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From the facts behind the NSA spying scandals ("Big Brother") and the Boston Bombings ("American Terrorists") to America's secret prisons, Scientology, the Gold conspiracy and America's doomsday plans, this series features in-depth interviews with top journalists, law enforcement officials and whistleblowers.
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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