monday.)

 

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BaalChatzaf    0
1 hour ago, syrakusos said:

The truth of progress is somewhere between "social forces" and "the great man."  Obviously, someone invents new ideas.  But many of the seeds never took, apparently having died for lack of fertile soil. 
 

I point to the discussion of the Antikythera Device here in OL, especially my comments, not Baal's.  I got my information from the best lecture, not Nova or Discovery.  And I referenced the papers of the best discovery for those who want to explore the details for themselves.  The point here is that the Antikythera Device, attributable perhaps to Archimedes or perhaps to a collaboration among Euclid, Apollonius, and Archimedes, was not a singular creation. It was obviously the result of a long development and could not have existed in isolation. Yet, where are the other evidences?  We know from references about coin-operated  prayer machines, and the steam engine of Heron.  But we have not much else...  I point also to a reference that the First Citizen ("emperor") Claudius wrote a multivolume history of the Etruscans. He may have included a grammar of the language. All of that, too, is lost, and it came from the center of power of the time.  

I am not one of the doomsayers here an in O-land who seem to look forward to the coming collapse of civilization. (See The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel.) Civilization is not collapsing. The end is not in sight. ... no matter what they want to believe.  That said, however, if you consider the Bronze Age Collapse, and the decline of Rome, it is clear that all of this is very fragile. It deserves respect and protection.

If Archimedes had had the zero, we would likely be pretty close to where we are today. See The Invention of Enterprise by Joel Mokyr, ed. and Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein.  Every civilized society - and many other cultures - has "merchants" but capitalism only came from the confluence of Renaissance and the invention of statistics. The Romans of Archimedes' time had merchants. But their society valued conquest more. Successful merchants turned their enterprises over their freedmen and slaves, and retired to the countryside to live as gentleman farmers. You could have given them Alan Turing, and it would not have made any difference.

(And I apologize for sidetracking the discussion of Roger's book.  I will make up for it in a later post. The book is due here Monday.)

 

You are aware, I assume,  that what we know of the Device  is based on reverse engineering.  Using the most advanced scanning technology the innards of the device were made visible.  The scholars studying the device could see which gears connect to which gears and how many teeth were on each will.  By working out the gear ratios they were able to guess that the device did  astronomical calculations.   Perhaps it took a team to make the Device in the first place.  It surely took a very talented team to come up with a hypothesis  based reconstruction of the Device.  

In a way, the reconstruction of the Device  invoked one of Aristotle's Four Causes.  The  most subtle of the cause, the Final Cause  says a thing exists in order to achieve an end, purpose or goal.

The scholars  studying the A.K.  Device  concluded that it was a hand carried  astronomical simulator and astronomical calendar.   Its purpose was to imitate the observed positions of observable astronomical bodies and moon phases.  Once the scholars knew or postulated what the device  -was for-  they were able to fill in gaps in their knowledge of the total device, because not all the pieces survived corrosion.  So final cause was bounded back to formal cause and material cause a bounced forward for rechecking.  Cool!   Score one for the Philosopher  and the A.K.  Device team. 

If the Greek mathematicians had the zero,  then their successors would have come up with the mathematics of motion much sooner.  Think of having differential equations  one thousand years sooner. Advances in physics were driven by both new facts discovered by observation and by knowing the underlying mathematical symmetries of cosmos.  O.K., I was exaggerating a bit about the Star Ships but I am certain we would have had heat engines and flying machines  much sooner than we actually did.  It is almost certain that optics would have been advanced with better mathematics, which in term means we would have had telescopes and microscopes sooner. 

As it was Archimedes  did come up with something very close to integral calculus (look uj Archimedes Codex).  But his math did not "catch on".  He did not establish a school. There is a case of the Great Man not achieving his full potential because the society around him was not ready for it. 

Your observations of the rise of capitalism out of mercantilism  appear to be on the mark.  For one Great Man to succeed a lot of little pieces and a lot of smaller men have to be ready to carry the matter through. In a sense, the times have to be right and ripe for the advance. 

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