Readers Respond to the January 2022 Issue


“Wonder of the Ancient World,” by Tony Freeth, describes the Antikythera mechanism, a Greek astronomical calculation machine. As a biologist with an curiosity in engineering, I used to be amazed by the machine’s development. Just how did the ancients make it? I doubt that they had instruments similar to lathelike machines to reduce the gears, dividing heads to index them, precisely made drills, and so forth.

Gerald Legg Hurstpierpoint, England

Now that the design of the Antikythera mechanism is known, my query is: Did it actually work? And if that’s the case, how was that feat achieved? For a tool of such complexity to have functioned, the components would have wanted to be extremely effectively machined. A working mechanism would appear to require the construct high quality of a positive watch—a tool that solely emerged centuries later.

NORMAN L. GILINSKY Eastsound, Wash.

FREETH REPLIES: My colleagues and I share Legg’s amazement. In the University College London Antikythera Research Team, our two Ph.D. college students are exploring the points he raises. It is troublesome to see how the machine’s elements—similar to gears, arbors and coaxial output tubes—might have been made and not using a lathe, and we’re researching the proof for lathes in historical Greece. Its creators should have had some type of drill, in addition to information or chisels for slicing gear tooth. The coaxial tubes increase many questions. Our college students are part-time, so it could take some time to resolve these points.

In response to Gilinsky: The Antikythera mechanism should certainly have been made with nice precision for its time—it was maybe not as correct as a contemporary watch however very effectively made for historical Greece. Friction should have been an enormous difficulty—notably as a result of lots of the components have been in touch with each other in a method that will not occur in a contemporary instrument.

Did it work? We can’t be certain, however two items of proof counsel it probably did. The first is Roman politician Cicero’s first-century B.C.E. descriptions of Greek units that sound comparable: two made by mathematician Archimedes in the third century B.C.E. and one by thinker Posidonius in the first century B.C.E. The second comes from fashionable fashions—notably these of Michael Wright, a U.Ok.-based “historian of mechanism” and a former curator at London’s Science Museum. His fashions work remarkably easily—though he does use Nineteenth-century lathes to make them.

Researchers on our crew are exploring whether or not our newest theoretical mannequin works. First, they’re constructing a mannequin with fashionable equipment to verify whether or not there are severe design points. Then they’ll construct one (or components of 1) utilizing strategies we consider have been obtainable in historical Greece.


In “Hacking the Ransomware Problem” [Science Agenda], the editors describe methods for addressing ransomware assaults, through which hackers encrypt knowledge in a goal’s laptop system and demand cost to free it.

There are a number of points that permit ransomware to survive. Removing the incentive for criminals to use it’s nice, however that works just for firms that report the assault. The overwhelming majority appear to really feel authorities involvement is extra of a hindrance than a assist. Having labored in the safety and networking facet of firms, I can say the largest difficulty that permits ransomware to persist is firms’ reluctance to implement good safety structure and practices. This outcomes from a mix of issues, however typically, the implementors have no idea what they’re implementing or why. Inevitably one space can be closed off below course from a safety individual or audit, however one other 50 will stay open. Companies cherry-pick good practices and don’t understand that they’re exponentially safer in case you implement them in tandem with complementary practices.


CTO, Alum Rock Union School District


In “Eat to Save the Planet” [Observatory], Naomi Oreskes argues that folks can assist mitigate the local weather emergency by slicing again on crimson meat consumption however notes that some “have argued that calls for individual action actually distract us from corporate responsibility.”

Asking people to take accountability for local weather change doesn’t distract us from pressuring bigger entities to do the similar. This motion requires everybody to take part to the most extent attainable. Individuals can battle local weather change in some ways that don’t require a number of time or elevated expense. The instruments can be found to change our transportation, the vitality utilized in gases emitted by our houses, our client purchases and donations to offset our carbon utilization. Next time, don’t inform readers one factor they will do. Tell them the 20 issues they will do.

SAMUEL BENNETT by way of e-mail


Kudos to Amy Cooter for “Inside America’s Militias,” her article on a transfer to extra violent extremism amongst such teams. Down right here in rural Alabama, we personal an curiosity in land subsequent to a militia coaching camp, full with impediment programs, firing ranges, and fields for simulated fight and tactical drills. I’ve handled the spectrum of Cooter’s well-defined characters numerous instances over the many years and in as many contexts, from grilling them in jury alternatives to debates whereas some work on our farm tools. As I used to be ticking off factors of settlement with Cooter, I used to be anxiously awaiting her tackle a subject I’ve discovered the militia world fixated on: Antifa, which she describes as “the antifa (antifascist) movement.”

Militia-speak can’t appear to decide on the finest-sounding string of unhealthy phrases to describe antifa. Having been shot at as a veteran of the Vietnam War, I do know concern and see it in the militia world when its members focus on the group. I’d like to know if that concern is justified. Cooter’s piece leaves us with scant tidbits on the topic.

GUY V. MARTIN, JR. Montgomery, Ala.

COOTER REPLIES: What we do know is that teams that lengthy for a fictional previous, particularly these with overtly racist motivations, are more organized and more threatening than these on the left. Antifa shouldn’t be represented by a single group, and engagement with it’s typically thought of extra of a transitory motion, through which some individuals could take part for a single protest or different motion fairly than essentially having a significant, long-term group affiliation. Strongly ideological people of any political persuasion have the potential for violent action. But for my part, the concern of antifa in militia communities and past is extra about the social change its presence represents fairly than an actual or systematic menace of violence.


“Lemur Rhythm,” by Jack Tamisiea [Advances], ought to have stated that the examine on indris confirmed the first confirmed case of a nonhuman mammal possessing categorical rhythm comparable to that in human music, not categorical rhythm typically.

Ian Battaglia’s evaluation of The High House [Recommended] incorrectly describes Florida as the novel’s setting. The character Francesca dies in a hurricane in that state, however the plot facilities on the English coast.

In the March 2022 difficulty, two Advances articles included illustrations that ought to have been credited to Thomas Fuchs: “Phantom Finger,” by Matthew Hutson, and “Unusual Flow,” by Rachel Berkowitz.


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