In 212 BC, Roman warships approached Syracuse. It was a warm, sunny day. The Romans did not doubt their victory, will the inhabitants of Syracuse be able to resist the invincible armada? Suddenly, hundreds of bright rays flashed on the fortress wall at the same time. The stunned Roman soldiers saw their ships begin to flash like matches. Moreover, the distance to the fortress was 300 cubits, which is about 150 meters.
It was possible to defend Syracuse thanks to Archimedes, the famous mathematician of antiquity, a resident of this city. It was he who proposed to make and polish 450 bronze mirrors to shine. With their help, the Roman fleet was destroyed.
Many people still perceive this event only as a beautiful legend. Is it possible to destroy a ship with a mirror?
However, back in the 18th century, the Frenchman Georges Louis Buffon demonstrated the possibility of an “Archimedean miracle”. In the afternoon of 1747, when sunlight reached its peak, he was able to set fire to a dry resin-soaked spruce board with 128 flat mirrors. In this case, the distance to the board was 50 meters. But the French scientist did not stop there. In front of the astonished audience, he melted a vessel with tin and thin sheets of silver.
What other proof is needed? But these experiments were soon forgotten and again the arson of the Roman fleet was considered a fairy tale.
Italians conducted a similar experience in the 20th century. 450 small mirrors were pointed at a canvas made of a material similar to that used in ancient Rome. The material caught fire.
Finally, in 1973, the Greek physicist Ioanis Sakkos conducted yet another convincing experiment. An exact copy of an ancient Roman ship was made, at which 70 polished copper sheets, 90 by 50 centimeters each, were sent. When the beams converged aboard the ship, a flame appeared.
After all these documented experiments, the possibility of setting fire to a wooden ship with the help of "sunbeams" no longer seems to be fiction. Perhaps Archimedes really managed to defend his hometown in this way.