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December 01, 2006


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Andrew R.

Speaking of pre-modern mathematics, have you ever thought of doing a WI based on the Oxford calculators?


Yes, but I think it would take some special pleading for their efforts not to turn into sterile disputation -- for sociological reasons, mind, not for lack of intellectual rigor.

Andrew R.

Yeah, after conversations with folks who've encountered them and their millieu much more than I, I've had to come to the sad conclusion that the time just wasn't quite right for a Scientific Revolution.

I'm wondering, though, it it's somehow possible to make the conceptual leap from looking for innate properties and virtues and simply recording observations and building from those. The tenor of the times is more or less against it, but I tend to think that Nominalism could possibly provide a small-ish window to wriggle out of the systematizing impulse of the time.

James Bodi

I know: write 'Doctor Mirabilis', but about Shen Gua.

Or 'Doctor Mirabilis' where Roger Bacon was sent to Canbaluc instead of what's his name, William of Rubruck.


What was the new news? (I read the article on the BBC site last week). I thought that the purpose of the mechanism had been generally understood for some time now.


Dennis, the new imaging analysis allowed the researchers to figure out exactly which class of mathematical and astronomical theories were embodied in the mechanism. Sort of like deducing modern celestial mechanics from a planetarium projector.

It appears that the Antikythera mechanism used some basic Babylonian algorithms to predict eclipses, but also had gearing to demonstrate eccentricities in the Moon's orbit, apparently based on Hipparchus's advanced theory.

This suggests a highly sophisticated (and almost completely lost) practice of translating numerical theory into mechanical display.

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