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Ancient calculator was 1,000 yrs ahead of its time
Reuters ^ | 11/28/06 | Reuters

Posted on 11/29/2006 11:17:09 AM PST by freedom44

LONDON (Reuters) - An ancient astronomical calculator made at the end of the 2nd century BC was amazingly accurate and more complex than any instrument for the next 1,000 years, scientists said on Wednesday.

The Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest known device to contain an intricate set of gear wheels. It was retrieved from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901 but until now what it was used for has been a mystery.

Although the remains are fragmented in 82 brass pieces, scientists from Britain, Greece and the United States have reconstructed a model of it using high-resolution X-ray tomography. They believe their findings could force a rethink of the technological potential of the ancient Greeks.

"It could be described as the first known calculator," said Professor Mike Edmunds, a professor of astrophysics at Cardiff University in Wales.

"Our recent work has applied very modern techniques that we believe have now revealed what its actual functions were."

STAGGERINGLY SOPHISTICATED

The calculator could add, multiply, divide and subtract. It was also able to align the number of lunar months with years and display where the sun and the moon were in the zodiac.

Edmunds and his colleagues discovered it had a dial that predicted when there was a likely to be a lunar or solar eclipse. It also took into account the elliptical orbit of the moon.

"The actual astronomy is perfect for the period," Edmunds told Reuters.

"What is extraordinary about the thing is that they were able to make such a sophisticated technological device and to be able to put that into metal," he added.

The model of the calculator shows 37 gear wheels housed in a wooden case with inscriptions on the cover that related to the planetary movements.

Francois Charette, of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said the findings, reported in the journal Nature, provide a wealth of data for future research.

"Newly deciphered inscriptions that relate to the planetary movements make it plausible that the mechanism originally also had gearings to predict the motion of the planets," he said in a commentary.

Edmunds described the instrument as unique, saying there is nothing like it in the history of astronomy. Similar complicated mechanisms were not been seen until the appearance of medieval cathedral clocks much later.

"What was not quite so apparent before was quite how beautifully designed this was," he said. "That beauty of design in this mechanical thing forces you to say 'Well gosh, if they can do that what else could they do?"'


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: antikythera; antikytheramechanism; godsgravesglyphs
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1 posted on 11/29/2006 11:17:12 AM PST by freedom44
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To: SunkenCiv

GGG


2 posted on 11/29/2006 11:17:40 AM PST by freedom44
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To: freedom44

RPN?


3 posted on 11/29/2006 11:17:44 AM PST by tje
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To: blam

Ping


4 posted on 11/29/2006 11:18:11 AM PST by r9etb
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To: freedom44

Slow day at Reuters?


5 posted on 11/29/2006 11:18:47 AM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. Rozerem commercials give me nightmares)
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To: freedom44

6 posted on 11/29/2006 11:19:05 AM PST by Constitution Day ("Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley)
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To: tje

LOL!


7 posted on 11/29/2006 11:19:56 AM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, November 16, 2006 https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: freedom44

I want a replica!

actually the ancients had an advanced concept of water power and mechanics that awould surprise most people today.

the roman coleseum had a water powered organ, for example.


8 posted on 11/29/2006 11:20:11 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it full of something for you)
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To: freedom44

Reuters is about a year or more late on this story, History Channel covered this a while back.

It also went into the water clocks and other mechanical devices.

Actually the water clock in that special is mostly intact, in athens, near the acropolis.

It is actually quite stagering how much knowlege was delayed due to the dark ages. Imagine where we would be if we did not lose those 1000 years or so.


9 posted on 11/29/2006 11:23:20 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: freedom44; blam; FairOpinion; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; ...
Thanks freedom44. No ping, because there have been a bunch of Antikythera articles, including one from 2003 which mentions the computing angle.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)

10 posted on 11/29/2006 11:24:36 AM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, November 16, 2006 https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: longtermmemmory

textbooks refer to babbage's differential machine, or even the eniac as the world's first computer. When I beg to differ, I cite the Antekythera (or however ya spell ti) mechanism. opens a few eyes as to just how smart we really can be.


11 posted on 11/29/2006 11:25:08 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it full of something for you)
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To: freedom44

I remember seeing this on an episode of the History Channel about a year ago.


12 posted on 11/29/2006 11:26:34 AM PST by lilylangtree (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
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To: longtermmemmory
Reuters is about a year or more late on this story, History Channel covered this a while back.

This is actually brand new work; they wheeled in a sophisticated portable X-Ray machine and discovered new engravings and stuff. If I recall correctly, it's going to be formally publicized in a conference on Nov 30th or Dec 1st; this is just the hype leading up to the announcement.

13 posted on 11/29/2006 11:27:04 AM PST by Vroomfondel
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To: freedom44

In other words, 'twas the Greeks, not the Arabs, who really invented the astrolabe.


14 posted on 11/29/2006 11:27:20 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
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To: lilylangtree

be gentle, Reuters is usually slow on the uptake.

(I think their reporters are "special" so be nice.)


15 posted on 11/29/2006 11:28:01 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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Okay, maybe I will ping it. ;') [blush]


16 posted on 11/29/2006 11:28:06 AM PST by SunkenCiv (I last updated my profile on Thursday, November 16, 2006 https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: camle
They also had automatic doors operated by hydraulics and water clocks and other clocks. I saw the recovered calculator (in a museum) but no one could tell what it was until the x-rays were developed that could distinguish the different gears inside.

There was a lot of development that was lost when the barbarians took over and Europe fell into the dark ages. Like flush toilets and showers and bathing facilities and concrete and building with iron reinforced concrete.
17 posted on 11/29/2006 11:28:46 AM PST by YOUGOTIT
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To: freedom44

It probably used that old fashioned red LED display. And I'll be the memory was severely limited.


18 posted on 11/29/2006 11:28:48 AM PST by RobRoy (Islam is a greater threat to the world today than Naziism was in 1937.)
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To: freedom44; dighton; martin_fierro; Echo Talon

Some of the geeks at slashdot actually have Linux running on this thing.


19 posted on 11/29/2006 11:29:03 AM PST by Petronski (BRABANTIO: Thou art a villain. IAGO: You are--a senator. ---Othello I.i.)
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To: freedom44

It also had a Lotto number generator, Tip calculator, and could played MP3's if you got the 2 GB expansion mikroSDRam


20 posted on 11/29/2006 11:29:22 AM PST by epluribus_2
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To: camle
textbooks refer to babbage's differential machine, or even the eniac as the world's first computer. When I beg to differ, I cite the Antekythera (or however ya spell ti) mechanism. opens a few eyes as to just how smart we really can be.

ENIAC and Babbage's analytic engine (quite different from his differential engine) were programmable. Antikythera is not.

21 posted on 11/29/2006 11:29:57 AM PST by Vroomfondel
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To: longtermmemmory

It was during the Dark Ages that Islam was concocted and conquered most of the ancient world.


22 posted on 11/29/2006 11:32:01 AM PST by justshutupandtakeit (If you believe ANYTHING in the Treason Media you are a fool.)
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To: YOUGOTIT

exactly, and coin operated fortune telling machines, and mechanical singing birds...

the lesson here is that all this technology was lost (Galen did eye and brain surgery in ancient Rome, for example) when civilization appeases barbarians instead of agressively fighting them. Even Rome's high level of sophistication couldn't save it in the end.

and the world lost - a thousand years of darkness because of a losing strategy.


23 posted on 11/29/2006 11:32:56 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it full of something for you)
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To: Vicomte13

This article mentions they accounted for the ELIPTICAL ORBIT OF THE MOON!

This beats Kepler!

It just adds to the fact that the arab world pretty much was a middle man book seller and not much more than that.


24 posted on 11/29/2006 11:33:11 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: camle
the roman coleseum had a water powered organ, for example.

Hey, I got one of those.

25 posted on 11/29/2006 11:34:03 AM PST by N. Theknow ((Kennedys - Can't drive, can't fly, can't ski, can't skipper a boat - But they know what's best.))
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To: Vroomfondel

you make a point, but the AK's programmign is in it's very design - like a telephone - you can't program it, it's design is it's program - a single purpose unit.


26 posted on 11/29/2006 11:35:34 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it full of something for you)
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To: freedom44

It would be nice if someone with the resources, a university, perhaps, would build a working device from the original.


27 posted on 11/29/2006 11:35:45 AM PST by ThanhPhero (di hanh huong den La Vang)
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To: N. Theknow

LOL~!

I fgured that computer museum's would have model kits of the AK, but so far they don't seem to. I'd love to show one to my students in real life.


28 posted on 11/29/2006 11:36:31 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it full of something for you)
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To: longtermmemmory
It is actually quite stagering how much knowlege was delayed due to the dark ages. Imagine where we would be if we did not lose those 1000 years or so.

Those years weren't lost. Plenty of good work was done during that time. It was during the Middle Ages that the church invented, for all practical purposes, the modern university.

29 posted on 11/29/2006 11:36:43 AM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: tje
RPN?

Reverse Phoenician Notation?

30 posted on 11/29/2006 11:37:48 AM PST by Fresh Wind (Democrats are guilty of whatever they scream the loudest about.)
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To: longtermmemmory
Imagine where we would be if we did not lose those 1000 years or so.

We're about to lose another 1000...

31 posted on 11/29/2006 11:39:18 AM PST by johnny7 ("We took a hell of a beating." -'Vinegar Joe' Stilwell)
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To: Oberon

Very true!

(however if you ask some arabs, I believe there is a "continuously in use" arab university in morroco. 600- 500 or so years. It is note worthy because it used Adobe in its constructions I believe. I hear they might finally be updating the classes after all these centuries)


32 posted on 11/29/2006 11:40:38 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: freedom44
Wikipedia's page on it can be found ... here.
33 posted on 11/29/2006 11:41:37 AM PST by The G Man (The NY Times did "great harm to the United States" - President George W. Bush 6/26/06)
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To: The G Man
It has a differential gear arrangement with over 30 gears, with teeth formed through equilateral triangles. When past or future dates were entered via a crank (now lost), the mechanism calculated the position of the Sun, Moon or other astronomical information such as the location of other planets. The use of differential gears enabled the mechanism to add or subtract angular velocities. The differential was used to compute the synodic lunar cycle by subtracting the effects of the sun's movement from those of the sidereal lunar movement.

Interesting.

34 posted on 11/29/2006 11:44:06 AM PST by The G Man (The NY Times did "great harm to the United States" - President George W. Bush 6/26/06)
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To: freedom44

Bush's fault! (Hey, it's a Reuters story)


35 posted on 11/29/2006 11:44:25 AM PST by ozzymandus
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To: longtermmemmory
(however if you ask some arabs, I believe there is a "continuously in use" arab university in morroco. 600- 500 or so years.

Hmmm. Oxford's got that beat...it's been in existence since the 12th century. Heck, even Harvard's over 350, and that's a new-world institution, fer cryin' out loud.

Have this university's alumni accomplished anything of note?

36 posted on 11/29/2006 11:47:08 AM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: freedom44

That is so neat. I want one to play with.


37 posted on 11/29/2006 11:48:25 AM PST by Dustbunny (The BIBLE - Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)
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To: Constitution Day

Wow, they even had plexiglass back then? ;o)


38 posted on 11/29/2006 11:48:48 AM PST by LIConFem (Just opened a new seafood restaurant in Great Britain, called "Squid Pro Quid")
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To: Oberon

"the church invented, for all practical purposes, the modern university"

The root of Marxism, postmodernism, multiculturalism, and hedonism--academia. You blame it on the church, do you!?

;>)

Hank


39 posted on 11/29/2006 11:48:58 AM PST by Hank Kerchief
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To: Oberon
It was during the Middle Ages that the church invented, for all practical purposes, the modern university.

Such as Cornell, Brown, Columbia, etc ... where liberals are mass produced.

40 posted on 11/29/2006 11:50:19 AM PST by shekkian
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To: shekkian
Such as Cornell, Brown, Columbia, etc ... where liberals are mass produced.

Among other things of MUCH greater value, yes.

41 posted on 11/29/2006 11:51:56 AM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: epluribus_2

LOL!


42 posted on 11/29/2006 11:54:47 AM PST by jdm
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To: freedom44

I understand that it was invented by Al Gore.


43 posted on 11/29/2006 12:05:38 PM PST by StoneGiant (Power without morality is disaster. Morality without power is useless.)
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To: shekkian

Think of them as leftist reservations where parents pay exorbitant fees so their children can look at them in between their drinking binges and government sanctioned sex orgies.


44 posted on 11/29/2006 12:08:34 PM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: camle

Not to brag, but I have a water powered organ in my coliseum as well.

I love the numerica keypad on the calculator
IVX
LCD
M+-


45 posted on 11/29/2006 12:12:54 PM PST by Waverunner
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To: StoneGiant

HALIBURTON SANK THE SHIP TO KEEP COMPUTERS OFF THE MARKET!

IT IS ALL GWBUSHES FAULT! Ancient global warming would never have happened if Kyoto was signed!

(/s)

This is VERY cool.


46 posted on 11/29/2006 12:16:27 PM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Petronski

ROR


47 posted on 11/29/2006 12:23:26 PM PST by martin_fierro (Raffin' Out Roud)
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To: longtermmemmory

"Imagine where we would be if we did not lose those 1000 years or so."

My guess is that we would all be already dead.


48 posted on 11/29/2006 12:29:26 PM PST by Revel
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To: freedom44

Is it calibrated to be heliocentric? THAT would be cool.


49 posted on 11/29/2006 12:31:05 PM PST by AD from SpringBay (We have the government we allow and deserve.)
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To: freedom44

Before the Celts ever arrived in the British Isles (600BC), the people there knew a method by which, they could predict every movement and cycle of the sun and the moon, including eclipses, from any point on earth, with accuracy like only our computers do today.

The method that had to be taught and passed down was very simple.

It starts with a single long stick the exact length of a megalithic yard (2 feet 8.64 inches). It has to be that length.

Begining on the spring equinox

(both morning and evening shadows on a standing stone form a straight line and the shadows of a pair of east [sunrise] and west [sunset] aligned posts coincide both moring and evening,

use the (magalithic yard)stick, standing in the center of a circle, to sight the exact positions of the sunrise and sunset ON THE HORIZON, and mark those positions with stones placed on the circle.

Repeat those steps 30 day later, marking two new positions and then divide the space between each pair of markers into twelve segments, using smaller markers.

Repeat the sunrise and sunset sightings in another 30 days,
then divide the space between the two new markers into eight segments, using smaller stones.

Repeat the sightings in another 30 days, then divide the space between the last two stones into four equal segments with small stones.

Then wait and repeat the process again, beginning on the autumn equinox.

It sounds simple, but it works only because the megalithic yard stick and the method, working together, account for (1)the orbit of the earth around the sun, (2)the inclination of the earth on its axis, (3)the rotation of the earth around the axis and (4) the mass of the earth.

Yet long before Greek geometry, the natives of the British Isles had known of this method, taught it and passed it on for thousands of years (for which the Carbpon-14 dated remnants of these precise calcualtors are strewn across northern Europe).


50 posted on 11/29/2006 12:34:42 PM PST by Wuli
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