Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Antikythera Mechanism — Again

Antikythera Mechanism, fragment A, "front"
All of you are surely familiar by now with the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek device for computing a variety of astronomical and calendar-related events, fragments of which were discovered in a shipwreck from Roman times about one to two centuries BCE, fragments found in modern times by sponge divers in 1901. For at least a century, scholars, scientists, mathematicians and inventors have X-rayed the device, speculated on its function and age, built physical conjectural models of the device (including a bit of whimsy made of Legos, to go with your Lego harpsichord I suppose), and built mathematical models of its operation.

By now the device is mostly understood, and the results are astonishing. If you have ever read anything about Archimedes (d. 212 BCE, killed as he worked, run through by a Roman soldier), you have some idea of the genius afoot in Greece in the era in which the Antikythera mechanism was built.

Thanks to ellroon, we have an article by George Dvorsky at io9 and in turn a NYT article by John Markoff, and finally a suite of YouTube videos, starting here with one about the Lego Antikythera model, followed immediately by a longish show (Nova??) about the device itself. The two videos (there are more, but I stopped after two) are well worth watching.


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