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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Antikythera mechanism ~ the mystic precursor of modern analog computer

Lot of things sound Greek and Latin ~ this is truly Greek  !!

The earliest known inhabitants were likely seasonal hunters who traveled there to exploit the presence of migratory birds. The population of the island then changed frequently as it was settled and abandoned several times, including a period of significant influence by Cretan culture during the Bronze Age.In antiquity, the island of Antikythera was known as Aigila or Ogylos.    In Bahubali, they use an equipment that could be related to modern day binocular, that shows far objects nearer .. ..

Centuries later, a NY Prof of History of Ancient Science, called it a “philosopher’s instructional device” in an interview with the Associated Press.   After 2,000 years under the sea, three flat, misshapen pieces of bronze at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens are all shades of green, from emerald to forest. From a distance, they look like rocks with patches of mold.  They represent  traces of amazing technology that appear utterly modern: gears with neat triangular teeth (just like the inside of a clock) and a ring divided into degrees (like the protractor you used in school). Nothing else like this has ever been discovered from antiquity. Nothing as sophisticated, or even close, appears again for more than a thousand years.

For decades after divers retrieved these scraps from the Antikythera wreck from 1900 to 1901, scholars were unable to make sense of them. X-ray imaging in the 1970s and 1990s revealed that the device must have replicated the motions of the heavens. Holding it in  hands,  the expert mariners  could track the paths of the Sun, Moon and planets with impressive accuracy !!

Antikythera or Anticythera  (literally "opposite Kythera") is a Greek island lying on the edge of the Aegean Sea, between Crete and Peloponnese.  Its land area is 20.43 square kilometres (7.89 square miles), the most distant part of the Attica region from its heart in the Athens metropolitan area.  Its main settlement and port is Potamós  ~ today it is all about the  Antikythera Mechanism, a clock-like machine consisting of more than 30 precise, hand-cut bronze gears —so much so that nothing comparable was built for another thousand years.  A study leader exclaimed the design to be beautiful, astronomy exactly right, and more valuable than Mona Lisa.

The researchers used three-dimensional X-ray scanners to reconstruct the workings of the device's gears and high-resolution surface imaging to enhance faded inscriptions on its surface and found that the  device's front dials had pointers for the sun and moon — called the "golden little sphere" and "little sphere," respectively—and markings, which coincided with the zodiac and solar calendars. The back dials, meanwhile, appear to have been used for predicting solar and lunar eclipses. The researchers also observed  that the device could mechanically replicate the irregular motions of the Moon, caused by its elliptical orbit around the Earth, using a clever design involving two superimposed gear-wheels, one slightly off-center, that are connected by a pin-and-slot device.

The team was also able to pin down the device's construction date more precisely. Radiocarbon dating suggested it was built around 65 B.C., but newly revealed lettering on the machine indicate a slightly older construction date of 150 to 100 B.C. The team's reconstruction also involves 37 gear wheels, seven of which are hypothetical.  Pieces of this ancient calculating machine were discovered by sponge divers exploring the remains of an ancient shipwreck off the tiny island of Antikythera in 1900. For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out how the device's 80 fragmented pieces fit together and unlock its workings.

The international team, led by Edmunds and Tony Freeth, also of Cardiff University, included astronomers, mathematicians, computer experts, script analysts and conservation experts from the U.K., Greece and the United States. Were it not for Valerios Stais, an important relic in the history of the computer might have gone undiscovered forever. While sifting through artifacts recovered two years earlier from a Roman shipwreck, the Greek archaeologist noticed an intriguing lump of bronze among the statues, jewelry and coins retrieved by divers. What at first appeared to be a gear or wheel turned out to be what is now widely referred to as the first known analog computer.

To highlight Stais' discovery, 115 years ago Wednesday, Google today dedicates  its doodle to the Antikythera mechanism, a complex clockwork mechanism, stating that the corroded instrument's 30 bronze gears were used to track astronomical positions, predict solar and lunar eclipses, and signaled the timing of the Ancient Olympic Games.  The mechanism is now kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. As Google points out, the doodle illustrates how a rusty remnant can open up a skyful of knowledge and inspiration.

“The Antikythera mechanism tracked planetary positions, predicted lunar and solar eclipses, and even signaled the next Olympic Games. It was probably also used for mapping and navigation,” Google says. “A dial on the front combines zodiacal and solar calendars, while dials on the back capture celestial cycles. Computer models based on 3-D tomography have revealed more than 30 sophisticated gears, housed in a wooden and bronze case the size of a shoebox.”

“Historians continue to ponder the Antikythera Mechanism’s purpose and inner workings, and visitors to the National Archaeological Museum of Greece marvel at its delicate complexity. Today’s Doodle illustrates how a rusty remnant can open up a skyful of knowledge and inspiration,” Google says.

Very interesting indeed !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th May 2017.

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