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Ancient Egyptian Tech May Be Key To Printing 3D Ceramics 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-old-is-new dept.
Zothecula writes "We like to think of technology as always being forward looking. It's supposed to be about nanoparticles and the Cloud, not steam engines and the telephone exchange. But every now and again the past reaches out, taps the 21st century on the shoulder and says, 'Have a look at this.' That's what happened to Professor Stephen Hoskins, Director of the University of West England, Bristol's Centre for Fine Print Research. He is currently working on a way of printing 3D ceramics that are self-glazing, thanks to a 7,000-year old technology from ancient Egypt."
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Ancient Egyptian Tech May Be Key To Printing 3D Ceramics

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  • Dream big (Score:4, Funny)

    by Maho Shoujo (2729697) <mahoshoujo@hellokitty.com> on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:03PM (#41331191)
    One day, I shall print my own pyramid!
  • Seems like this might make a better gun than a reprap.

  • Technology (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:05PM (#41331209) Journal

    "We like to think of technology as always being forward looking. It's supposed to be about nanoparticles and the Cloud, not steam engines and the telephone exchange."

    Those who think technology only means looking into the future should think again
     
    For example:
     
    Without compass, an ancient invention, we won't even comprehend the North from the South
     
    There are so many things that we are enjoying now rely on old tech, some of the tech dates back thousands of years.
     
    I guess the adage "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it"
     
    And I guess re-inventing the wheel isn't exactly a very expedient act, or is it?
     

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:12PM (#41331245)

      Don't give Apple any ideas. They may see that a wheel is a completely rounded corner!

    • Re:Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ClintJCL (264898) <clintjcl+slashdot&gmail,com> on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:17PM (#41331269) Homepage Journal
      A compass only points to the magnetic north and south. The geographic north and south that we all actually use on our maps and GPSes is based on the rotation of the earth, and could be determined simply by observing sunup/sundown times internationally (and realizing the earth is round).

      Compasses? We don't need no stinkin' compasses.

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        Compasses make a very handy quick substitute requiring no other input beyond the earth's magnetic field.

        moreover, compasses have long been used for surveying to get the proper degrees and orientation when doing a "turn". only recently has widespread cheap gps started to replace that. many smaller surveyors still use the compass cause it's much cheaper than the gps kits, which still easily run between 10k and 30k (thinking of the TopCon models my old company sold), and the magnetic declination for any given

        • by ClintJCL (264898)
          Yes, but without compasses, we'd still have a sense of what north was, contrary to what the person I originally replied to with "we don't need no stinkin' compasses" said. It would just be fuck-all harder to figure it out sometimes. But we'd know the concept :)
    • by stox (131684)

      Use of pole stars, eg. North Star, predated the use of the compass to determine north and south. We comprehended them quite well without the use of a compass.

    • Re:Technology (Score:5, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Friday September 14, 2012 @01:03AM (#41331725) Journal
      Um... We knew North and South long before the compass. Egyptians aligned the pyramids with North about a thousand years before the invention of the compass. Mariners navigated by the stars for generations before the compass became a commonplace navigational tool. As a matter of fact, the north pointer of a compass is called that because it points to the north pole of the Earth. Even today, when I want to know which way is North, I look at where the Sun is in the sky (or I look for the Big Dipper at night).
    • Re:Technology (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tsa (15680) on Friday September 14, 2012 @01:10AM (#41331747) Homepage

      Compasses are very new. We still use a lot of technology from the stone age. Fire, thread, clothes, paint... The list goes on and on.

    • Anyway, there is a load of people out there who don't like the future, neither their present, they are looking at the good ol' time. Only nerds like the future.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Anyway, there is a load of people out there who don't like the future, neither their present, they are looking at the good ol' time. Only nerds like the future.

        The future will only be better if everyone tries to make it so. If you just assume that the future will magically be good, it won't.

    • Like the "invention" of beer :D or forging ...

  • by ezakimak (160186) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @11:56PM (#41331431)

    NASA had to resurrect fabrication techniques from the days of the gold rush gold mines to build some of their parts large enough for the rockets that went to the moon.

    It seems that there's a lot of knowledge and skills that are getting lost as we "progress". Sure, some of it is useless since we truly have replaced things with better stuff, eg linotype. But then again, there are some technologies and skills that are dying off that would be good to capture somehow, such as how to build and work a foundary. I'm not sure of a good way to capture *skill*--it's usually passed on person-to-person.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I'm not sure of a good way to capture *skill*--it's usually passed on person-to-person.

      It's called "good documentation".
      I recall reading that the F-22 production line was videotaped from start to finish, with workers explaining their jobs and going through the motions.
      This was fleshed out with interviews in order to capture institutional knowledge that usually disappears when production lines are shut down and workers leave.

      Ceramics enjoyed an extended period as a top tier technology and then continued on as a legacy, but still critical-for-civilization technology.
      Once we reinvent their old t

      • by ezakimak (160186)

        It's called "good documentation".
        I recall reading that the F-22 production line was videotaped from start to finish, with workers explaining their jobs and going through the motions.
        This was fleshed out with interviews in order to capture institutional knowledge that usually disappears when production lines are shut down and workers leave.

        Ceramics enjoyed an extended period as a top tier technology and then continued on as a legacy, but still critical-for-civilization technology.
        Once we reinvent their old technology, there's no reason for it to ever be lost again.

        Sure, that can go a long ways, but I still think there's room for stuff to get lost in translation. "tricks of the trade" that really need to be shown/taught/critiqued in person. It's *really* hard for most humans to learn fine motor skills out of a book or video--having personal instruction for feedback/correction is paramount. There's a reason some skills were historically learned via apprenticeship for years before reaching "journeyman" status--there really can be a lot to it, and you can't easily captur

        • by kermidge (2221646)

          "We can capture the knowledge--but it's the skills I think we most risk losing."

          Even the 'simple' stuff. Watch a brick/block layer trim pieces to fit. Looks easy, and it is - until you try it for yourself. Had some related experience with this doing pattern-cut flagstone, working through caprock (nowadays, all bed is done with saws; cap is simply drilled and blasted off.)

          The video for the story is worth watching, btw.

        • sure it's good to capture that kind of stuff when possible but don't worry too much. almost nothing is ever lost forever. If master craftsmen 1000 years ago could figure it out then master craftsmen today can figure it out again.

          there's a lot of mythology around many such things. having a few pints with an old master blacksmith can be interesting. there's a number of master blacksmiths who spent years figuring out how to make blades which were almost indistinguishable from wootz but the point to keep in mi

          • by TubeSteak (669689)

            there's a lot of mythology around many such things. having a few pints with an old master blacksmith can be interesting. there's a number of master blacksmiths who spent years figuring out how to make blades which were almost indistinguishable from wootz but the point to keep in mind is that the challenge was to figure out how they did it with tech of old. not how to make superior metal.

            Wootz/Damascus steel was not created with "tech of old"
            It came about because a certain mine in India had naturally occuring trace impurities in the steel.
            When the mine went dry, so did the world's supply of wootz.
            That's what took so long to figure out.

            And when it comes to metal, "superior" depends on the application you have for it.

            The best blades ever produced in ancient times wouldn't hold a candle to the best that could be made now by the best engineers now.
            If you made a blade using single crystal superalloys like they use in jet engine turbine blades it would make a mockery of the best of the best in ancient times

            And yet here we are trying to recreate techniques for firing ceramics from thousands of years ago.
            Like I said, it depends on the application you have for it. Not everything can b

            • It wasn't just the steel but also some methods of treating the steel which became useless and were lost after the mine went dry. there could have been other mines with the same impurities which nobody ever realised were there.

              "Like I said, it depends on the application you have for it. Not everything can be made of diamonds, rubies and single crystal superalloys."

              in real terms the cost of making a turbine blade (tens of thousands) or a sword in a similar manner is probably lower than the cost would have bee

      • That's also what they did with the F-1 Engine (the Saturn V first stage engine) production line. It's why rebuilding the line is a valid option for the next heavy lifter.

  • we'll get to print alien technology
  • Don't underestimate the Egyptians. I saw a documentary with Kurt Russell when I was small, the pyramids are the tips dug down space rockets.

  • Civ 2 : England discovers Pottery?

    I honestly think we underestimate our ancestors sometimes who should've been just as smart and tenacious as we are. They maybe appear primitive simply because we have the benefit of a long history of discoveries to build on. And where their technology branched off in ways we don't care about, there could be even more secrets to be had...

    • by prisma (1038806)
      Somebody managed to pop a goodie hut in 2012? If we keep finding hidden ruins, we might finally unlock the secrets of nuclear fusion.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Like the Captain of the submarine I was on often said, "If you want a new idea, read an old book."

  • ...but 7,000 years and they can't put together a decent laptop?

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday September 14, 2012 @07:32AM (#41333047) Journal

    I find lately that commentators are more often referring to people from earlier eras as if they were stupid, when my interpretation is that they had an equal if not greater capacity for brilliance.
    "...Also known as Egyptian paste, faience is one of those remarkable crossroads materials that occur now and again in the history of technology. It was invented 7,000 years ago in Egypt, when the Egyptians were still trying to get the hang of pottery and smelting metal. It isnâ(TM)t actually a ceramic, but rather a paste made of quartz or sand, calcite lime and a mixture of alkalis. Because of this, it can be applied directly to wet clay. When the pottery is fired, the paste turns into a brilliant blue-green glaze reminiscent of lapis lazuli, which the Egyptians used faience as a substitute for...."

    Atrocious writing aside, this would be an excellent example - how much determined experimentation would it take YOU to develop something like this...at the available tech from 5000 BC? You don't have calculus, you don't even have a basic understanding of chemistry, microscopes, hell, even an accurate thermometer?

  • Appalling coverage that we couldn't even put the word "faience" in the Slashdot preamble. What is this, MSM pity day? I still enjoy Slashdot, but all too frequently these days I loath the story submission.

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