Fast-paced, fun and informative, Modern Marvels is The History Channel's signature series focusing on historical technology. The series has focused (among other things) on wonders of ... See full summary »
Franklin D. Roosevelt
This educational show explores many scientific questions and topics about the universe (Big Bang, the Sun, the planets, black holes, other galaxies, astrobiology etc.) through latest CGI, data and interviews with scientists.
Examines the Prophesies of 16th-century French physician Michel de Nostradamus and other ancient prophesy. It compares these prophesies with current global events and sorts significant prophesy from crackpot theory.
Narrated by award-winning actor Gary Sinise, WHEN WE LEFT EARTH is the incredible story of humankind's greatest adventure, as it happened, told by the people who were there. From the early ... See full summary »
Andrew Marr's History of the World is a 2012 BBC documentary television series presented by Andrew Marr that covers 70,000 years of world history from the beginning of human civilisation, ... See full summary »
This episode is only about 40 minutes long, and looks at ancient automatons and the longstanding human obsession with creating robotic beings, with commentary from Prof. Noel Sharkey. It begins with Leonardo Da Vinci's mechanical knight, which has been recreated based on his schematics. The suit of armour contained an intricate assemblage of gears and pulleys that would move its arms and legs. Historians think it may have been made to hug people with both arms when being demonstrated, which would have been quite surprising for crowds of onlookers.
If you can stomach the crude CGI examples from Greek mythology, there's some cool replicas of ancient automata a bit later. Heron of Alexandria and Philon of Byzantium are credited with inventing mechanisms still used today, like cams and pneumatics, and various automata that can be recreated from surviving diagrams. Model makers demonstrate several replicas, and they're all pretty nifty. Some of the more impressive examples include a fountain with singing metallic birds that contained water warblers, and a coin-operated water and soap dispenser.
Though it is filled with hyperbolic speculation about what our ancestors actually built, it's definitely entertaining to see the replicas of ancient automata from around the world, including a few from China and Baghdad. It concludes with a sophisticated replica of Leonardo's walking lion, which justifies the episode on its own. Unfortunately clockwork automata from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries are not covered outside of the famous Japanese tea server.
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