Dec 072011

Gastraphetes 400 BCE

The modern world is in debt to the work of the ancient Greeks. To say that the ancient Greeks were great thinkers is an understatement.  They expanded knowledge in every field around; Art, Architecture, History, Medicine, Philosophy, Religion, Science, and even War.  They were such great guys that they didn’t even put up too much stink when the ancient Romans “borrowed” everything!
To help wage war, the Greeks invented a early type of crossbow called the gastraphetes (“belly-bow”)  around the year 400 BCE.  It was actually a little better than the one that the Romans would use later because it had a notched locking mechanism that held the string and bolt in place.  The bow itself was composite, meaning that it was made of several types of material.  These bows are more powerful than simpler bows, but take more materials and time to make.

Man Loading Gastraphetes

The gastraphetes had several advantages over normal bows of the time.  A crossbow takes less skill to successfully fire because the user does not have constantly use their strength to hold the string back and aim.  The crossbowman can take more time to aim.    Another advantage is the range.  Some sources say that the gastraphetes could fire 50 meters farther than the normal bows of the day!

The invention of the gastraphetes helped the Greeks win many battles, and it also led to the creation of even bigger siege weapons like the ballista!

Name: Gastraphetes (“Belly-bow”)

Type: Composite Crossbow

Origin:  Ancient Greece

Date: Around 400 BCE

Inventor: Uncertain, but possibly at command of tyrant  Dionysius I of Syracuse.

Bolt: 40-60 cm

Tension Power: 70-60 kg

Estimated Range: 200-250 meters

Dec 012011

Columbo and Peugot 403

Some people like flashy  TV cars like the Dukes of Hazard‘s General Lee, or KITT from Knight Rider, but I would choose detective Columbo’s Peugeot 403 covertable any day!  It was forever on its last legs but it never let Columbo down!

Columbo aired on NBC  from 1971-1978 and then on ABC after 1989.  Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk).  Each episode revolves around a murder that Columbo has to solve.  He quickly figures out who committed the crime and then sets about getting the murderer to confess.  His unique tactic is to convince the murder that he is a buffoon and is no danger.  The murder then lets his guard down.   In reality,  Columbo has a very sharp mind and not only figures out the suspect, but how he did it.

I think that the choice of the Peugeot 403, helps make the killer underestimate Columbo.  It is a very unique car for an american detective to be driving around and several times Columbo says that there are only a few like it around.  The car is also beat up and very much out of date. It doesn’t even have a car stereo! All of these things lead a killer to think that Columbo is a crack pot at best or an idiot at worst.

Towards the end of each episode, the suspects are sure that they are off the hook and that Columbo is going to drive off into the sunset in his Peugeot, but then he turns around and says, “Just one more thing…”  Then he asks a question like, “If the  victim was left-handed, why was the pen in her right hand?”,  and the killer realizes that he put the pen in the wrong hand after he made the fake suicide note and that he better give up and confess!


Nice Peugot 403

Peugeot 403 Grande Luxe Cabriolet

Make: Peugeot

Model: 403 Grande Luxe Cabriolet

Model Year: 1959

Country: France

Number Produced: 504

Colors: Red, black, ivory, yellow, metallic blue, metallic green, light grey, metallic dark grey and dirt.

Top Speed: 80 mph

Trivia: Cabriolet means  convertable but originally referred to a small two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage with two seats and a folding hood