Antikythera mechanism

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The Antikythera shipwreck — source of the famous ancient clockwork Antikythera Mechanism — has remained shockingly unexplored in the 100 years or so that we've known about it. In fact, other than a visit by Jacques Cousteau in 1970s, there hadn't been any official, scientific excavations until last year. Turns out, there's a lot of stuff left to find at the site, from a ship's anchor and storage jars to a collection of bronze fragments — which could either turn out to be something mundane, like nails from the boat, or more clues to the Mechanism. According to The Guardian's Jo Marchant, "little bronze fragments" describes what the gears of the Antikythera Mechanism looked like before they were detached from rock and cleaned of rust. Read the rest

Attention Browncoats: Get ready to squee over this 10th anniversary poster

Fans of the cult TV series Firefly may not ever get their wish of having the show come back to the air, but they do have nostalgia! Geek swag purveyor Quantum Mechanix is currently offering up a 10th anniversary poster by graphic designer -- and Browncoat -- Jeff Halsey, who created the design after watching the series for the twelfth time:

"[Firefly] taps into the themes of freedom and creating a family that really resonate with me," says Jeff. "The show may have been short-lived, but the 'Verse will live on. I feel this poster is a reminder of that feeling and is a love letter to my favorite show."

September 20, 2002 marked the premiere of the "American space western" on Fox, which canceled the show after just 14 episodes. But fans have not let the show end up forgotten, as evidenced by their persistent presence on the internet. Look, Firefly was a groovy show, but if that had run for 10 years, do you think Joss Whedon would have made us The Avengers? Or Cabin in the Woods, for that matter? Okay, I'm sorry. That was rude of me.

The poster, which measures 27" by 40", is currently available for pre-order at Quantum Mechanix. Posters begin shipping September 20. Read the rest

The Mixtape Lost at Antikythera

At the bottom of the the sea

Evil computer just wants to be friends

In the tradition of The Shining re-cut to look like an uplifting comedy, comes this music video, which repurposes scenes from several movies—most prominently 2001: A Space Odyssey—to tell the story of a misunderstood computer that accidentally hurts the ones it loves.

The song is "Limited" by Jascha. The video was created by my friend John Pavlus (who has also made some cool films about entropy and the Antikythera Mechanism). He says:

It seemed like a fun challenge to take images that have acquired so much "baggage" over the years — like the glowering cyclops eye of HAL from 2001, which has become visual shorthand for "evil machine" — and try to attach completely opposite emotional associations to them. What if something like HAL wasn't evil at all, but just misunderstood in its intentions, like a puppy who plays too rough with its owner? That's exactly the image that Jascha's plaintive refrain in "Limited" put into my head. Remixing material from five very different films creates a necessarily impressionistic approach to telling a story, so maybe the story this video tells in your head isn't the same one that it tells in mine. Either way I hope it's a good one.

Video Link Read the rest

Antikythera mechanism in a wristwatch

Swiss luxury watch company Hublot has announced a version of the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical calculator, that is incorporated into a wristwatch. The mechanism is to be displayed at the 2012 Baselworld expo before moving to a permanent exhibit at Musée des arts et métiers in Paris.

Hublot painstakingly recreates a mysterious, 2,100-year-old clockwork relic - but why?

(Thanks, Richard!) Read the rest

How the Antikythera Mechanism worked -- with Lego!

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

  Ancient clock displays Olympic calendar and astronomical cycles ... Greek geeks: The Antikythera Mechanism - Boing Boing Ancient Roman Greek computer was used to chart the skies - Boing Boing Mechanical Calculating Device (Boing Boing Flickr Pool) - Boing Boing Read the rest

Ancient clock displays Olympic calendar and astronomical cycles

The Antikythera Mechanism is a two-thousand year-old clock made in Greece that was discovered a century ago in a shipwreck. Two years ago, scientists studying the bits and pieces that survived under the sea were able to figure out that the device was used to calculate astronomical cycles. Now though, British mathematician Tony Freeth, part of the original research group, has determined that the Antikythera Mechanism also shows the timetables of the Olympic Games. Freeth and his colleagues published their findings in this week's issue of the science journal Nature. The magazine also posted a fascinating video telling the clock's story. It's a marvelous tale of technology, history, and curiosity. From Nature News:

The device had intermeshed toothed wheels that represent calendar cycles. By turning the wheels, a user could figure out the relationships between astronomical cycles to deduce the relative positions of the Sun and Moon and forecast eclipses.

But after two millennia under the sea off the island of Antikythera, near Crete, all that remains of the device are 82 fragments of flaking bronze, including parts of 30 gear-wheels2. The numbers of gear teeth are crucial, but must be inferred from the partial wheels that remain. And most of the inscriptions are hidden under corrosion and surface accretions. To read them, the researchers used a method called microfocus X-ray computed tomography, which provides X-ray images of slices through the sample, revealing inscriptions buried beneath the mechanism's surface.

Antikythera Mechanism video "Complex clock combines calendars" Nature News article "Calendars with Olympiad display and eclipse prediction on the Antikythera Mechanism" paper Read the rest

Ancient Roman Greek computer was used to chart the skies

Some of the mystery surrounding the Antikythera Mechanism, a mechanical computer recovered from a 2100-year-old Roman shipwreck near Britain Greece has been unravelled. The device was an astronomical calculator -- and it employed a differential gear!

Using modern computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning, a team led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University peered inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of the machine. Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests it dates back to 150-100 BC and had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac, predict eclipses and even recreate the irregular orbit of the moon. The motion, known as the first lunar anomaly, was developed by the astronomer Hipparcus of Rhodes in the 2nd century BC, and he may have been consulted in the machine's construction, the scientists speculate.

Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks.


(Thanks, Robbo!)

(Image: Cropped thumbnail from a larger pic credited to Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty) Read the rest

Workings of an ancient computer

Scientists have uncovered the workings of an ancient computer called the Antikythera Mechanism. Built at the end of the second century B.C.E, the device was used to calculate and display moon phases and a luni-solar calendar. Its exact workings have been something of a mystery since it was first found in 1901 at the site of a Roman shipwreck. Now, researchers from the UK, Greece, and US report that high-resolution imaging have revealed the function of the gears and the partial inscriptions on the body of the machine. They report their findings in this week's issue of the scientific journal Nature. From the New York Times:

They said their findings showed that the inscriptions related to lunar-solar motions and the gears were a mechanical representation of the irregularities of the Moon’s orbital course across the sky, as theorized by the astronomer Hipparchos. They established the date of the mechanism at 150-100 B.C...

Historians of technology think the instrument is technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterward.

The mechanism, presumably used in preparing calendars for seasons of planting and harvesting and fixing religious festivals, had at least 30, possibly 37, hand-cut bronze gear-wheels, the researchers reported. An ingenious pin-and-slot device connecting two gear-wheels induced variations in the representation of lunar motions according to the Hipparchos model of the Moon’s elliptical orbit around Earth.

Link to NYT article, Link to abstract at Nature (Thanks, Mike Liebhold!) Read the rest

Greek geeks: The Antikythera Mechanism

BoingBoing reader Rafael says,

This is a link to an article written for the American Mathematical Society's website back in April 2000 on the function of the Antikythera Mechanism (the world's oldest example of a mechanism with gears dating from 87 B.C.). The discovery of the mechanism surprised scholars because it was not believed that ancient Greeks possessed such technology. The article goes into a lot of detail and has working Java applets!

Link to part one, Link to part two. Read the rest

2000+ year old Greek computer reinterpreted

The Antikythera mechanism, recovered off a sunken ship in Greece in 1900, is thought to be a clockwork device to calculate the orbits of the celestial bodies. New analysis of the remaining fragments shows that it was wicked-cool:

The Greeks believed in an earth-centric universe and accounted for celestial bodies' motions using elaborate models based on epicycles, in which each body describes a circle (the epicycle) around a point that itself moves in a circle around the earth. Mr Wright found evidence that the Antikythera mechanism would have been able to reproduce the motions of the sun and moon accurately, using an epicyclic model devised by Hipparchus, and of the planets Mercury and Venus, using an epicyclic model derived by Apollonius of Perga. (These models, which predate the mechanism, were subsequently incorporated into the work of Claudius Ptolemy in the second century AD.)

A device that just modelled the motions of the sun, moon, Mercury and Venus does not make much sense. But if an upper layer of mechanism had been built, and lost, these extra gears could have modelled the motions of the three other planets known at the time—Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In other words, the device may have been able to predict the positions of the known celestial bodies for any given date with a respectable degree of accuracy, using bronze pointers on a circular dial with the constellations of the zodiac running round its edge.



(Thanks, Mark!) Read the rest