Adam Savage of the superb Mythbusters explains a part of fascinating history of science. How scientist in old times were able to find out some amazing secrets with almost no equipment. Great stuff!
One famous example comes from the time of the invasion of Philip II of Macedon. With key Greek city-states in submission, he turned his attention to Sparta and sent a message: “If I win this war, you will be slaves forever.” In another version, Philip proclaims: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” According to both accounts, the Spartan ephors sent back a one word reply: “If.” Subsequently both Philip and Alexander avoided Sparta entirely.