Almagest: Vol. IV, Issue 2

Table of contents and abstracts, Almagest 4-2, November 2013

Michael T. Wright
The Antikythera Mechanism: Compound Gear-Trains for Planetary Indications.

Abstract: The decipherment of inscriptions on the Antikythera Mechanism has yielded evidence supporting a reconstruction of its front dial display in which a concentric array of pointers indicates the date and the positions of the Moon, the Sun and the five planets known in antiquity. To this is now added the reading of a parameter demonstrating that, for one planet at least, the designer knew a period-relation that describes its motion with considerable precision, and its presence in the inscription probably indicates that it was actually realized in the instrument. This could have been done only by adopting a compound train to drive the planetary mechanism. The feasibility of incorporating such compound trains for all five planets has already been demonstrated, but here we consider more fully how the Hellenistic designer might have generated tractable ratios approximating astronomical period-relations that could not be realized exactly in mechanism. The newly-discovered parameter may represent such an approximation, perhaps derived from a known Babylonian period-relation. We show that the corresponding period-relations for all five planets can be used in designing gear-trains that might easily be fitted to our existing reconstruction.

Alexey V. Postnikov
The Russian mission to Bukhara in 1842 and the fate of the English emissaries Charles Stoddart and Arthur Conolly.

Abstract: The author, based on his study of manuscripts found in the Archives of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation) explores the history of the Russian mission to Bukhara (1842) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Konstantin Butenev. The investigations on Bukharian geography, vegetation, animals, mineral resources (especially gold, copper, and precious stones) conducted by the members of the mission −Leman, Bogoslovsky, Nikolay and Yakov Khanykov− are studied and described. Moreover, the first topographical surveys of the Bukharian Emirate by Yakovlev and the maps derived from these surveys that were compiled by Nicolay Khanykov are analyzed. Special attention is paid to previously unexplored documental evidence disclosing the activities and tragic fate of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart and Captain Arthur Conolly, officers of the British Royal Staff, who were sent on a special political-geographical mission in Central Asia (1839-1842).

Tomislav Petkovic
The achievement, legacy, intuition, and cosmopolitanism of Nikola Tesla. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Tesla’s death in 2013.

Abstract: Nikola Tesla’s great achievement and intuition were critically assessed in the framework of history of science and technology, along the new road of future technologies development where the Tesla’s legacy and his fundamental ideas have been emphasized and updated. In a plethora of scientists and engineers, Tesla is unique and exceptional due to a great number of his original inventions and visions, and his independent explorer spirit. Electromagnetic science and ethical reflections arising from Tesla's work and ideas were epistemologically reconciled, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Tesla’s death in 2013. This paper aims to be an attempt for a new synthetic approach, beyond an occasional celebration of the anniversaries, for the new general thinking of Tesla's life and his scientific-engineering-political concepts important for science and ethics, in the light of contemporary energy and ecology global conditions. Non-trivial controversies in scientific and historical evaluations of the Tesla’s legacy were emphasized and resolved throughout the text. By the very early 20th century Tesla devoted much effort toward design and construction of the grand power to transport electrical power over long distances, which becomes popular today in science and technology as the efficient wireless power or energy transfer. Moral aspects on the wireless energy transport, Tesla published in his fundamental philosophical-engineering paper in “Electrical World and Engineering” (1905). Tesla proclaimed a new postulate, as the political-philosophical prolegomenon, for the “Universal Peace” relations through the three aspects as the “dissemination of intelligence, transportation, and transmission of power”. Tesla’s opus counts totally 280 patents in 26 countries of the world, where his achievements are arranged not only to area of electrical engineering but spanned to numerous modern technologies: high frequency illumination, X-ray technique, cosmic rays, television, till to the ICT and the cell phone today. A paper brings a brief review on superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) science and technology for the applications in linear superconducting colliders based on the Tesla RF cavity, which undoubtedly involves the principle of Tesla RF transformer as the source of the very high potential RF-field. Due to renaissance of his energy-moral paradigm today, his ēthos and cosmopolitanism, owing to his fruitful and moral passion to help mankind through science and technology, Tesla remains an outstanding figure in the history of world science, technology, and culture. Tesla is inspiring and mentoring scholars in the characteristic field of teslalogy at work much more than expected.

Raffaele Pisano
Conceptual and Mathematical Structures of Mechanical Science around the 18th Century.

Abstract: One may discuss the role played by mechanical science in the history of scientific ideas, particularly in physics, focusing on the significance of the relationship between physics and mathematics in describing mathematical laws in the context of a scientific theory. In the second Newtonian law of motion, space and time are crucial physical magnitudes in mechanics, but they are also mathematical magnitudes as involved in derivative operations. Above all, if we fail to acknowledge their mathematical meaning, we fail to comprehend the whole Newtonian mechanical apparatus. For instance, let us think about velocity and acceleration. In this case, the approach to conceive and define foundational mechanical objects and their mathematical interpretations changes. Generally speaking, one could prioritize mathematical solutions for Lagrange’s equations, rather than the crucial role played by collisions and geometric motion in Lazare Carnot’s operative mechanics, or Faraday’s experimental science with respect to Ampère’s mechanical approach in the electric current domain, or physico-mathematical choices in Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. In this paper, we will focus on the historical emergence of mechanical science from a physico-mathematical standpoint and emphasize significant similarities and/or differences in mathematical approaches by some key authors of the 18th century. Attention is paid to the role of mathematical interpretation for physical objects.

Vaios Argyrakis
The Evolution of Wind Theory and the Concept of Exhalation in the Context of Ancient Greek Thought.

Abstract: The core of wind theory in ancient Greek thought essentially remained the same from the 5th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. Despite the theoretical differences over this long period, the concept of exhalation plays the central role in the physical mechanism of wind creation. The first theoretical propositions on the creation of winds are found in the works of the Presocratic philosophers. The first comprehensive theory was that of Aristotle and was quite complex. Theophrastus elaborated this theory and made it more specific. Significant progress was achieved by Straton who simplified Aristotle’s theory to a great extent, but without detracting in the slightest from its interpretative validity. Because of this simplification his theory is potentially verifiable both experimentally and empirically. Heron’s Pneumatics, in which this theory is used, includes a first attempt at an indirect verification, a fact which indicates the scientific maturity of the theory.

Book Reviews

Gianna Katsiampoura
Ioannis Telelis (ed.), Georgios Pachymeres, Philosophia. Book 5, Commentary in Aristotle’s Meteorologica. Βιβλίον πέμπτον, τῶν μετεωρικῶν. Athens: Academy of Athens, Research Center for Greek and Latin Literature, 2012.

George Vlahakis
Manolis Patiniotis, Στοιχεία Φυσικής Φιλοσοφίας. Ο ελληνικός επιστημονικός στοχασμός τον 17ο και 18ο αιώνα (Elements of Natural Philosophy. The Greek scientific thought in the 17th and 18th century), Athens: Gutenberg, 2013.

George Vlahakis
Yannis Karas, Θεόφιλος Καϊρης, ο επιστήμονας, ο φιλόσοφος, ο αιρετικός. Μια έξέχουσα μορφή των νεοελληνικών γραμμάτων (Theophilos Kairis, the scientist, the philosopher, the heretic. A prominent figure of the modern Greek letters), Athens: Gutenberg, 2013.