Christian Long

Tom Wujec: Demos the 13th Century Astrolab

In TED Talks on April 18, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Reflection by ALEX E.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Tom Wujec:  Demos the 13th Century Astrolab

Most of society nowadays looks upon our ancestors a several centuries ago as unintelligent and uncivilized brutes.

The astrolabe proves just the opposite, along with other notable examples, such as old stained glass. The astrolabe help people know where they were, what time it was and what season is was, and more. The astrolabe was a complicated piece of machinery that ‘modern’ people are baffled by, but back then the astrolabe was almost like an iPod, everyone who know how to make one or afford one had one. The complication and mechanics of the astrolabe show just how intelligent these people were, and not at all unthinking peasants. With the creation of other technologies, I will use the iPod as an example, we do not need to know the constellations, the night sky, or know were the sun would be on different seasons to know what time it was. The advancement that we have made have in fact not made us more intelligent, but in fact have only made telling time easier without knowing all of the things to figure out what time it is.

But people back then knew how an astrolabe works, what each part was called and even how to build an astrolabe!

As technology advances, we think ourselves superior to our ancestors, but the astrolabe shows that they had built a tool that can do about all the important actions that an iPod does,when we have now created other tools that are more accurate but in essence do the same action, but with less knowledge.

However, as technology does advance, we go ever near towards accuracy and precision. These devices show how resourceful the people of the past were and that we lose are selves in this world where we do not know are relationship with the night sky. In fact, as technology progresses, we are losing our connection with nature and becoming less and less resourceful. The astrolabes were also a symbol of the intelligence of man, but now we just laugh at the tools we think are ‘unsophisticated’ that our ancestors used. As we can see from the pictures that Wujec showed in the video, a level of art and pride were put into each individual astrolabe.

The astrolabe clearly shows a large amount complication and intelligence that we assume that our ancestors lacked in a world where there were no fancy iPods or computers, only fancy astrolabes.


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