Monday, December 22, 2008

Antikythera Device--The Ancients Knew More Than We Credit

Reproduction of 2,100-year-old calculator deepens mystery: The model of the Antikythera Device is based on the latest discoveries of the mysterious mechanism. I remember reading about the Antikythera device many years ago, in the sort of periodical devoted to Roswell cover-ups, alien encounters, and the evidence about the lost continent of Atlantis. I was really surprised to hear about it again a couple of years ago, and this year, a new article in Nature has prompted a string of articles, and this amazing video. Remember, the original object is 2000 years old!

I've put together a list of links about the Antikythera device below. It's so cool, you'll have to read more about it. My favorite observation comes from New Scientist's December 12 article, Archimedes and the 2000-year-old computer:

Historians have often scoffed at the Greeks for wasting their technology on toys rather than doing anything useful with it. If they had the steam engine, why not use it to do work? If they had clockwork, why not build clocks? Many centuries later, such technology led to the industrial revolution in Europe, ushering in our automated modern world. Why did it not do the same for the Greeks?

The answer has a lot to do with what the Greeks would have regarded as useful. Models of people and animals, like those of the cosmos, affirmed their idea of a divine order. Gadgets like Hero's were also used to demonstrate basic physical laws in pneumatics and hydraulics....

Rather than being toys, devices like the Antikythera mechanism were seen as a route to understanding and demonstrating the nature of the universe - a way to get closer to the true meaning of things. To what better use could technology be put?


Larry said...

I remember reading about the archaic device some time ago; I think there was an article in Discover magazine, or perhaps National Geographic.

The video you embedded is so cool, though! To think that someone spent ten years figuring out the mechanism; when will reproductions be available, I wonder?

Rebecca Clayton said...

Oh, Larry, that would be the ultimate museum store item--your own Antkythera device! I want one!

Lori Witzel said...

This post was Too Darn Much Fun! Thanks so much for sharing this, and yourself -- I always enjoy my visits here, even if they've become fewer over time.

Have a splendid and fun holiday time!

Rebecca Clayton said...

Thanks, Lori!