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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Greek Antikythera Mechanism

I had to somehow post on this immediately. I came across this subject while viewing a PBS program on it just now. The existence of this mechanism came to light way back in 1901 during an accidental diving discovery and there are you tube videos even as late as 2012. That I came to know about this just today, is a pitiful demonstration of moronic apathy to such important news in the humdrum of my insipid daily life. I will stop the self-tirade here and instead offer to reproduce the excellent write-up of you tube user Ziggurathss (who has 294 videos to his credit) and his wonderful video on the 3D view of the Antikythera Mechanism, a sort of an Ancient Mechanical Analog Computer that could be packed in a small box and carried anywhere!

The Antikythera Mechanism is currently housed in the Greek National Archaeological Museum in Athens and is thought to be one of the most complicated antiques in existence. At the beginning of the 20th century, divers off the island of Antikythera came across this clock-like mechanism, which is thought to be at least 2,000 years old, in the wreckage of a cargo ship. The device was very thin and made of bronze. It was mounted in a wooden frame and had more than 2,000 characters inscribed all over it. Though nearly 95 percent of these have been deciphered by experts, there has not been a publication of the full text of the inscription.

Today it is believed that this instrument was a kind of mechanical analog computer used to calculate the movements of stars and planets in astronomy. It has been estimated that the antikythera mechanism was built around 87 B.C and was lost in 76 B.C. No one has any idea about why or how it came to be on that ill-fated cargo ship. The ship was Roman though the antikythera mechanism was developed in Greece. One theory suggests that the reason it came to be on the Roman ship could be because the instrument was among the spoils of war garnered by then Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

Nature Video presents the mechanism details and uses in 2 parts: Part 1  Part 2
Click on the image below to get to the video, hover to view the 3D reproduction:

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