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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; greece
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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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