Charles and John Deane, brothers born four years apart, grew up in a foul dockyard precinct on the edge of London. A former fishing settlement on the Thames, the area had been swallowed by Europe’s largest city. By 1800, it had become a squalid reach of maritime activity and drinking establishments overlooking a fetid waterfront. ... the Deanes’ royal titles and estates had long since been squandered by the time Charles and John were born; their father toiled as a caulker, patching seams in the hulls of ships that his forebears once designed. ... many daring divers had attempted to retrieve sunken treasure in a variety of contraptions—wooden containers, copper jackets, metal canisters. Some died. Others were crippled. ... The Royal George sat in waters about 80 feet deep. At that depth, a pressure differential could create suction 10 times stronger than a modern vacuum cleaner. That might not be strong enough to rip off a face and suck it through an air hose, but it would certainly cause permanent damage or death, as was the sad fate of William Tracey and many others that came after him. ... The brothers were learning hydrodynamics by trial and error, and the crowd got a good show.
Yet the mystery of the mechanism is only partly solved. No one knows who made it, how many others like it were made, or where it was going when the ship carrying it sank. ... What if other objects like the Antikythera Mechanism have already been discovered and forgotten? There may well be documented evidence of such finds somewhere in the world, in the vast archives of human research, scholarly and otherwise, but simply no way to search for them. Until now. ... Scholars have long wrestled with “undiscovered public knowledge,” a problem that occurs when researchers arrive at conclusions independently from one another, creating fragments of understanding that are “logically related but never retrieved, brought together, [or] interpreted,” as Don Swanson wrote in an influential 1986 essay introducing the concept. ... In other words, on top of everything we don’t know, there’s everything we don’t know that we already know. ... Discovery in the online realm is powered by a mix of human curiosity and algorithmic inquiry, a dynamic that is reflected in the earliest language of the internet. The web was built to be explored not just by people, but by machines. As humans surf the web, they’re aided by algorithms doing the work beneath the surface, sequenced to monitor and rank an ever-swelling current of information for pluckable treasures. The search engine’s cultural status has evolved with the dramatic expansion of the web. ... Using machines to find meaning in vast sets of data has been one of the great promises of the computing age since long before the internet was built.
- Also: Quartz - Inside the secret meeting where Apple revealed the state of its AI research < 5min
- Also: The Library Quarterly - Undiscovered Public Knowledge > 15min
- Also: AAAI - Undiscovered Public Knowledge: a Ten-Year Update 5-15min
- Also: Wired - Inside OpenAI, Elon Musk’s Wild Plan to Set Artificial Intelligence Free 5-15min
The very nature of these warships is what makes them both so difficult to remove from the ocean floor and so appealing to illegal salvagers ballsy enough to try. Consider this: The Perch, which was as long as a football field and 26 feet wide, displaced nearly 2,000 tons when submerged. The Encounter and Exeter belonged to a robust class of British destroyers that carried torpedoes, anti-aircraft weaponry, and a complement of about 150 sailors each. The De Ruyter was the largest of all, with a length of more than 560 feet. All now gone without a trace. ... Even in poor condition, gleaned steel fetches about $150 a ton in international markets. A recovered destroyer can easily result in a profit of $100,000 ... There’s a ton more money to be had if you find ships built before the dawn of nuclear testing. Steel is made by melting iron at super-high temperatures and infusing it with carbon. To make sure those carbon levels don’t get too high, steelmakers blow oxygen into the mix, along with ambient atmospheric particulates. That includes radiation. Natural elements like radon create low-level natural radioactivity. We increased those levels exponentially when countries like the United States and Russia began nuclear testing in the mid-1940s. France, England, and China jumped on the bomb bandwagon a few years later. And with each detonation, radioactivity levels in our atmosphere increased. That meant each time steelmakers were blowing oxygen into new steel, they were also blowing nuclear particulates into it. ... That’s not true for the steel used to fabricate pre-1942 vessels, which is virtually radiation-free. And its clean status makes this metal particularly valuable for some technical applications of nuclear medicine and, more commonly, the development of nuclear energy and weapons.