By Cory Doctorow at 12:19 pm Thu, Dec 9, 2010
This short, smart video uses a Lego replica of the Antikythera Mechanism to demonstrate just how the ancient Greek celestial calendar worked.
Behind the Scenes: Lego Antikythera Mechanism
I can’t decide which required more effort.. building the thing, or making the video describing it.
Certainly a cut above your average youtube demo.
Wait… the Greeks had Legos?!?! AWESOME!
The video’s opening claims are a bit much; for all we know the inventor of the Antikythera mechanism was actually a Turk, who made thirty of them that were all equally precise.
We only found the one, and one of its primary purposes is to mark the dates of the Games, so it’s almost certainly Greek or made for Greeks. Everything past that is much less certain.
But, you know, they built it out of Lego… it’s AWESOME! My favorite computer plus my favorite toy! I have to get the plans.
I am the builder of the LEGO Antikythera Mechanism.
We actually know quite a bit about the device based on the kind of wreck it was found in, the thousands of Greek characters we can now read from the surface of the machine, the choice of calendars, and the specific ratios used for the lunar calculations.
The date of construction can narrowed to a fairly modest range of years based on how they inscribed the Greek pi character (it’s shape changed quite dramatically in a known range of years)
The main research web page is here:
My write up about how I built it, and a Babbage Difference Engine is here:
Thank you for your kind reply, Andy. Your work is wonderful!
The point I was clumsily trying to make is that it’s easy to suppose the Antikythera mechanism was unique and its workmanship unparalleled, but we really can’t say for certain that it wasn’t one of many. There could be another one buried somewhere in Asia right now, maybe even one marked with non-greek characters, and we cannot prove otherwise. That doesn’t make Antikythera any less wonderful and fascinating, though.
Someone anonymous (above) linked to Tatjana van Ark’s recreation (beautiful, but not lego) which includes a hypothetical planetarium and has some interesting observations about the drive gearing. I hope you had a look at it?
Oh, incidentally, I didn’t know about the “pi” character’s dating before now. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and efforts with the rest of us!
the turks did not appear in asia minor or any former Greek or Hellenised territory as well as Greece itself until roughly 1350 AD. Yes AD. And actually attacked the Greco/Eastern Romans (Byzantines) in 1453 AD. In contrast, the Olympic Games begun at Olympia in Greece in 776 BC. The Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad, the four-year period between games. The Olympic Games were held without interruptions in ancient Greece. The games were even held in 480 BC during the Persian Wars, and coincided with the Battle of Thermopylae . During the Roman Period, General Sulla moved the 175th Olympiad (80 BC) to Rome. The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius [as un-Christian!!!]. The word Turk was not even invented then. It might be that later the Turks further developed the machine but there is certainly at least 1000 years difference between the last ancient Olympic Games and the first ever Turk anywhere near Greece!!!
Not so: the Turks had sent an Ambassador to the byzantine Court in the year 568 AD, seven hundred years previous to the date which you claim as their “first appearance” in the region. See:
“The Turks, after many rebuffs, consented to a suggestion made by their mercantile subjects of the Soghd, and in 568 sent an embassy to Constantinople to form an alliance with the Byzantines and commence the silk trade directly with them, bypassing the Persian middlemen. The offer was accepted by Justin II, and in August 568, Zemarchus the Cilician left Byzantium for Sogdiana.”
My dad gave me one of these: http://www.retrothing.com/2009/10/build_your_own_.html when I was 10.
I think this 50+ year old kid wants him some legos!
My friend Mogi Vicentini built a physical model, a VRML model and a video of the Antikythera mechanism:
so has LEGO made a set for this yet?
Lego, is there anything you can’t do?
This is the type of really cool thing that has kept me a loyal follower of BB for nearly a decade. Please keep up the good work!
That was awesome!!
…and to Andy the builder of that amazing machine, I bow my head to the floor in respect of your skills.
Don’t try this at home.
Weird. Strangely enough I was listening to BT’s ‘The Antikythera Mechanism’ just as this was posted! Here’s the vid for it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDGwlEJTjc4
Like a sundial, the Antikythera Mechanism must be specific to a specific latitude, right?
(Or Lat /and/ Long?)
But they did not have differential gears back then… According to another video, from a while ago on boing boing, the Differential Gear was developed during the 19th century.
The differential gear was developed in the west during the 19th Century, but the Greeks and the Chinese had it earlier. The Chinese used differential gearing for South-Pointing Chariots and the Greeks in the Antikythera Device.
Its missing the moon phase indicator.
That’s pretty nifty. But the one Tatjana van Vark made is simply gorgeous.
It would be fun to use a 3D-printing service to make custom Lego gears so projects like this could be more compact. But slightly less fun to watch.
A song for Istanbul:
…which was once Constantinople, according to the song.
I’ve never built anything with Legos, my mother was militantly anti-Lego. But I hear plans for the Lego Antikythera Mechanism in the next month or so?
It predicts /when/ a solar eclipse will happen, based on how often the moon revolves about the earth, the changing inclination of the earth to the sun, etcetera. It does not take into account which geographical location will be facing the eclipse — merely that /one will occur/.
Obviously if it occurs in the middle of the night where you are, you’re not seeing it. If it happens relatively close to solar ‘noon’, you’ll likely get a good long one. (in general.)
Hey that reminds me – heads up in North America for the lunar eclipse coming up this December 21!
That’s very close to the winter solstice, now that I think on it.
That was an amazing job ! Many thanks and congrats !
But something’s missing… The title of the song !
Is it an “home made” one ?
how/where can I buy the lego kit and plans
Until Andy posts detailed plans I have downloaded all available pictures videos and have began my reverse engineering of the remarkable model. Although my children had hundreds of Lego only a few are actually suitable. Most what the Andy was using come from Technics and NXT mind storm components. A lot of what is needed are the Connector Pegs with Cross Axles (W970606), Connector Pegs with Friction 3M â€“ Black (W970605), Connector Pegs with Friction (W970604) they probably account for at least a third of the parts list. You’ll also need Studless Technic Beams (W991402) particularly the size thirteen and Technic Cross Blocks (W991405). Some of it will come from Ebay but the pricing from the Ebay Lego stores is almost twice what it is from Lego education http://www.legoeducation.us/store/. I have spent around 100.00 USD so far and have only the 5/19th’s rear module and the center drive train. I have not yet figured out the support layout. If you considered it as being 9 modules at 50-75 USD per module. You get the idea. I am looking at this being a several months project. I would love the see the plans but reverse engineering also has it rewards. Right Andy?
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