the New Athens Aircraft company

From: Douglas P. Wilson (
Date: Thu May 02 2002 - 04:52:08 BST

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    From: "Douglas P. Wilson" <>
    Subject: the New Athens Aircraft company
    Cc: Robert Neville <>
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    > Try using ancient Greek to tell someone how to build
    > a 747 or a computer.

    Pick any airplane component. The Greeks had a word for it. Well,
    alright, maybe that's not exactly true for compressor blades or microchips,
    but any ancient Greek sophist worth his salt could coin morphologically
    transparent words for these things in a matter of seconds.

    Let the science fiction fans among us imagine that a time travelling alien
    culture grabs a bunch of Athenians from the time of Aristotle and places
    them on a nice earth-like planet.

    Suppose they also find a few 21st century Oxford-educated Classics wranglers
    who got graduate or second undergraduate degrees from MIT, in a variety of
    engineering and other disciplines, and sent them along to New Athens also,
    with instructions to establish a fine university with a good engineering
    faculty --specifying that no word of English or any other language but Attic
    Greek is to be spoken at that university.

    Wait a generation or two, and they would have computers, jet aircraft, and
    probably technological wonders we can only fantasise about (see if you're the kind of person who
    fantasises about such things).

    This would involve extending the Attic vocabulary in the same way the
    Vatican has extended the vocabulary of Latin for modern use, but that would
    not change the basic fact (linguistics dogma, really, but I do suppose it to
    be a fact) that any natural language is just as good as any other for any


    PS. I'd really like to try this experiment, so if any of you invent time
    travel, please sign me up. I know only the most microscopic amount of
    Greek, but I presume an "Attic Immersion School" will be established in 4th
    century Athens almost immediately, and I'd most eagerly enrol in it.

    If anyone with literary talents might be interested in actually writing that
    SF story, please do, I'd love to read it, and would also like to put it up
    on the Technological Fantasies website, with your permission. -- dpw

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