Saturday, June 5, 2010

Antikythera mechanism

In 1900, some divers found the wreck of a Roman vessel off the Greek island of Antikythera. Among the other treasures remanded to the Greek government was an unassuming corroded lump.

Some time later, the lump fell apart, revealing a damaged machine of unknown purpose, with some large gears and many smaller cogs, plus a few engraved words in Greek.

The full function and beauty of the Antikythera device remained hidden until recent studies subjected it to more advanced imaging techniques.

heres the two part video at Scientific American-

(incase the above videos don't work for you head over to this youtube page here)

The true genius of the mechanism goes beyond even the complex calculations and craftsmanship of a mechanical calendar..which is what it is widely believed to be at this point. For example, the ancients didn't know that the moon has an elliptical orbit, so they didn't know why it sometimes slowed or sped up as it moved through the zodiac. The mechanism's creator used epicyclic gears, also known as planetary gears, with a "pin-and-slot" mechanism that mimicked this apparent shifting in the moon's movement. This use of epicyclic gears is far ahead of what anyone suspected ancient technology was capable of.

The findings, published in Nature, are probably best described as "mind blowing." Devices with this level of complexity were not seen again for almost 1,500 years, and the Antikythera mechanism's compactness actually bests the later designs. Probably built around 150 B.C., the Antikythera mechanism can perform a number of functions just by turning a crank on the side.

what is still a pretty good mystery is ... who built it?

wikipedia -
and -

What caught my eye was the fact that there may have been more detailed records of this and other devices such as this at the library at Alexandria.. before it was torched by christians of the time. :(

For now we just have to assume that
a) the greeks who built this were super-geniuses.. for a brief period.. and then all the super-smart people who knew this stuff, inexplicably died and never got to pass on the knowledge...
b) aliens/extraterrestrials built it...
c) time-travellers built it...

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