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Why was Hero’s steam turbine developed no farther than a novelty? In 1st century Greece, slaves were an important element of the economy, salves outnumbering freemen by more than two to one and they provided all the work anyone needed. The slave-based economy would have been rocked by the introduction of laborsaving devices and displaced slaves might have caused unrest or even revolution. And, so, the steam engine played a role in entertainment, but not business. It is reported that in Rome the emperor Vespasian purchased and destroyed the model of a mechanical device that would have made construction work more efficient, saying, “You must let me feed my poor commons (Sine me pascere plebeculam meam)” In these cases, preserving political stability motivated government to suppress technology, but at other times, governments have been motivated to support it.
Originally posted by angryhulk
Very interesting! S&F.
When I get a minute I'll be sure to watch the embedded video.
Originally posted by Byrd
reply to post by IkNOwSTuff
Discovery Channel's quality has gone down quite a bit.
One of the real reasons the invention never went further was a lack of supporting technology to turn theory into real applications. In order to get steam to do work, you need to be able to build chambers that can stand huge amounts of pressure (his revolving sphere is really just a toy.) It requires solid pipes that are pressure capable (they were making pipes from lead, which can't take that much pressure) and reliable lubricants for moving parts (they had animal grease, which degrades quickly.)
Once they had good ways of creating more rust-resistant chambers out of stronger metals and had lubricants that were capable of handling the friction heat from rapidly moving metals, steam technology advanced quickly.
A. A. Long:
I think one has to look at the so-called failure of technology to develop also in relation to the theoretical sciences. Here I'm partly agreeing with John Scarborough on the absurdity of the notion that you would try to prove the existence of the four humors. Why prove them? It's self-evident that they're there! In the case of astronomy: Greek astronomy is an astonishing achievement. But of course it was based, except for the brief moment of Hipparchus, on assumptions that we see as totally false. There just wasn't a sufficient reason to invent, for example, the telescope when you had an astronomical theory which, with extraordinary mathematics, could fit the appearances. You can save the appearances with Ptolemaic astronomy. Copernicus could have hunches that things were wrong, but it was only when Galileo showed that the moons of Jupiter were actually going around Jupiter that you had any basic evidence for questioning that kind of astronomy. So economic conditions are only one factor; but we also need to look at the state of the theoretical sciences to see why technological devices were not invented when we might think that there was a reason for them.
For the ancient mind the idea of an experiment to prove the existence or nonexistence of the four humors was irrelevant. People always ask, “Why didn't the Greeks discover the circulation of the blood?” as if they were looking for it. Well, they weren't. Why not? They had the idea after a while that blood functioned much as the philosophers had argued that things function: as a part of how the body worked in life. You might object that that doesn't answer anything; but it did for them. Even Leonardo studied anatomy much as Galen and Vesalius studied it. You look and you see and you explain. How do you explain? You have preconceived ideas and theories. You test them and see if they fit. The answer is always yes, they do. It comes down to the fact that the way you ask the question is almost as important as the answer you're looking for—which is postulated by the question you're asking. The problem is to formulate the question in a way that would be understood by the ancient mind. That's hard because of our scientific background.