...and having failed, claim that Archimedes' solar-powered weapon was a "myth".
Teams fail to recreate Archimedes' fabled death ray:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — It wasn't exactly the ancient siege of Syracuse, but rather a curious quest for scientific validation.
According to sparse historical writings, the Greek mathematician Archimedes torched a fleet of invading Roman ships by reflecting the sun's powerful rays with a mirrored device made of glass or bronze.
More than 2,000 years later, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona set out to recreate Archimedes' fabled death ray Saturday in an experiment sponsored by the Discovery Channel program MythBusters.
Their attempts to set fire to an 80-year-old fishing boat using their own versions of the device, however, failed to either prove or dispel the myth of the solar death ray.
The MIT team's first attempt with their contraption made of 300 square feet of bronze and glass failed to ignite a fire from 150 feet away. It produced smoldering on the boat's wooden surface but no open flame. A second attempt from about 75 feet away lit only a small fire that burned itself out.
Mike Bushroe of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory tried a mirrored system shaped like flower petals, but it failed to produce either smoke or flames.
Peter Rees, executive producer of MythBusters, said the experiment showed Archimedes' death ray was most likely a myth.
"We're not saying it can't be done," Rees said. "We're just saying it's extremely impractical as a weapon of war."
The experiment showed it may be technically possible, but didn't answer whether Archimedes used it to destroy enemy ships, MIT professor David Wallace said.
"Who can say whether Archimedes did it or not?" he said. "He's one of the great mathematical minds in history. I wouldn't want to underestimate his intelligence or ability."
Historical text describes Archimedes defeating a Roman fleet using the ray.
In "Epitome ton Istorion," John Zonaras wrote: "At last in an incredible manner he burned up the whole Roman fleet. For by tilting a kind of mirror toward the sun he concentrated the sun's beam upon it; and owing to the thickness and smoothness of the mirror he ignited the air from this beam and kindled a great flame, the whole of which he directed upon the ships that lay at anchor in the path of the fire, until he consumed them all."
MythBusters also tried to recreate the ray last year, and after failing, declared the story a myth.
"If this weapon had worked, it would have been the equivalent of a nuclear weapon in the ancient world," Rees said.
The sources on Archimedes' mirror:
"When Marcellus withdrew them [his ships] a bow-shot, the old man [Archimedes] constructed a kind of hexagonal mirror, and at an interval proportionate to the size of the mirror he set similar small mirrors with four edges, moved by links and by a form of hinge, and made it the centre of the sun's beams--its noon-tide beam, whether in summer or in mid-winter. Afterwards, when the beams were reflected in the mirror, a fearful kindling of fire was raised in the ships, and at the distance of a bow-shot he turned them into ashes. In this way did the old man prevail over Marcellus with his weapons."
"At last in an incredible manner he [Archimedes] burned up the whole Roman fleet. For by tilting a kind of mirror toward the sun he concentrated the sun's beam upon it; and owing to the thickness and smoothness of the mirror he ignited the air from this beam and kindled a great flame, the whole of which he directed upon the ships that lay at anchor in the path of the fire, until he consumed them all."
Lots more info on similar experiments (Archimedes and his Burning Mirrors)