Top Five Most Intriguing Ancient Gadgets

We’re used to think of gadgets as something cutting edge that usually involves a lot of technology. To prove you there’s more to it, here are top five most intriguing ancient gadgets. They surely weren’t as fast, shiny and comfy as ours, but back then they were probably modern wonders, yearned by everyone. And only a lucky few could enjoy them. Technology has come a long way and it’s fascinating to look at how these mechanisms worked in ancient times. We’ve kept building on strong foundations and have come to enjoy an unprecedented type of comfort. Although the following artifacts and mechanisms still remain a mystery to us, it’s intriguing to think about their possible uses, how they were invented and who was privileged to use them.

1. Antikythera Mechanism

Ten Ancient Gadgets

This ancient analog computer was used more than two thousand years ago to predict astronomical events or the positions of the stars. It now holds the title of the oldest computer in the world. Only during recent research we were able to discover its various functions. It appears the Greek people were able to calculate when the next solar eclipse would take place. The mechanism was found in a small wooden box and it is made out of more than thirty bronze gears. This complex clockwork mechanism also allowed the Greek people to organize their days and calendar in cycles that lasted four years.

2. The Coso Artifact

Ten Ancient Gadgets

Taking into account the fact that spark plugs were only invented in the nineteenth century, this five hundred thousand year old artifact baffled researchers when they discovered how old it was. The spark plug was found at the beginning of the sixties by Wallace Lane. It was encased in a chunk of hard clay. While some supported its age and claimed it was a clear sign of an alien civilization, others were not so easily persuaded. Critics claimed that the artifact could have been the result of a natural process and that there is in fact no strong evidence to support it’s five hundred thousand year old.

3. Baigong Pipes

Ten Ancient Gadgets

These weird looking mechanism was found in China, near Mount Baigong. The “pipes” lead straight into a pyramid. But the most mysterious fact of them all is that there are no obvious signs of civilizations having lived nearby. The queer pipes were discovered by some scientists who were looking for dinosaur fossils. Since then, they have become a true attraction in the area, with tourists visiting them regularly, despite no one knowing what they are or what they were created for.

4. Roman Dodecahedra

Ten Ancient Gadgets

These small mechanisms have twelve pentagonal faces with each of these sporting a round hole. The dodecahedra range in diameter, but all the holes connect in the hollow center. Dating back to the second and third centuries, scientists have found around a hundred of these mechanisms, mostly in Germany and France but also in Hungary. Many archaeologists have tried their luck with the Roman Dodecahedra in an attempt to figure out what they were used for. Some hypothesis suggest they were a religious artifact, while other claim they only had a decorative purpose.

5. The mysterious airplanes

Ten Ancient Gadgets

Also known as the Quimbaya artifact, they were found in Colombia and date from 1000 CE. While the more skeptical believe they simply symbolize stylized birds, lizards, amphibians and insects that were commonly encountered in that area. However, there are other voices suggesting these were actually figurines that represented airplanes. Some scientists went as far as to rebuilt the Quimbaya models and were shocked by their discovery. The models followed the exact patterns of the figurines, encompassing the tails, the landing gears and the wings.

Image sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

6 Things That Used To Be Cool

You know that feeling from back when you were a kid and you’d come up with a brilliant idea but then some would suggest you do exactly that thing and you didn’t want to do it anymore? I remember it vividly because it happened yesterday and the day before that. In the same vein, now, as a fully grown, emancipated adult (chuckles) you don’t feel like wearing or doing something that has been tainted in a stupid way by someone you don’t like. Let’s take a look at 6 things that used to be cool but were ruined by people overusing them or going all wrong about it. Then let’s make a common effort to revive them for old time’s sake.

1. Felt hats

Things That Used To Be Cool

Aka fedoras. Ok, you’ve been watching “Boardwalk Empire” and you sympathize with Nucky the gangster, but you wanna be like Jimmy and you secretly hate Van Alden. But what do all of them have in common? Fedoras! That sounds like a cool idea, you could pull it off with a sequin dress or with a ripped tshirt. But it’s not a cool idea unless you can rock the attitude. Otherwise, please put it back on the shelf.

2. Body sprays

Things That Used To Be Cool

We all had this guy in our class or we all knew this friend of a friend of a friend who really liked using body spay. More specifically, Axe body spray. And not in moderation. Don’t rush to conclusions here. We’re not advocating for you to ditch your deodorants. You can keep all 17 of them. But you should learn the difference between using them for what they were intended to be used, and using them for their scent. As long as you stick to the normal amount, you should be fine and you won’t have any problems getting a date for you upcoming prom.

3. Vape pens

Things That Used To Be Cool

So you’re minding your own business on the bus going to work and this guy next to you starts smoking… a pen! First of all, even if they don’t give off real smoke, that doesn’t entitle you to “light up” and be all smug about it in a means of public transportation. We get it, you’re trying to shake off a bad habit, but we don’t want to hear all about vaping at each dinner party.

4. Guitar rattling

Things That Used To Be Cool

Remember that fun bonfire a couple years ago, on the beach, with that nice guy playing guitar and everyone just having a blast? Fast forward to present time, when everyone thinks they can play guitar and they drag it along at every party, forcing people to hum along. Here are a few pearls of wisdom you could try next time you want to sing for your friends. Ask yourself if you can actually play well and if someone specifically required you to bring your guitar. If the answer is “no” to at least one of the two, you might want to reconsider your performance before you run out of friends.

5. Nerd culture

Things That Used To Be Cool

“Thanks” to Marvel who keeps releasing superhero movie after superhero movie, the nerd culture has been soaring in the last few years. That translates into ladies wearing large rimmed eye glasses and tshirts with “i love geeks” and gentlemen wearing large rimmed eye glasses and tshirts with Star Wars. Comic books are not for every one, but it’s becoming cooler to pretend you know everything about Thanos, than admitting you have no idea that he was a badass.

6. The Chaplin ‘stache

Things That Used To Be Cool

Aka the toothbrush mustache. Aka please don’t make us look at that atrocious thing. We won’t deny Charlie Chaplin rocked it to the moon and back. But it’s been forever tainted when Hitler decided it suited him. Our recommendation? Stay away from it and keep it simple. A second day beard is infinitely sexier than something that immediately makes you think about the Holocaust.

Source images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Google’s Dream Robot Can Create Art

In case you didn’t know technology has come such a long way that now Google’s dream robot can create art. If you haven’t noticed the hype around the psychedelic pictures that have been all over the internet, in this article we’ll break down the process that is behind the software that powers Deep Dream, the weird photos and we’ll  try to answer the question on everyone’s lips: do computers have imagination? You can wait a little longer before hitting that imaginary panic button in your mind. The Deep Dream robot is far away from taking over the world, and just because it can deliver a few picture invariably embellished with puppy images, it does not mean we’ll all soon be its slaves.

Google's Dream Robot Can Create Art

In order to understand the concept behind Google’s Deep Dream robot, let’s take a closer look at what it does step by step, how it can “create art” and how it learns to distinguish images one from another. You’re probably familiar with Google’s image recognition feature. We’re talking about that one that allows you to google a picture of your washing machine in an attempt to find its instructions manual online.

Still with me? Moving on… The image recognition software uses hundreds of reference pictures for comparing it to the picture to be recognized. How does it do that? After looking at dozens of pictures of a watermelon, the software starts to understand that a watermelon is usually round, green with stripes, that it has a red interior dotted with black seeds.

Google's Dream Robot Can Create Art

Let’s say you upload an image of a cake, the software will go ahead and try to find a reference picture by identifying the similarities. But let’s say you tell the software to look for a dog in a picture that doesn’t have a dog. It will identify whatever looks remotely as a dog and let you know it’s found it. Can you see where this is going now? The program will transform all the features that look a little bit like a dog into even more prominent feature, adding puppy faces here and there.

By feeding an image through a layer of artificial neurons, images can become more and more distorted until they don’t look like their source at all anymore. The software just enhances particular features, for examples edges, adding noise and morphing everything together.

Google's Dream Robot Can Create Art

Experimenting with Deep Dream was certainly fun for the Google team but it’s infinitely more fun for the internet to play with it. After Google realized the software can be used to generate images of the things it had previously recognized, a spark became a blazing fire. Deep Dream is still a few painting lessons away from delivering visually appealing content, but it’s still weirdly insane to have a peek inside a software’s dreams.

What really raised waves on the internet was Google releasing the code for the system online. So you’re just steps away from uploading a selfie and watching it transform into an image that will look like a Dali painting. Curious to see how others are having fun with Google’s Dream software? Check out #DeepDream on any social media and prepare to be blown away. Also, prepare to see a lot of puppies mashed in landscape pictures.

Google's Dream Robot Can Create Art

While we’re having fun uploading baby pictures and metamorphosing them into crawling things, we’re missing the bigger picture at hand here. This artificial intelligence program is a glimpse into our future. This could possibly further develop and turn into a powering tool that can help us evolve and explore new horizons.

Source images 1, 2, 3, 4

The Mysterious Sickness In Kazkhstan That Made People Fall Asleep

Imagine you’re minding your own business, going about your daily chores, thinking about what you’ll have for dinner when all of a sudden your brain switches off, and you slip into a coma without ever knowing what hit you. You wake up 5 days later in the hospital, surrounded by doctors who don’t have an explanation for you other than the mere fact that you… fell asleep. If you think this is a horror movie scenario, think again! This actually happened in Kalachi, a tiny, quiet village in Kazakhstan that lies 300 miles west from Astana. Kazachenko, the man whose case we just described experienced the mysterious sickness in Kazkhstan that made people fall asleep.

The Mysterious Sickness In Kazkhstan That Made People Fall Asleep

He went through a sleeping sickness that left many wondering at what it was happening. Kazachenko was driving his motorcycle accompanied by his wife when he blacked out all of a sudden. This wasn’t the first time he was experiencing the queer slumber. The two episodes left him with high blood pressure, headaches and disorientation.

It wasn’t an isolated case either. The ghost illness started claiming victims on the streets, with residents falling asleep unaware on the streets or even worse, while driving. This puzzling mystery left people wondering what had happened with them. One second they were walking down the street and the next they woke up in a hospital bed.

The Mysterious Sickness In Kazkhstan That Made People Fall Asleep

The sickness spread to another small village, Krasnogorsk. The number of victims in both places summed up to over 150 people. The longest period of time a man stayed in a coma stretched to 6 days. Besides causing residents to fall asleep, this nameless sickness also caused other temporary symptoms like hallucinations.

Everybody was in the dark in the early days of the “epidemic”, with some pointing fingers at counterfeit vodka and others simply dismissing it as mass hysteria. However, after medical researchers concluded their tests they managed to get to the root of the problem: carbon monoxide.

This was coming from the nearby uranium mines which had been closed a good many years ago. The carbon monoxide that had been trapped inside the Soviet mines escaped, leading to the symptoms the residences of Kalachi and Krasnogorsk were experiencing. Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Berdybek Saparbayev, confirmed the cause of the illness.

The Mysterious Sickness In Kazkhstan That Made People Fall Asleep

The combination of carbon monoxide and some other hydrocarbon gasses worked together to reduce the levels of oxygen in the affected areas. This left the local authorities wondering what can be done for the villagers of Kalachi and Krasnogorsk. One option would be to move the residents to another place in order to prevent further exposing them to the dangerous carbon monoxide and other gasses.

The process was started and over 100 villagers were relocated across Akmola, in Northern Kazakhstan. However, around 425 other people are still residing in the poisoned village, awaiting the help of local administrations for relocating them. No one was forced to accept the move, which means some villagers are more hesitant than others to leave the place where they were born and where they lived for decades.

Kazachenko, the motorcycle driver, is one of these people. He refuses to move from the village where he has lived for more than 40 years and seems undaunted in the face of the strange symptoms caused by the uranium mines. He has the support of his wife who, in her turn, spent 60 years in her village.

The Mysterious Sickness In Kazkhstan That Made People Fall Asleep

Some of the remaining villagers seem inclined to prefer receiving a compensation, while the rest plainly refuse to abandon Kalachi and Krasnogorsk. With the authorities trying to accommodate everybody, the schools and hospitals were promised to remain fully functional until every single villager agrees to relocate.

Image sources 1, 2, 3, 4

3 Million Years Old Stone Tools Found In Kenya

Scientists have recently found 3 million years old stone tools in Kenya, in a discovery that will improve upon a lot of existing theories. These are the oldest such artifacts that have been discovered at the time and this age is very long before the arrival of modern humans. The stone tools found in Kenya push the date of such artifacts by 700,000 years. It’s possible that the makers of these stone tools may or may not have been ancestors of modern humans. The recent discovery has been described in a paper published in the journal Nature.

Stone Tools Found In Kenya

The astounding discovery is the very first evidence which proves that an earlier group of humans may have possessed thinking abilities that allowed them to create sharp tools. The authors of the paper say that the tools are a new beginning in the existing archaeological record.

A co-author of the study, Chris Lepre, a geologist of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Rutgers University said that the site is surprising and that it rewrites the book on many things that people thought to be true.

The recent find was almost an accident: Lewis and Harmand claimed that they wondered off on a wrong path in 2011 on July 9 and that they climbed a hill in order to find a route leading back to their initial track. They wrote that they felt something special about the place and they scattered to examine a patch of outcrops nearby. They also said that by teatime, Sammy Lokorodi, a Turkana tribesman helped them discover what they were looking for.

By the end of the field season in 2012, the excavations on the site, called Lomekwi, had revealed 149 artifacts made of stone that were linked to tool making. Those artifacts range from rocks used as hammering tools to flakes and stone cores and other tools used probably as anvils.

Stone Tools Found In Kenya

Lead author Sonia Harmand from the Turkana Basin Institute said that the tools shed a new light on a previously unknown and very unexpected period of the hominin behavior and that those tools can tell a lot about the cognitive development of our ancestors that it’s impossible to understand just from studying fossils alone.

Hominins are a class of species that includes Homo sapiens, our closest ancestors and modern humans. Anthropologists have thought for a very long time that our ancestors inside the Homo genus were the first ones able to craft such tools. The Homo genus is the line that leads directly to Homo sapiens. However, researchers have been revealing incredible clues that indicate that some earlier species of hominin might have been able to craft those sharp tools.

The scientists don’t know at the time who crafted those extremely old tools but earlier discoveries do suggest a possible answer: the skull of a 3.3 million years old hominin was found around a kilometer away from the site where the tools were found in 1999. The discovered hominin is called Kenyanthropus platyops. Another bone from the skull of said hominin and a tooth were also found a couple of hundred meters away from the dig site and another unidentified tooth has been discovered around 100 meters away.

The exact family tree of the modern humans is controversial and at the time no one really knows how Kenyanthropus platyops is related to other hominins. Kenyanthropus platyops predates the earliest Homo species by 500,000 years. That species could have crafted the tools, or, it is possible that the unknown toolmaker could have been another species living around the same era, like an undiscovered early kind of Homo or Australopithecus afarensis.

Stone Tools Found In Kenya

Lepre said that a coating of volcanic ash below the site matches some other ash that was found elsewhere and that has been dated to around 3.3 million years in the past. This deduction was made by analyzing the ratio of argon isotopes inside the material. Co-author Dennis Kent and Lepre examined the magnetic minerals beneath the site, above and around the place where all the tools were found in order to define the time period more accurately.

Another co-author of the study and Lepre’s wife, Rhoda Quinn studied the carbon isotopes inside the ground, which together with the fossils from animals found at the site allowed the scientists to remodel the vegetation in the area. By doing this, the scientists uncovered yet another surprise: the area was a shrubby, partially wooded environment at the time. The scientists deduced that the tool making came as a response to a climate change that brought the spread of vast savannah grasslands throughout the area and the evolution of certain animals that could have served as a food source for the ancestors of humans.

Another co-author of the study, Jason Lewis from the Turkana Basin Institute and Rutgers thinks that hominins may have started banging a rock against another in order to make sharp edges so they could use the tools to cut meat off of animals. However, the markings found on the rocks and the size of the recently discovered tools imply they were doing something else, especially since the hominins were in a wooded environment and had access to numerous plants. The scientists believe that the tools may have been used for opening tubers and nuts, bashing logs in order to get access to the insects found inside, or maybe something entirely different that no one has yet thought about.

Some earlier dating work done by Kent and Lepre helped lead to another study in 2011: a paper claiming that Homo erectus was using advanced tool making techniques 1.8 million years in the past. This is at least 300,000 years earlier than was previously thought.

Lepre said that even though he realizes that when those things are figured out, nothing is actually solved and new questions are just being opened up, he still gets really excited thinking that there is a lot more work to be done.

Images source: 1, 2, 3