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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Antikythera Mechanism Update


About 18 months ago, I wrote a blog entry describing when I first learned about the Antikythera Mechanism, a two thousand year old astronomical computer. You can read the original post here but the short version is that this device was discovered in an ancient shipwreck site more than a hundred years ago. People have always been fascinated by the complex gearing of this long-lost antiquity. Research has now shown that it is a very sophisticated and complex small scale planetarium able to predict the motion of the sun, moon, the five known planets, the eclipses of the sun and moon, and even the dates of the Olympic games.

For the past several years, a new research team has been using some of the most recent lab analytical tools to examine the mechanism (which is in Athens). Both digital computed tomography and surface reflectance measurements have allowed previously unknown details of the device to be seen for the first time.

There is a very interesting post about the mechanism at the Network World website. The news brief also connects you to a YouTube video showing a modern reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism based on the latest research findings. It is truly a mind-boggling accomplishment for the mechanical technology of any age but most especially dating from an age when such technology was completely unheard of and thought not to exist.

Much of the new research has been published in Nature which has produced a very nice Flash video describing the new results on the mechanism.

It is indeed humbling. I highly recommend checking it out.

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