Follows correspondent Brian Unger as he criss-crosses the country reporting on the tales behind the boundaries. Think: Why does Montana look like it took a bite out of Idaho? Or how are ... See full summary »
A thirteen hour series which focuses on the Germanic, Britannic and other barbarian tribal wars with Rome which ultimately led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. This series is ... See full summary »
Andre de Nesnera
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 »
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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