The Antikythera Mechanism

It’s the age of the smartphone, where you can carry around a little computer in your pocket and look at Facebook or YouTube or whatever whenever you feel like it. I never knew I wanted to watch porn, loudly, in a public restroom before. God damn, technology is great. I mean, what’d we do before these mini brothels came into our lives? Oh yeah, we sat at a computer. Wait, we still do that.

Because I’m gonna type these posts on this.

Okay, so smartphones and tablets and things like that haven’t supplanted the desktop just yet, but the point still stands. Devices are getting smaller and smaller. Laptops were massive and not very lap-friendly at all just a few short years ago. The earliest computers took up enormous amounts of space.

“Little do the engineers know, we’ve secretly replaced one of these with a beehive.”

And now we can hold something in our hand that’s many, many times faster and more powerful. We can perform complex mathematical calculations, view and record the positions of the stars… Oh, but did I mention that the Greeks could do that over 2,000 years ago? Yeah, they couldn’t get turn-by-turn directions to get Odysseus’ ass home or play 3D games or any of that.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 490 BC.

But they could do those other things, the calculator and the star map. It doesn’t sound very impressive, but consider that everyone else in the world, for many years yet, was still using ink, paper, and maybe an abacus. For 1400 years, that is. That’s a pretty huge technological leap, and we didn’t even know they had it until 1901. It’s kind of like finding out that your ancestors had a Lincoln and cruised around in it a couple hundred years ago. Why wouldn’t they tell you about that?

Well, maybe they wrote a big instructional book about it and some other ancestors threw it out. (Or maybe they thought you’d steal it, dick.) What we do know is that the mechanism is so well-crafted that it must have had predecessors.

It was made up of several bronze gears, and was able to calculate the heavens and simple mathematical problems using clockwork methods not seen for over a thousand years afterward. It even had markings to let you know when the Olympic games would be, making it a sort of calendar as well. In fact, this thing has so many features, it’s kinda hard to pin down just what it was primarily meant to do. (The smartphone analogy just gets more and more apt.)

Pictured: Expert craftsmanship after two thousand years at the bottom of the ocean.

We also don’t even know for sure if the Greeks made it. (I just wanted to throw in a couple of Greek jokes before I got to that part.) The instructions are in Greek, and the writing on it is too, but there’s some conflicting research that shows that it may have come from Sicily or Turkey.

Regardless, though, there is plenty of evidence showing its pedigree in scientific history. There were many similar devices, just not as tiny and nicely built. However, that’s not stopped people from theorizing that the people who came up with the concept that led to this ancient PDA were taught by aliens. Or maybe a time traveler. Or maybe reckless, time-travelling aliens.

This time those aliens have gone too far.

And when you’re talking about an eon and a half gap in technology, maybe ideas like that don’t sound so wild. But you also have to remember that this thing could very well have been some sort of state or military secret, and so it wasn’t widely written about, not to mention that it was made of bronze, which has always had some kind of value and is easy to reuse. So, it’s really likely that any others of its kind that didn’t end up on the bottom of the sea got repurposed into other shit.

Far more useful.

So maybe aliens or Bill and/or Ted weren’t involved, and bogus as that may be, it’s still an archeological wonder that has completely re-shaped our view of just how much ancient civilizations really knew. Now, I don’t want to get into “ancient technology that surpasses our own” speculations, but it does make you wonder what other huge innovations simply got lost to time and set us back hundreds or thousands of years.

Yeah, hop on my motorcycle, we’ll be there in no time.

The Telegraph
The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
Wikipedia (Home of the Edit War)


Shades of Death Road

Have you ever seen one of those old cheesy horror movies where the locals call some nearby old ruins “Terror Hollow” or some shit? And how maybe the scariest thing there is some pissed-off badgers?

“Fuck it, we’ll call it Terror Hollow. I’m out of here.”

Okay, now what if I told you there was a place in Warren County, New Jersey that’s called Shades of Death Road? Funny, right?

What if I told you that’s its actual, official name?

Oh, shit.

And what if I told you that, considering everything that’s happened there, that that name is actually pretty tame?

“Wait a second,” you say. “Why is it called Shades of Death Road anyway? And why are you a paragon of manliness?” Well, person who is not my wife, as she would never say such a thing, I would be happy to tell you why it’s called that, except no one knows anymore.

“Okay, so, twisty road, in the middle of nowhere, only two lanes, maybe it’s called that because of all the fatal car accidents and because the residents have a weird sense of humor?” I’d say you were on to something, if it hadn’t been called that since before Henry Ford was even born, much less inventing automobiles.

There are other theories regarding the road’s name, however. Some say, for example, that in the olden days, highwaymen liked to hide out in shady spots along the road, then jump out and attack people.

“You want my pants? Have ‘em.” “Er… I asked for your money.”

Other legends say that it wasn’t named for the highwaymen, but instead because those highwaymen were beaten and lynched, then hung at intervals along the road. God damn, that is brutal. I mean, they did rob and rape people, but, seriously? That’s a hell of a “Don’t fuck with us.”

The final commonly given explanation is that the road was named after an outbreak of malaria. Wait, what? Yep, in the mid 19th century, the area was filled with swamplands, which attracts mosquitoes who, of course, carried malaria. In fact, it was such a big deal that the government said, “This shit has to stop.” They drained all the swamps, leaving the mosquitoes with no place to live. 

Homeless. Thanks a lot, government.

So, after the malaria epidemic passed, it’s believed that some smartass may have proposed changing the name of the road, which may have previously been Shade Road, to Shades of Death Road.

“Well, that’s all fine and interesting, King Ashe the Benevolent, but I could give a fuck less about why it’s called that. You said it’s actually worse!” That’s true, I did say that. And now I will tell you about it.

Firstly, just off the road, you’ve got Ghost Lake. Unlike Shades of Death Road, this is not its official name. Also unlike the road, the reason for its name is pretty clear. On some mornings, a white vapor tends to emanate from its surface. Okay, so that’s not so weird. That happens lots of places. But, it’s also rumored that the sky stays bright there, as if it were dusk, no matter what time of night it is. Fair enough, that’s pretty interesting. Oh, and there’s a deserted cabin nearby that locals say is haunted by the ghosts of dead highwaymen. Those fucking highwaymen.

“No, really, leave them on. Why do you people keep taking your pants off?”

In fact, the whole area where Ghost Lake is located is called Haunted Hollow. (There’s gotta be an old movie somewhere with that name in it.) It’s probably pretty apt, because right nearby is a place called The Fairy Hole. (Go to bed, Tinkerbell, you’re drunk.) It’s a small cave, but in the early part of the last century, it was found to contain several pieces of Native American pottery and arrow heads. Since the cave appeared to be sparsely used and out of the way of their normal routes, and due to the presence of burial grounds nearby, it’s been theorized that this could have been some sort of ritual site for the dead. And if bad horror movies have taught us anything, (Besides the fact that locals apparently come up with really uncreative names for places) it’s that anything to do with Native Americans and death is a recipe for horrible disaster.

The first result for “Indian burial ground” in Google Images. Holy shit.

Now, all this doesn’t include stories of an unpaved, one-lane road where you might see a red light that indicates you’ll die, reports of apparitions, fogs, and a haunted bridge supposedly occupied by the ghosts of two children who were run over there. Oh, and I’d remiss if I didn’t share this one- a “spirit guide” who takes the guise of a deer and stands on the side of the road. Apparently, if you don’t slow down enough, the deer might jump out in front of you and cause an accident. (Seriously? No shit?)

But let’s talk about a more down-to-Earth kind of weird. Say, a couple of guys in the 1990s who found not one, not two, but hundreds of Polaroid pictures scattered around the area. (Remember those? They were so quaint. The 90s, I mean.) Now, sure, Polaroids on their own aren’t scary.

God damn. Nevermind. Yes, they are.

These Polaroids contained pictures of a television changing channels, a woman lying on a piece of metal with no expression on her face, and other things that even Weird NJ magazine wouldn’t publish. And this is a magazine about weird stuff specifically in New Jersey. Who knows what they won’t print?

Wikipedia (Where the research comes to you.)