Egyptian antiques had applied every known science to more easily pull the life giving water of the River Nile up out of the river and into the fields that would otherwise be desert. The longest river in the world floods each year from tropical monsoons thousands of miles to the south, and spreads fresh fertile top soil from up river.
But in the months before each flooding there was need to irrigate this desert, and many lower caste labor time and effort was by dunking buckets into the river, keeping them from actual work in the fields. Until Archimedes.
Archimedes (287-212 B.C.E.)was a citizen of Syracuse, the city state of Sicily until it was finally taken by the expanding Roman Empire. But in his youth the power of each empire was about equal; that of most ancient Egypt, declining Greece after Alexander, and rising Rome.
It was a foolish soldier of Rome who killed the prize catch of Syracuse, the genius Archimedes. Even with their flawed victory by betrayal from within, the Romans had taken three years of assaults on Syracuse.
But in his youth, Archimedes had been recognized as a prize scholar and almost like a Rhodes Scholarship of these days, Archimedes was allowed a scholarship to the great university in the greatest city in the world, ancient Alexandria. The grand avenues and monumental buildings of Alexandria were plotted out with stones by Alexander, and was the model for Rome. At this time, Rome was only a small version of Alexandria. Now all Egypt with Alexandria was governed by descendants of a favorite General to Alexander. At this time the still Greek Ptolmy family ruled and would until Cleopatra.
But that would all happen later. In his studies in Alexandria, the professor would give practical as well as theoretic problems. The ancient problem given to bright scholars would most of all apply to the most essential, the reliable production of food to fend off the occasional year the Nile does not flood and bring fresh topsoil from Sudan.
And what reminded me of this story was a wonderful email that just came through with pictures of what looks like a water space ship landing or something you certainly have not seen before. And I have several fascinating stories about this canal system across Scotland begun just after the American Revolution, and which applies now two huge simple Archimedes Screws to lift ships seventy feet up at this lift.
Archimedes basically created the ferris wheel, limited to two large buckets that would revolve, one spilling the river water into the channel to the fields, while the other fills up in the river. Once a genius has figured it out, it is really quite simple, as you see.
But if you are fortunate enough to get to watch this work, you can understand why it is becoming a popular attraction: you have to see it to believe it; the designers have even put extra space type loops above your boat to distract you as you are boating towards space now, seventy feet above the harbor below you, and you and your boat or ship or kayak are about to revolve out into open air, sloshing around in your swinging bathtub in the sky.
And soon, you are sailing out into a new harbor, with ten more of these space ship ferris wheel rides now between east to west Scotland, found in ancient Egyptian shops, and in the narrow lowlands valley.
It is ironic that you do not yet get such a thrill on the Erie Canal, which achieved so much. And yet, in this little backwater of history, you can sail into the future in enjoyment and fun.Enjoy.Send us a postcard.
Derek Dashwood loves the combining of science and art in these newest examples of the Archimedes Screw begun in