Posts Tagged Burning Mirrors

Evaluating Ancient Theories

There seems to be an ever-growing list of new ideas on the ancient world and the types of technology employed. Most of these emerge from the alternative writers and describe wonderful attributes of buildings and artifacts. Ideas vary from global energy systems and landing pads to advanced communication devices and precision tools. Whilst many of these are intricate and involved, there does not seem to be a standard for evaluating the competing ideas.

The following questions should help readers to evaluate ideas on ancient technologies. They have been developed from a set of the criteria for appraising scientific theories. If a theory scores well in one area, it may fall down in another. This does not necessarily mean it is wrong or right, but efforts should be made to shore up the lacking side. If it is not possible to ‘fill in the blanks’ then it is probably a poor idea. Good theories should show well in all sections.

These questions are aimed at proposals that involve tangible artifacts from antiquity. It does not help in delivering the truth behind historical causal events. It is an aid for deciding which technological ideas are viable and which are not. Questions like; ”What were pyramids or stone circles used for?”, ”Which tools delivered which artifacts?”, ”How was a particular artifact was used?”, ”What technological level was in place?” etc can be evaluated by reviewing the elements.

The following criteria apply only to ideas based on discovered artifacts. Ideas built around items not found in the archaeological record create major issues. Without the actual artifacts, absolutely anything can be considered viable, which opens up schemes closer to sci-fi than science fact. Aliens or gods can be invoked to explain the pyramids, without need for any evidence. Any modern tool from precision lathes to CERN lasers can be included since the need for evidence has been removed.

The first few criteria deal with the elements that make up good theories and apply equally to scientific ideas. The last few deal with the specific issues of evaluating ideas in the historical context. This is a much greyer area, since some might think symbolism is all-important; others might seek only tangible benefits. Each criterion has an example or two to illustrate the point.

  1. How much does the theory explain?
  2. What are the Assumptions?
  3. What is the evidence?
  4. Is the idea based on known science?
  5. Is the technique or tool used today?
  6. Can the theory be proved or disproved?
  7. Is the theory subjective?
  8. Is the device cogent with contemporary technology?
  9. Was it useful to the ancients?
  10. How does the new idea fit with others?

1. How much does the theory explain?

A key criterion for evaluating theories is based on the premise that it attempts to explain reality through simplification. This means the idea should be concise and cover as much as possible. Theories vary wildly in their scope, some deal with a single structure others tend to explain great groups of buildings or artifacts. With device theories, some ideas pertain only to a single small device or rock. Possibly the weakest ideas are those that relate to a single abstract work of art, making all manner of assumptions and predictions.

The scope can give potency to a theory. The ”more for less” principle allows the funerary or ceremonial to gain precedence over others because long lists of sites fall within the domain. It seems to be where these mainstream ideas score highest. Without explicitly proving the case, buildings and artifacts can be categorized under these terms because either previous artifacts have been or no other use can be conceived.

Good theories should state what they account for and what does not fall within the scope. How far can the idea be extended to unknown sites? In the event a dig disturbs a new building or artifact, what will place it within the theory and what places it outside?

Examples; Wide theories, such as ceremonial, star maps or funerary types deal with large groups of buildings or artifacts. Many alternative ideas often fall short by only dealing with a single famous site such as Stonehenge or Cheops.

2. What are the Assumptions?

Evidence is one thing, but some things have to be assumed. A good theory should have as few assumptions as possible. Those that are made should be validated with data from the archaeological record or science. If exceptional assumptions are required, extensive data and/or rationale would be necessary to justify their use. When fewer assumptions are used, there will be less debate over the idea.

Example: Gravity was lower in the past, can explain all manner of data. However, there should be real qualitative evidence to support the idea. Some ideas assume the ancients derived information from travel to other star systems. This may be qualified with further data support or counter argued with simple telescopes.

 3. What is the evidence?

Often this is the most expansive area of a theory on antiquity. All manner of intriguing items have been uncovered and brought to light by the researchers. This includes odd devices, inexplicable tool marks, amazing benefits, out of place objects, peculiar texts and a myriad of other abstract media. However, just because an idea apparently encompasses plenty of evidence, it does not necessarily mean it is a good or useful concept.

If a particular device had a major role in the ancient world, there should be multiple instances of it, despite the ravages of time. Archaeologists are used to establishing these sorts of record from the slightest of evidence. The texts and art should be considered support for the actual objects. If ancient media is compared to the modern, it is obvious why. The imaginative world of Hollywood often has little bearing on the real world.

Examples: The use of chisels or hammer stones in stonework is established based on the marks on the stones and the tools themselves. On the other hand, potent lasers are eliminated because there is no evidence of the crystals, power supplies, fuel sources, electrical components etc.

Inexplicable curios such as huge blocks moved to unlikely places; tend to lead to outrageous claims. These range from aliens to magic. It is best to ask what is possible with the materials on hand. There are many groups that have answered these issues quietly, without recourse to magic. Many of these ideas score well on all evidential counts.

One of the biggest themes involves moderns interpreting ancient glyphs and texts under today’s technology. This is a very common feature among the wildest claims. The requirement for actual artifacts is the primary means to deal with these. If there are no actual spacecraft parts in the archaeological record, then in all likelihood there are no spacecraft, no matter how compelling some ancient glyphs look.

 4. Is the idea based on known science?

Some alternative hypotheses are based on unknown science. This does not necessarily mean they are wrong. Indeed scientists look for this type of evidence for hints of new ideas. Equally, it does not mean they are correct. Any idea that breaks the laws of physics in obvious ways is almost bound to be incorrect.

If the premise works within the bounds of know science, it passes this test. If it does not, then it will be subjected to the rigorous tests that science uses to adopt new theories. Working prototypes are considered a good proof of a mechanic. If a copy is made of an artifact that works using unknown science, it is deemed a reasonable idea. It may of course be working under known science in unusual ways. Valid prototypes should be made from materials and parts known to be contemporary with the device/s under study. There is little truth in hanging a Kray computer off a simple device and claiming it is an ancient method.

Examples: Copper chisels have been claimed to be used to work hard stones. The experiments show how poorly real copper chisels perform. The Antikythera device is claimed to be a kind of stellar computer, the copies show a great deal of promise. If a new energy is being posited within a theory, it should be shown how to test it, reproduce it, measure it etc.

5. Is the technique or tool used today?

There are millions of devices in use today in a variety of environments from the complex to the simple. It is unlikely that the ancients used technology that is unknown today. It should be a relatively easy task to find comparative devices. Sometimes modern tools make ancient devices redundant, but the tech should be obvious before the newer machines were devised. This applies to both tools and techniques, though clearly techniques vary greatly with needs.

If the machine is used today, it should be practical in times when technology was simpler. This is a relatively easy task if the development of the tool is followed to its modern origins. Materials, fuels, consumables etc. should also be considered under this reverse engineering. Some metals, compounds and fuels are not found in antiquity, so should be avoided. This does not preclude advanced technology in the ancient world, but claims of this ilk should be backed up with real evidence.

Examples: Heavy weights are commonly moved by boat now. This may have also been the case in the old world. However, steel hulls need to be replaced with wooden, metal motorized cranes would need replacing with practical ancient alternatives. The Baghdad batteries are an excellent example of the same principles of a AAA battery, but with ancient parts & consumables. Some ideas propose the use of nuclear mechanism in the past, however there is a huge infrastructure and technology behind this sort of technology. The evidence gathering would require the mining & refining of fuels, practical alternatives to the complex electronic controls etc.

6. Can the theory be proved or disproved?

Ancient history can never be proved or disproved absolutely. It is not possible to go back in time and check the facts as they really happened. Even if a museum device or ancient building does operate under the terms of a historical premise, it still requires more evidence. Skeptics can always state ”the ancients never used the device in that way”. This is hard to counter when there may be no abstract evidence such as texts or graphics to support the idea.

Tools can be recreated, buildings can be built to scale and techniques can be tested. Experimental archaeologists are showing the way in this regard. They take objects that are found in the digs and attempt to recreate lost methods. To their credit, these researchers have had a great deal of success though receive much less publicity than the more outlandish untested and unproven ideas of the alternative sector.

It is very unlikely that grand schemes such as worldwide networks did not have utility at smaller scales. It would be the equivalent of saying electricity only works when a national grid is built. Huge structures are usually based on smaller ones that work under the same principles. Prototyping allows for claims to be proved or disproved.

Examples: The possibility of moving megalithic stones with primitive materials, such as ropes, levers and stone bearings has been shown. Global systems or massive structures such as Cheops are very difficult to test if they only work at these scales. This is often an obstacle to disproving an idea. However, both of these cases should be testable on a reduced scale.

 7. Is the theory subjective?

Some ideas are based on subjective experience; these types of theories cannot be proved to everyone. A person walks into a structure and senses an incredible array of unknown mystical experiences. The personal experience whilst heartfelt can lead to all manner of conclusions that no one else can experience or prove.
Good ideas should be non-subjective and provable through reason or tests. This is the best way to build consensus and agreement across the majority. Whilst some ideas are accepted by the minority, they cannot be agreed upon by all because of the subjectivity. On the other hand, some ideas are agreed by the majority, even though they do not fulfill all of the criteria for good theory.

Example: Some people get an incredible sense of well-being when sitting within certain ancient structures. They conclude that there is some inherent magical property that promotes this experience. This may be the case, but it can also be a psychological reaction based on slight physical effects and the way the person has built up the meaning of an ancient building. Similarly, some people today faint at the sight of a pop icon, others simply see someone that sings. Some people walk into a modern Cathedral and have an emotional reaction, whilst others just see an exquisite building.

 8. Is the device cogent with contemporary technology?

This aspect allows for internal consistency within the framework of the idea. It is ridiculous to have people living in caves, using stone clubs and a supersonic jet parked outside. Most examples are more subtle than this, but it underlies the point.

The ideas must be scaled down to their origins to make any sort of sense at all. The theory should be supported with other devices of the time. Ideally, it should be able to perform the task with materials common to the era. There is no truth in introducing nano-fibers into antiquity to make a machine work. In the perfect case the origins and development of the tool, material, technique or structure should also be visible.

Difficulties arise from the introduction of technology form some other external source. This is as common today as it was in antiquity. Laos introduced multi-megawatt dams without the usual progress, because of foreign expertise. Likewise, in the past, seafarers may bring all manner of wonderful and novel ideas.

There are concepts that seem relatively simple in principle, but are overwhelmingly complex in reality. To use electric power on a wide scale requires more than just a few wires. Distribution grids, transformers, power stations, fuel transport, mines or oil wells make these systems unlikely in antiquity.

Examples: To have microwave communication without evidence of radio comms first is a leap of faith. To claim lasers in antiquity requires a whole host of other technologies first. Geometric blocks develop from simpler methods of working stone. In some cases, local cultures appear to have gone straight to the cubic forms without the intermediate steps. This is presumably due to a traveling stonemason of sorts.

9. Was it useful to the ancients?

What were the real gains to the builder or maker of the artifact? This is an area often overlooked by the mainstream and dwelt on by sections of the alternative lobby. Symbolism falls squarely under this category; some may argue it deserves a section of its own. A large number of mainstream and alternative researchers see symbolism as the end game in a vast array of artifacts. It is a matter of opinion, but if all ideas of this ilk were to be believed, the ancient world seems to have done little else but symbolize.

In the mainstream, virtually any odd object or building discovered is almost immediately assigned a ritual or funerary function, which seems a strange catchall. Some members of the alternative community take a better position in insisting the relics had some tangible function. The use and gains should be commensurate with the investment of time and resources. Is there an easier way to achieve the same gain? Is an excellent question.

Uses and gains are not always easy to establish in the artifact world. Some items may have been useful at some point and then were copied in some symbolic form later. This would mean thousands of ornaments could look like originally functional objects, yet are unable to do the same tasks.

Example: Many ascribe real uses for the Coptic cross. It has however taken on a life of its own in the symbolic world of religions. Likewise, pyramids are built today, but they do not appear to have any potential tangible functions of the past, at least if Vegas is considered. It is suggested that pyramids were built to hold a dead body and the gain is symbolic to the builders. Thousands of ancients felt better about their world because of this endeavor. Now this may have been the case, but it is equally likely that moderns have been imposing their own rationale retrospectively for building Cathedrals, churches, mausoleums etc. It is hard to be objective when looking back.

10. How does the new idea fit with others?

It is unlikely that a new idea will completely replace other ideas. The creators are taking a rather arrogant stance if they think that the current models are without any merit at all. Some new ideas fit within older ones, others encompass previous, whilst in unusual cases the new idea completely displaces previous paradigms. It is wise for the authors to at the very least deal with these types of interconnection.

Example: The funerary theory can still hold amongst previously functional buildings, if the new model allows them to be used in this manner when defunct. Grand plans such as star maps or symbolism can hold alongside function in the same way as recent churches have been laid out to some form. Later peoples may easily have used previously functional buildings in some ceremonial manner.



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Video Links

This series of videos show just what is possible with intense beams of sunlight. They do not all use sun dishes, but the physics is near identical in form. The inference from these modern solar technologists is that an ancient with a dish could pretty much deliver the same techniques (excepting the computer controls). Materials transforms and cutting are all practical without recourse to anything more exotic than a parabolic concetrator.

How to Build an Ark and Perform the Miracles of the Exodus

Listen Now to Where Did The Road Go

Solar sinter project

AMAZING this guy is making glass from sand by pointing a beam at it. He even makes pots with just a guided beam

Rock cutting

Big Ass Fresenl lens These guys were just having fun and show how quick a beam will cut thru rocks.

Fresnel melts metals easily

5000 Suns this guy is getting famous for showing the potency of the mosaic method of concentrating sunlight

The guys at Green energy are doing a great job showing a vast array of possibilities. This link shows one, it links to plent yof others at the end. Just point and click.

Steel melting

”Solar Death Ray” more fun with great marketing

2700 degs F

Stirling Engine Solar

Glass cutting with a dish

If you have any links that you think would make good additions to this post please post them at the bottom of the page. If any links have ceased to work please mention it in the same spot.

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The Arc Addendum to the Burning Mirror Solution


 The Arc Addendum to the Burning Mirror Solution

”The Math Behind Burning Mirrors” contradicts the widely held view that ”circles make poor approximations for parabolas”. For small angles, the geometry of a circle and a parabola converge to within a few parts per thousand. This is a very good approximation for long focal length mirrors. It also shows that the ancients had the facility to make these mirrors with the pendulum and potter’s wheel construction method.

The huge numbers that emerge from the calculations arise because the curves are getting closer to the perfect parabola. The ideal curve has an infinite concentration factor under the approximation used, where the sun is considered a point source. The theoretical numbers are much too high because the sun is not an exact point, but is actually spread over a few degrees of the sky. The sun’s arc parabola calculation brings the concentration factors down to realistic numbers. The formula for the sun image is independent of dish size and simply proportional to the focal length. It relies on the height and distance to the sun combined with the focal length, the longer the f.p. the larger the sun disk image. This approach actually makes the power levels much easier to calculate.

For a perfect parabola with a focal length of 1m, the real sun image will be 9.2mm, regardless of whether the dish is 5cm or 5m wide. A 2m wide dish with a one-meter focal length delivers a concentration factor of approximately 47MegaWatts per square meter, which is considerable. When the focal length is shortened, the intensity increases. For the same dish with a 0.5m focal length the real sun image is about 4mm wide, which produces an intensity of over 200MegaWatts per square meter. Both of these devices are incredibly powerful even when placed alongside the majority of modern lasers. The weakest one is nearly three times more potent than the solar device used in tests to melt stones and vaporize metals.

Mechanical methods can produce these curves because they are relatively deep and do not entail the precision cutting of the shallower curves. Ancient shield making techniques suffice to make the rough shape, followed by a laborious guided grinding and polishing procedure. This manual aspect can be sped up by using a potter’s wheel in a similar fashion to the long focal length devices. Instead of using a moving grinder on a pendulum, a fixed parabolic shaped grinder would be used. These methods are touched on in the Secrets of the Sun Sects. There is not much debate over ancient abilities to make these shapes since they are widely found in the artifacts from shields to bowls.

Archimedes and Syracuse

The persistent problem has always been how the ancients made long focal length mirrors. This is tightly bound to the famous Archimedes story of burning mirrors at Syracuse. The rationale runs that the ancients could not have burned the roman ships because they could not make or did not have parabolic mirrors with long enough focal lengths. Under the arc approximation, it seems that even if they did have near perfect parabolic mirrors with very long focal lengths it would still be very difficult.

Even if the high quality curves of pendulum method are considered perfect, then using the width of the sun means there will be a large disk of light on the target regardless. If the focal length of the dish is 30m the real sun image will be over 27cm across. If the ship is at 50m the sun disk image will be over 46cm wide. These are huge circles of light and would require similarly huge reflectors to provide enough energy to start a fire.

In ”Secrets of the Sun Sects”, the account of Archimedes Burning Mirrors is concluded with this paragraph.

”This short account neatly summarizes the use of burning mirrors as exceptional weaponry of ancient Greece. It also details the usual counter arguments that make it all seem a ‘bit far-fetched’. The ancient method of manufacture makes not only small short-range mirrors possible, but the technique is scalable for larger, longer focal length reflectors exactly as described. In fact, it appears that the longer range mirrors are easier to produce. A two-meter mirror with a sharp hundred-meter focal point is easier to construct than a fifty-centimeter device with a two-meter focal length. As shown, the power also increases radically as the focal point gets longer, which is counter to many modern methods of build. Whilst this possibility does arise, it is probably a red herring in the search for burning mirrors, misdirection is a useful tool for the concealing historian. The commonly held alternative views are more than likely correct. The Carthagians did have catapults and pitch, which is a much easier combination to fire the approaching boats.”

Under the Fusniak approximation, the statements remain true with the exception of the power increasing as the focal length increases, this only holds true under the point of light approximation. There is however, a small window in which the account could have some validity even under this more accurate calculation. It is linked to the limits of the size and types of devices found in the archaeological record and references to problems the Greeks had extending the range of the burning mirrors.

There is a recently discovered manuscript, which appears to be an Arabic translation of a supposedly lost Greek tract on the theory of conic sections. This is thought to have been written by Archimedes during the 2nd century BCE. This provides some interesting clues.

”The manuscript, written around CE 902, is a translation of a Greek manuscript on the code of research of burning mirrors. It outlined an important application of geometry that developed into new concepts on optics by the 10th century. This is probably the oldest copy of the optics manuscript known, though an identical copy made during the 14th Century exists in India. The manuscript references the burning mirrors of the Greeks, who are said to have discovered how to set light to objects thirty cubits away. They wanted to extend this achievement and meet a challenge to set light to objects at a distance of one hundred cubits. In Alexandria, during the 3rd  and 2nd centuries BCE, burning mirrors were an important subject of research. Conon of Alexandria, Archimedes, Dosithcus, and Apollonitis are all described as dabbling in the area.”

If one follows the dimensions mentioned in this paper, a few conclusions can be made with the physics. The ”30 cubits” is about 14m, a range that would probably have put Archimedes life in jeopardy as the Romans arrived. However, this would indicate that the sun image would be about 13cm across. In order for a dish to produce fire with that image, it would need over 120 times the area. This results in a very flat dish with a diameter of 150cm, which is just about in line with the shield sizes of the time.

If the mirror range was the slightly safer distance of 30m the dish would need to be about 3m wide. The ”100 cubit” (45m) goal mentioned would require a dish of over 4.5m, which is probably why it remained just an objective. Whilst sun dishes ”twice the height of a man” have been noted in South America, I am not aware of any that large in ancient Greece. These factors leave the solution to the Burning Mirror problem in tact and the Syracuse story a ‘red herring’ in the search for uses of sun dishes in antiquity. The mirrors can retain their Trojan combat use as blinding devices, but are far less likely to be used as solar cannons for Archimedes.

Implications for the Solar Devices

It is worth summarizing the effects the arc approximation has on the extensive range of devices that are described in Secrets of the Sun Sects. The vast majority of the tools have been tested at least on a scale that is practical. There are a few applications that require adjustment for scaling or mechanical reasons.

SOLAR CHAMBERS: About half of the ancient devices are based on the simple premise that dark stones warm up when exposed to sunlight. The ancient solar chambers that utilize this property only require flat reflectors to work and are completely unaffected by the parabolic amendment. This means the simple and inexpensive domestic and industrial cookers remain perfectly viable. Likewise, the water heating, distillation, sterilizing and pumping equipment is still feasible in the ancient world. There is little doubt given all the evidence that the crop drying techniques were applied on a grand scale. All of these items still perform beautifully at both the small and large scale.

PARABOLIC DEVICES: For the parabolic dish devices, the changes only occur on the implementation side, the abilities remain the same. The power is still there at the heart of the burning mirrors, the intense beam is still the most potent entity in antiquity. The relatively shorter focal lengths mean that the use becomes slightly more restricted. In one or two cases, this means the devices have to employ a secondary reflector, which complicates matters slightly. Whilst these improvements have been added to the modern examples in The Sun Devices, when ancient uses were considered simpler was always chosen over complexity. This was primarily because the tool artifacts found are incomplete so less parts, means more likely.

COOKING: The parabolic cooking methods still hold in their entirety, the potency of the devices at this range remain unchanged, fried foods, solar grilled and even boiled remain unchanged. The ancient soldier could still cook his meal with the upturned shield. Any real volume cooking remains within the domain of the solar chambers mentioned above.

OPTICAL: The optical devices are unchanged by the arc addendum, these mirrors will still make excellent components in any reflector telescope ancient or modern. The implications remain that the ancients were scanning the skies with instruments rather than just the naked eye.

METALWORK: On the materials side, most metals could all still be melted, vaporized or worked whilst hot. The smith still had a solar forge in which he could liquefy metals then cast objects along with the ability to bend and fuse others with the intense heat of the beam. He could fuse some metals with a small dish, but not all. There remains the marginally more complicated method, which involves using an iron heated in the larger dish to carry out the same task. Cutting with light is no longer an option without a secondary dish concentrating the first image.

RECYCLING: Recycling methods remain unchanged, though it would not be possible to wander around a dump vaporizing rubbish with ease. This application was aimed primarily at the modern user, but clearly, in the ancient world metal objects would be recycled when damaged.

REFINING: It is noted that the smith and the ancient alchemist were probably the same person in deep antiquity. He still had the power and ability to readily experiment with refining techniques. He was more restricted in where he could practice this art unless furnished with a large flat dish to wander around. Instead of just pointing the dish at a variety of stones, each would have to be placed within the deep dish to find out if there were any useful effects or products to be had. This new material synthesis concept holds for ancient as well as modern. The largest problem here is that the limits on volumes are more restricted since fresnel arrangements of mirrors cannot be used easily.

STONEWORK: The closely linked areas of stone working and ceramics are the most affected techniques. All of the methods tested still work in exactly the same way provided the object is small. Ceramic pots or stones can have a glaze applied quickly and neatly within the confines of the dish. It is only the larger objects that become more awkward to work. Huge rocks can still be shattered by heat, simply by pointing the beam from a shield-sized dish toward the desired fracture point and pouring water on afterward.

When a huge object is to be glazed where it is standing, there are issues with respect to the dimensions of the dish relative to the focal length. These can be overcome in two ways. The first involves using a larger dish than originally envisioned. The second involves the primitive or double dish Cassegrain set ups described. The advantage of this more complicated arrangement is that it can do the fine work at high powers and apply the finishes at slightly lower power without restrictions. The primitive version involves using a flat panel on the object to reflect light onto a short f.p. dish. The result is an off center beam with lower power but flexibility in use. This is the same method as Lindroth proved with a small 30cm dish and a 2mm beam. It cuts via vaporization. Back from its maximum power, it can also glaze stones with ceramic paints or the natural mica within the stone.

The last is a true Cassegrain device akin to the designs of the modern patented solar cutters/polishers. The first dish points directly at the sun and directs the light to an inline dish. This second mirror reflects the beam back down through a hole in the center of the first. Both dishes are effectively concentrating the light to very high powers, which will cut through just about anything. Obviously, the power can be reduced for other tasks by using the device at a short distance from the true f.p. The issue with this device is that whilst it is relatively simple looking, the geometry is not. Dishes have been found with the necessary hole, dimensions and curves though the tripod for the second dish has not. There are some objects from antiquity that could do the task, but it is much preferable to find them all in one piece or at least in the vicinity. This more complicated set up and geometry may help explain why the stone cutting technique was so easily lost.

GEMS: Gem processing remains an easy and lucrative sideline for the solar artisan. The approximation does not alter the speed, ease or new/old techniques in this arena. The natural gems are simply placed in the beam for partial or complete transforms.

Experimental Confirmation and Failings

The details of the calculation have been checked by much better physicists and engineers than myself and none of them spotted the arc amendment. It seems to have been forgotten behind the headline that spherical reflectors actually make excellent long focal length mirrors and the astounding effects produced in test. To be fair, the guys were more intrigued by the effects and the possibilities raised by cheap long focal length mirrors. The tests were carried out with mirrors with focal lengths of a few meters at most. Invariably those built with the ancient method were small with high fp to dish ratios. This was because aim was to test the theory that the angle of pendulum dictates the accuracy of the curve to a parabola. Deep dishes can be made with standard mechanical methods now and in antiquity, there was no need to test these. All results seemed to fall into line with the predictions of the calculation, given the quality of the devices.

The test for the burning mirrors of Syracuse simply followed on from making small mirrors that could start fires easily. Under the point of light approximation, there was no reason to think that at greater distances the beam would be less intense. Under the arc approximation, the dish has to increase in a proportion equal to the increase in size of the focal point to maintain the potency. As the calculations above show, this does still permit a mirror just at the limit of the technology to burn a ship, but it was right at the limit of ancient mirror construction techniques as well.

The results were materially quite amazing, vaporized rather than melted metals, glass rather than fractured stones, all aspects at achieved at very high temperatures. The problem in experiment seemed to be keeping the power down rather than not enough. The prospect of even higher powers at lower angles seemed to be confirmed by scaled down versions. What we were in fact doing was wandering between the improvements in power caused by more accurate parabola construction and extremely high energy inputs from the larger cruder devices.


The sun’s arc approximation adds limits to the upper power of these devices; it does not change what has been done or what is possible. The ancient method of constructing relatively flat curves still allows for a greater degree of flexibility. The accuracy of the curves to the ideal parabola is still more than adequate for the purposes of burning mirrors. The wide range of applications was still available to the ancient artisans and scientists. The devices are still incredibly useful today.

The new calculation method removes the tendency of the point source calculation to increase to infinity in a neat and elegant way. It puts more realistic power figures on the devices that can be confirmed across all sizes and focal lengths. There is still a matrix of mirror sizes and focal length that need constructing and testing, hopefully, some will try. The new approximation suggested has greatly simplified the method of calculating the potency of these devices, for which the author is grateful.

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Archimedes’ Burning Mirror Problem Solved

 By Christopher Jordan

The Ancient Solar Premise makes the case for the extensive use of solar technology by ancient civilizations. There are two strands of evidence, parabolic solar concentrators and heating large black stones. Through two simple devices, it is shown that the successful societies of antiquity were using the sun to underpin their industry, art and science. The solar relics are surprisingly common and are all tied together with the rediscovery of lost techniques that are proving useful today. The implications are explored in some re-framed histories of the important sun cultures.

The focus of this article is the parabolic solar mirrors that are supposed to have existed in antiquity. The majority of comparable proposals fall down primarily because there is no method to make the elusive devices. For centuries, the prevailing view has been that spherical reflectors make poor parabolas, ”The Math behind Burning Mirrors” refutes this completely. With this change of perspective, Christopher Jordan not only shows how they built and used these tools, but also explains many anomalies from the artifacts. These curved mirrors turn out to be the most powerful devices up until the twentieth century with amazing capabilities.

Parabolic concentrators

 The problem of how to make powerful solar concentrators has plagued historians and scientists from Archimedes’ time to Newton’s. The reasons for this interest are not abstract, but the practical uses of the ideal curve. A perfect parabola will concentrate sunlight almost infinitely, which can be very useful, alas, perfection is impossible to engineer.

A hemisphere is easy to make, but it is thought that it proves a poor parabola. The paper above shows explicitly that if smaller and smaller sections of a sphere are used, the approximation to a parabola increases exponentially. If a twentieth of a hemispherical surface is used, it is accurate to within one percent. If a hundredth of the surface is used, it is near perfect. Depending on the focal length chosen, these dishes can have incredible concentration ratios of hundreds of thousands. See the math paper for the calculations.

Concentration ratio as the pendulum length increases for a 1m Sun dish (Point source approximation)

The table above is calculated using the sun as a point source. When the size of the sun is taken into account the intensities range from hundreds of kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts per square meter. The math that underpins the idea is indisputable, but it is the physical proof that persuades most people. There is also the matter of whether the ancients had the technology to build such devices. To address these issues, the mirrors have to be made, tested, found in the archaeological record along with explicit evidence of ancient use.

Dish Construction

The construction task becomes much easier when only a small spherical section is required. To make a seven-degree spherical arc requires only a pendulum, grinder and patience. This can be combined with a potter’s wheel to speed up the process and guarantee the surface. No one argues that pendulums and potters wheels were unknown in the old world.

Pendulum & Potters Wheel Construction Method

With this set up, ancient craftsmen could make mirrors so powerful they could vaporize virtually anything at their maximum power. Beneath the upper limit, there are points where materials can be melted or just warmed. This is the solution to the ‘Burning Mirror Problem’ associated with Archimedes. These dishes have an intense beam focused at a distance equal to half the length of the pendulum. If the pendulum is 10m and the dish is 2m wide, there will be a point of light with just under 2MW/Sqm intensity created at 5m when the dish is pointed at the sun. This is powerful compared to the majority of these weapons, which were shield sized and designed to blind the enemy on the battlefields.

Historical Context

Weaponry is only a small field, in The Ancient Solar Premise, many of the other uses are demonstrated and then placed in their historical context. Some of the methods have been displaced by better ones, but others lost to time still have utility. The roles played in old stonework, fine art, jewelry, science and chemistry are explored in detail.

It becomes clear that many anomalous artifacts can only be explained by these devices. The most compelling are the huge vitrified stones found across the globe. Some experts deny that the finishes are glazes, primarily because they cannot be applied even today. These finishes cannot be created by any method other than an intense beam of light. This is adequate proof to most that the dishes were used in some cultures.

Alternatively, there are the countless references in texts that mention the devices in use. Prior to the rediscovery of the construction method, sun dish descriptions were considered fanciful exaggerations, now they can be fully appreciated. From the Iliad to the Bible, the Vedas to Conquistador accounts, the Greek and Muslim scientific tracts, each clearly describe mirrors in use. Intriguing references to long-range burning mirrors in Muslim papers, the blazing shields of the Greek wars, Incan sun dish competitions and the intense blinding light of Siva poetically attest to these ”divine” tools in key historical settings. Indeed this anecdotal evidence is the root of the persistent rumors of ancient burning mirrors.

Any remaining doubts as to the existence of sun dishes in the old world can be quelled by a museum trip. There are thousands of these devices on display. After creating and using a sun dish, it is obvious that the curve is almost as imperceptible as a shaving mirror. The once active items are cataloged as less interesting oxidized metal objects such as shields, helmets, trays, gongs and ritual garb. However, once the shallow curves are identified, the utility becomes clear. Dishes from the cultures of the Mediterranean, Egypt, Asia, the Americas and Neoliths are all to be found. Links for Ancient Mirrors

The definitive presence of these devices raises other questions about the development and decline of several disciplines and cultures for that matter. Alchemy and the lead to gold transform has left little doubt that these men had a poor grasp of chemistry and lacked the tools for most of the procedures. The more thoughtful look beyond the gold and recognize the origins of chemistry. With these powerful solar devices on hand, the alchemist had the ability not only to create certain materials, but also to readily experiment with others.

The history of ceramics helps illustrates the point. It is believed that ceramics evolved with the evolution of the wood kiln and complex firing techniques. Most stones when placed in a normal fire will not alter their composition in anyway at all, yet this leap in process was made throughout the ancient world. There is no doubt that kilns were eventually used to produce large quantities of potteries. However, Jordan contends that the first experimental work was carried out with these mirrors.

After some ceramists suggested it was impossible to make ceramics with sunlight, the technique was demonstrated at an International Ceramics conference. Despite the production of glazes in minutes as opposed to hours, the historical concept gained little traction. However, it was shown that it is easy for craftsmen to expose a range of materials to very high heats using parabolic dishes.

Solar concentrator creating high temperatures

Parabolic Solar Concentrator melting rocks & metals

Recent mirror research followed a similar path to the speculative alchemist. Metals, rocks, gems, bricks and ceramic paints were just left in the beam for a few minutes to see what happened. The solar device was made and techniques were devised to anneal gems, cut stones, fire pottery, produce ceramics, vaporize, cut and smelt metals in less time than it takes to fire up a wood kiln. Even kids today appear to be treading the same path with homemade reflective dishes. This is not beyond the scope of an ancient craftsman, whose normal methods involved elaborate kilns and would mostly result in failure. The inference is that the development of many fields owes a great deal to the use of this solar technology.


Jordan shows techniques that delight artisans and scientists alike, with a tool that is a little cumbersome, but delivers a very high power to cost ratio. Uniquely historians find the knowledge useful in reframing the past. The lost tract ”On Burning Mirrors” has effectively been reconstructed and shows why ancient scholars obsessed over spherical surfaces. Despite doubts over the most famous Burning Mirror of Archimedes used at Syracuse, it is certain that these tools were utilized in the ancient world. Understanding the operation of sun dishes will surely lead to some famous historical texts being rewritten or at least reinterpreted.

Scientists can use dishes to reduce the costs of high temperature research. The solar concentrators have already been used to make unique new types of crystals for photovoltaic cells. It is expected that similar techniques will be developed for industrial production. Meanwhile artisans can recreate those revered finishes of the past. The sun cultures produced some of the finest stonework, it is only fair that artists trying to mimic it should at least have the same power at their fingertips.

In the present age when we are looking for ways to solve our current energy issues, it seems that the ancients can still teach us a thing or two.

Non-fiction Books & Research by Christopher Jordan

The Ark of the Covenant Operations Manual

The Great Pyramid Rainmaker

The Ancient Solar Premise

Secrets of the Sun Sects

The Sun Devices

The Math Behind Burning Mirrors

Website: Secrets of the sun Sects Blog

Novels by Philip Newman

With research by Christopher Jordan

Meira and the Language Stone

Meira and the Seahorse

Website: Sothic Press

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Sun Disks of Antiquity Links

These links support the view expressed in The Ancient Solar Premise that sun dishes were common in antiquity. Some are imitations of the original devices, but the majority work at least as fire-starters. Some just link to images from the various cultures of the dishes being used or where they were worn. Once the construction technique outlined here is accepted as the method for making Burning Mirrors, these ‘ceremonial’ and vanity objects take on characteristics of devices.

Please feel free to add links to photos of similar dishes in the add a comment section below. Of particular interest would be the Atens/Sun dishes of Egypt, The Americas and the small dishes of the Neolithic peoples, the older the better.

South Asia

In South and South East Asia these sun dishes are so common, they can readily be found and bought in any decent antiques market. They barely rate a mention in the museums, there are so many of them. Most have had the concentric circles that grace their concave sides polished away so ancients can look at themselves in an enlarged form. Siva discs are a standard item in the hands of any statue of Vishnu.

Here are some from a museum with and without the concentric circles. The problem with this vanity mirror idea is that the blob in the center or the concentric circles makes the dishes useless as cosmetic mirrors, unless of course they did not like to look at their noses.

Siva Disks In National Museum

Here is an example with the surface recovered showing where the original circles have been filled and polished over. After coating with a reflective layer, this small dish still has a focal length of over five feet. This is more than adequate to start a fire in the kitchen.

Foil covered disk still displays original concnetric circles

Other examples without a shiny coating.

Curve showing on the side view

Face of dish showing remaing circles & curved surface

Back View of dish showing exquisite convex curve


Horus who emits rays of Datura from the sun disc on his head. Nice picture

Beetle god with two sun discs

 Falcon God with a sun dish on his head

 Bovine form of god with sun dish on her head

Egyptian Objects

Crocodile & Scorpions adorned with sun discs

Large bronze of Isis wearing a sun dish

Brass Bull with sun dish

 Lioness adorned with a sun dish

*Egyptian Bronze snakes supporting a lovely sun dish

*Exquisite gold Horus with actual sun dish on head

Hathor stonework with sun dish on head

Egyptian sun disk/vanity mirror
Egyptian Bronze disk with Hathor
Egyptian dish with bronze handle

Egyptian Solar Weapons

  *Helmets with solar dishes attached

Fresco showing mycenei warrior, sea people

Some other ancient warriors carrying reflective shields and sun dishes on their head into battle.


Shamash with a disk

 Bronze mirror disk with bull carving


 Incredible Bronze Age model of a chariot from Denmark with a Sun Disc on the back.

Other side of the same chraiot

Bronze Age chariot sun shield

Bronze Age Dane with sun dish for starting fires

 Bronze Age Dane with shield plus two smaller sun dishes, amongst other valuables

 Wiltshire bronze age woman’s fire starting amber mirror

Bronze Age Georgian Woman’s fire starting mirror, looks to have been turned into a trinket.

 Small welsh sun dish from the Bell beaker people, surprisingly similar to the Siva discs

Celtic sun dish /vanity mirror beautiful example

 SWEDISH Bronze age disk

 Massive sun shield from sweden


Aztec shields

Gold armour, a little heavy unless it provides another function in battle

 Gold armour? Who would you want to kill and plunder?

More gold armour

Just tons of it

Gold Chest protector?


 Couple of nice Hang dynasty bronze mirrors

 Chinese mirrors both sides

 Hand mirror Chinese, Ming dynasty bronze

 Copper drums with sun motif on the solar disc, common in SW china and SE Asia.

SouthEast Asia

Sun dish drums from Vietnam, Cambodia and South china generally have suns on the outer face. When the drum is turned over and pointed at the sun, it will cook food! If the drum is banged it will make a rather tinny drum noise.

Vietnamese mirrors, with decal or spot in the center making them useless as vanity mirrors

Vietnamese One with the phoenix on the back

 Java  Mirror inlay

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Subjects Covered in The Secrets of the Sun Sects

The Secrets of the Sun Sects covers a large number of areas,

Here is a summary


Burning Mirrors
1.  Burning Mirrors – an overview of what parabolic mirrors are able to do
2.  Ancient Mirror Math – The simple math & geometric solution to Archimedes burning mirror problem
3.  Dish Construction – How to make 10Mw/Sqm solar concentrators in antiquity or a garage
4.  A New History of Mirrors – The implications for Greeks, Egyptians, Alchemy, Incans and more.
5.  Star Wars  – The use of burning mirrors on the ancient battlefields
The Sun Temples
6.  The Sun Temples – A description of a solar chamber, energy and usage across the ancient world
7.  Temple Mountains – The arrangement of sun chambers on step pyramids builds to ancient solar industries
8.  Temple Distribution & Climate – The rationale for the solar chamber variances across the globe
9.  Stone Circles – The solar premise applied to neolithic stone circles
10.Conclusion – The ancient world was powered by sunlight


11. Solar Tools – A guide to making powerful sun dishes today
12. Food & Water – Using ancient techniques to fry, boil and cook at home or in the factory
13. Climate Control & Power – Using old technology to cool the home and produce power 24/7
14. Materials & Crop Processing – Solar Recycling, refining, materials synthesis & agricultural applications
15. Lost Techniques of the Solar Artist – Stone cutting, finishing, ceramics & gems
16. Miscellaneous Devices  – How to make & use powerful Ancient Telescopes
17. Commercial Concerns  – Benefits & reservations in the commercial environment

18. Revising the Past – Adding the Ancient Solar Sects to the record
19. The Inception of Civilization – Did civilization start with a hot black stone or fire?
20. European Sun Sects – The emergence of neolithic solar powered cultures
21. The Egyptian Sun Sects – The utility of sun gods & their temples/tools
22. Egyptian Priestly Orders – The skills hierarchy of the ancient solar orders
23. The Demise of the Sun Cults – The reasons for failure

Modern Solar Sects
24 The Transition Cultures – The switch from solar energy to sun worship
25. Eastern Religions – The Solar Cult legacies of the East
26. Western Religions – The Solar Cult legacies of the West
27. Miracles of Light – Biblical refs to solar devices
28. The Prophecies – 3 Ancient Prophecies reinterpreted


29. A Bright Future – Some very optimistic outlooks


A. Missing Greek Math – Tables of Hipparchus & Archimedes
B. The Power of Spherical Mirrors – The full math proof behind burning mirrors
C. Thermal Properties of the Sites – Detailed energy calculations for sun temples and stones
D. Projects – Completed and ongoing projects, High tech, low tech and historical

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