Its quite possible that we are all familiar with stories of men and women who’s ideas and creations were ahead of their time, the same can be said about ancient artifacts or buildings that do not fit within the description of the knowledge and technologies of the time’s when they were created. Some of this examples are quite famous, like the Sphinx, pharaonic toy airplane, Archimede’s work, or various depictions of UFO’s in sacred paintings, yet there seem to be many more that we have probably never heard of, to the point that rather than an oddity in history, they are so prevalent that they can even be classified and differentiated.
This is exactly what Lamont Wood has done in his most recent work titled Out of Place in Time and Space. After reading this book, it begs the question: Is time really a linear sequence of events, or is it a more complex phenomenon of which we still have much to learn.
Maybe as Lamont Wood states; “it seems fair to say that human history can be viewed as a sort of ongoing experiment of the effects of the interaction of time (whatever it is) and the collective human consciousness.”
What you are about to read is a brief selection of some of the examples within the book, its classifications and some of the concluding reflections from the author.
Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from OUT OF PLACE IN TIME AND SPACE © 2010 Lamont Woods. Published by New Page Books a division of Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.
Of course, the moons of Mars could not have been described 151 years before they were discovered, or the Apollo Program a century before it took place, or the Pacific War 16 years before it started. An ancient Roman army could not have been defeated by huge machines. A medieval painting could not have depicted a flying toy helicopter. The world’s best preserved ancient building cannot lack an obvious purpose and cannot have been built with modern methods.
That such things cannot exist, at least not according to commonly accepted historical timelines, not to mention mainstream theories of the nature of time and causality, is beyond dispute. Actually such phenomena appear to be plentiful –hiding in plain sight, so to speak.
In fact, not only do they turn out to be plentiful, but they often turn out to have features in common, so that they lend themselves to classification, just like microorganisms or astronomical bodies.
This book ignores conventional anachronisms and focuses on reverse anachronisms. You’d think they’d be quite rare, but in fact they keep popping up. At least two kinds of reverse anachronisms can be identified:
• The first kind involves objects, beliefs, or practices from our present that show up in the past.
• The second kind involves objects, beliefs, or practices from our future that show up in the past.
Before you dismiss the previous sentence as mumbo-jumbo, consider this: Many of the examples in this book actually started out as reverse anachronisms of the second kind (that is, from the future). Then time passed and they came into harmony with their settings. Beholders the appreciated them for what they were. Suddenly, they were reverse anachronisms of the first kind.
The Ancient Computer
The development of elaborate but precise gear chains is associated with the making of clocks, crude examples of which started appearing in Europe in about 1300. Development was continuous, with reasonable accuracy (meaning the loss of only a minute per day) attained by about 1600. Especially complex epicyclic (otherwise know as planetary) gearing, are not seen much until the rise of rotary machinery during the Industrial Revolution, when they were found handy for differentials.
Yes, the history of gears, clocks, and mechanical calculators meshes nicely (pun intended) as part of the bigger picture of time and linear progress marching smoothly from the past to the present.
Unfortunately, the existence of the Antikythera Mechanism throws a wrench into the intricate workings of that story, because it is a clock-like calculating device made from complex gearing –including epicyclic gears- that was made no later than 65 BC. The device was part of a trove of objects recovered from the Mediterranean seabed in 1901-1902 after sponge divers found a Roman wreck off Antikythera a small island about 10 miles south-southeast of the larger island of Kythera in the strait between Greece and Crete.
It was obviously some kind of clockwork machine, but researchers couldn’t say much more about it than that, because it was badly damaged and the remaining parts were hopelessly cemented together. Advances in X-ray technology have since allowed researchers to literally probe inside the mass, precisely counting how many teeth there were on individual gears, and even reading text on components that are buried under other components. Meanwhile, computers have since become common currency –and aided in the analysis of the mechanism.
The result of the work is a consensus that the Antikythera Mechanism (as it’s been named) was a computer.
Its what they call an analog computer, meaning its mechanism is designed to mimic, in an “analogous” fashion, some physical phenomena in a way that lets the user predict or control some other pehonmena.
Presumably, the user could set a date and see what events and positions coincided, or set events and positions and then check to see what date was involved. Or you could set a date and then crank the handle to simulate the passage of time and see what happened next. It would probably have been used in civic planning, to set the dates of holidays and festivals that were geared to astronomical events.
Machines with this level of complexity would not be seen for another 1,500 years.
It reclines on the edge of the Giza Plateau, adjacent to the Great Pyramid, facing east towards the rising sun. Its body is that of a lion, with its front legs outstretched and its rear legs folded under it. Its head (lacking a nose) is that of a man, and raised and watchful. On the whole, its demeanor is that of a hybrid guard animal. The head wears a plaeated headdress similar (but not identical) to that worn by pharaohs –or it could represent a cat’s mane. The head is somewhat small in proportion to the body, leading to speculation that it was once a feline head that was later chipped down and reworked into a human head.
And that’s about all we can say for certain about the Sphinx of Giza. It turns out that we can’t say who built it, when, or why. Indeed, there are some who insist that it does not fit into Egyptian history as we know it.
Wherever it came from, it is the largest statue in the world made from a single piece of stone. Basically, its an improved limestone outcropping 241 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 66 feet high.
Due to its proximity to the pyramids, it is easy to assume that it was built during the 4th Dynasty (2613 to 2494 BC) when pyramid-buiding on Giza was at full tilt. Remnants of that era, such as ruined mortuary temples and roads are shoe horned around it.
Especially destructive to the textbook theory are the marks of obvious water erosion on parts of the statue, indicating that it has been exposed to running water for extended periods. However, the region was dry before the last ice age about 13,000 years ago, became wet during the ice age, and dried out again as the glaciers retreated. Rain now averages one inch yearly, and the last significant rainfall was in about 3400 BC, or a thousand years before the 4th Dynasty. Meanwhile, the nearby udisputed 4th Dynasty ruins show no such erosion-chisel marks are still visible.
Consequently there are those who say the Sphinx must have been built before the pharaohs, and some push construction back as far as 7000 BC.
Assuming the Sphinx is prehistoric, and assuming it was not built by refugees from the sinking of Atlantis, we have to assume it was built by an indigenous culture that included people who could handle masonry construction, because the Sphinx is part masonry. But you don’t see masonry in pre-pharaoh Egypt. So we have to accept the idea that its builders finished the Sphinx and then went back to mud brick, attempting no further masonry construction for centuries.
Her name was Ada Augusta King (nee Byrnon) the Right Honorable Countess of Lovelace. She was young. She was beautiful. She was brilliant, especially in mathematics –they called her “the enchantress of numbers.” She wrote the first known published computer program, in 1843. That’s right in 1843.
In other words, she wrote a computer program about a century before the first programmable computer was available. But it wasn’t her fault –she was actually planning for one to be invented.
Let’s explain: From childhood Ada (1815 – 1852) was trained in advanced math by her mother. This was unusual at the time for a young English lady of aristocratic blood, but math had been an avocation for her aristocratic mother –and her mother additionally wanted to instill interests in the girl that were polar opposites of those displayed by her father. That’s because Ada’s father was the famous poet Lord Byron, a towering figure of the literary school of Romanticism.
At age 17, in 1833, Ada was at a party where Charles Babbage spoke about his project, the Difference Engine. Babbage was trying to develop a mechanical means of producing math tables that were not riddled with errors. Such tables were important navigational tools, and reliable navigation was important to the British seafaring economy and to its navy. Consequently Babbage had been able to get some government backing, but by 1833 it was becoming obvious that the project was stalled.
There or soon afterwards Babbage showed her working components of the Difference Engine and started talking about is next project, which involved expanding the project into what he called the Analytical Engine. It would have the ability to store and execute instructions encoded on punched cards, using data that was itself encoded on punched cards. The results would be printed on paper by the machine itself. The instructions could include loops, branches, and conditional branches. We could call it a computer, although its workings were purely mechanical and therefore thousands of times slower that its electronic descendants more than a century later.
The point is that she was entranced with the project from the day she encountered it and remained associated with it thereafter.
In 1840 Babbage made his one and only foreign presentation about the Analytical Engine, to a group in Turin, Italy. A local professor of mathematics, Federico Menabrea 91809 – 1896), took notes and published an account of it, in French, in a Swiss journal. Babbage asked Ada (by then a countess, as the wife of an earl is styled) to translate the article. She did, but then added a series of seven notes, A through G, that, with 19,200 words, were more that twice as long as the original article (which had 8,100) words. Published in Scientific Memoirs, a journal that reprinted articles from foreign scientific societies and universities, it was the first scientific paper ever devoted to the topic of computer science.
There would not be another one for about a century.
Basically, it was a huge loop that walked through each operation the machine would need to perform in order to produce a Bernoulli number, with the ability to loop back and start over with the next Bernoulli number, generating as many as desired using the same instructions.
The article stressed that any calculation of any complexity could be performed. She also suggested that eh machine would be used to compose (not generate) elaborate music by feeding it the rules of harmony and musical composition.
Babbage never got funding and his Analytical Engine was never built, beyond a few test components.
As for Ada, her health began to decline after the publication of the paper, and she died in 1852 of what is now assumed to have been uterine cancer.
Her name lives on in a programming language called Ada which was commissioned by the Pentagon and began circulating in 1983.
We’ve seen events described in detail before they took place, technologies in use before they were adopted or even discovered, knowledge that cannot be accounted for, behavior that implied foreknowledge, objects whose existence is inexplicable, and centuries-old artistic images that might as well have been made in Hollywood this morning. What does it all mean?
The simplest answer is that the examples in this book again remind us that we don’t understand the nature of time. Indeed, before we complain that an example in this book violates the rules of time (as many seemingly do) first we have to define time –and that immediately gets us into trouble. According to the average dictionary, time is the interval between events. But what is the interval composed of? Time. So we are stuck in circular definitions.
Maybe time is just the fourth dimension, through which the other three must travel, undergoing some kind of cause-and-effect sorting as they do so. Or maybe it is a sort of infinite box containing all possible events, linked in a way that reflects someone’s idea of cause-and-effect. We choose (probably collectively) to perceive selected events in a serial fashion, using some mechanism that maintains the linkages. Judging from the examples in this book that mechanism may occasionally break down.
If we go ahead and accept the previous paragraph, it seems fair to say that human history can be viewed as a sort of ongoing experiment of the effects of the interaction of time (whatever it is) and the collective human consciousness.