Friday, August 31, 2012

3D video animation clearly shows the workings of the Antikythera Mechanism

Photo of The Antikythera Mechanism

Have you heard of the Antikythera Mechanism? If so, you will enjoy this beautifully done 3D animation that shows its component parts and functions.

If you haven't heard of the the Antikythera Mechanism, it is an ancient artifact currently housed in the Greek National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The mechanism is a thin metal object that was found by divers in the wreckage of a ancient Roman ship off the coast of Greece in 1900. It was clearly a sophisticated instrument of some kind with a surprisingly modern style gear train. That alone was a startling discovery, but the exact purpose of the machine remained a mystery for a long time.

Recent studies, advances in imaging technology, and painstaking reproductions have led scholars to believe that the device was a form of mechanical computer. The elaborate gear train was used to calculate the movements of stars and planets for points in the past and the future with great accuracy. Scientists and scholars believe it was build around 87 B.C. -- making it one of the most sophisticated ancient devices in existence. According to an article on the Antikythera Mechanism in the journal Nature, its mechanical sophistication would see no equal until mechanical clocks appeared in western Europe in the fourteenth century.

For a more complete story of the Antikythera Mechanism, check out the book Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer--and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets.

[ Thanks Joseph! ]

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2 Comments:

Blogger DaveGoodchild said...

I reckon that this is, all things considered, is one of the most amazing feats of engineering ever. To think that this appeared roughly 1500 years before the first modern geared clocks began to appear is nothing short of chuffin amazing! And Mogi's animation is stunning (I have watched this far too many times to be healthy...)
I've been lucky enough to exchange some e-mails with Michael Wright who has spent a large chunk of his life working out what the machine actually did when it was working (Mogi's film is based on his findings), and based on his research (much of which is freely available on-line) I'm planning to build a wooden version using the techniques I've employed for my orreries. Most of the machine is relatively straight forward, but there are some fiendishly clever little doohickys and thingamabobs within the design to make it very challenging and more than a little interesting!
When (and if...) I get going on this little project I shall be sure to keep you posted with how it progresses. I might need a little moral support for when things don't go quite to plan...
Take care and stay busy, all the best,
Dave Goodchild.

September 4, 2012 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Dave! I look forward to seeing the progress on your ambitious project.

All the best,

-Dug

September 5, 2012 at 12:48 PM  

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