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Technology Science Hardware

2,100-Year-Old Antikythera Device Recreated In Working Form 258

Posted by timothy
from the probably-nothing-more-than-an-electrical-meter dept.
coondoggie writes "A new working model of the mysterious 2,100-year-old astronomical calculator, dubbed the Antikythera Device, has been unveiled, incorporating the most recent discoveries announced two years ago by an international team of researchers. The new model was demonstrated by its creator, former museum curator Michael Wright, who had created an earlier model based on decades of study."
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2,100-Year-Old Antikythera Device Recreated In Working Form

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  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:29PM (#26151999) Homepage
    I feel bad now, I could have saved him years of work -- I still have an original Antikythera 01 on my desk here at work.

    I keep asking my boss for a new machine, but apparently the quad-core boxes are reserved for managers with important work to do like using Powerpoint and surfing for softcore pornography.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:34PM (#26152051)

    I'm prokythera, you insensitive clod.

  • Why so down? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elysiuan (762931) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:36PM (#26152069) Homepage

    Surprised with all the negativity. Studying cryptic machines that change the way we view technology's historical progression and after years of work crafting a working replica hardly seems worthy of scorn.

    • Re:Why so down? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:49PM (#26152235)

      They are just down because they didn't come up with it first.

      Plus people like to take pride that we are much more advanced then we were 2000 years ago.
      However after the burning of the Library of Alexandra it sent man kind 1000 years back in progress. The thousands of years after have been in general very tough for human survival only for the past 500 years or so have we caught up, but before that the concept of playing with gears and realizing that if you have a small one and a large one they move at different speeds was to academic and in general worthless as it didn't put food on the table.

      • by toppavak (943659)
        You mean tough for human survival in Europe, Africa and the middle east. The Library's loss certainly didn't affect the civilizations of the Indian subcontinent and the Americas. Like the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen says, the philosophers of south-east Asia were asking questions the western world has only recently begun to ask itself while Europe was still in the dark ages.
        • I think it is an issue that civilizations with the library of Alexandra was actually that much more advance then most of the other cultures of the world.

          The expansion of science in historical view really boomed lately. The Library of Alexandra was in essence a place you can go to find all the knowledge of the known world, allowing a place to go to seek knowledge in an environment that will let you do so.

          • Re:Why so down? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday December 18, 2008 @12:49PM (#26162195)

            The Library of Alexandra was in essence a place you can go to find all the knowledge of the known world, allowing a place to go to seek knowledge in an environment that will let you do so.

            All true, and they also followed a somewhat "information wants to be free" philosophy. The Library of Alexandria reportedly had a policy that any ship that entered it's harbor was to surrender any texts or writings they had on board to the library for them to be copied by the scribes and added to the library before being returned to the ship of origin.

      • by kandela (835710) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @08:40PM (#26153803)
        First uttered by the Librarian of Alexandra 1000 years ago, "I'll back it up tomorrow."
      • Re:Why so down? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by E++99 (880734) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @09:00PM (#26153941) Homepage

        Plus people like to take pride that we are much more advanced then we were 2000 years ago.

        Or rather, they get defensive, worrying that we AREN'T more advanced than we were 2,000 years ago. We're definitely more advanced if we get to pick the definition of "advanced", but that's not saying much. My definition of "advanced" would rest more on public morality and virtue than on technology; as would, incidentally, all the Greek philosophers' from Pythagoras to Aristotle. I see the era of this device, around 500 BC -- an era that included not only Plato and Socrates and their followers in the West, but Confucius and Lao-Tzu and their followers in the East -- a pinnacle of civilization that we have yet to again match.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by lee1026 (876806)

          The same era where slavery was common? It will take a very creative moral system to claim that era was one of morality.

          • by Dun Malg (230075)
            Not only slavery, but capital punishment for most crimes. The trouble people have is that we really only have the notes made by the visionaries of that time, and they're trying to compare that to the teeming masses of Oprah viewers now. They had their teeming masses of slackjaws then too, they just didn't bother to write down what they said.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by ljgshkg (1223086)
            Actually, slavery already stopped long before 500BC in China. At that time, China has already gone through a few hundred years of war. The need of talents in all these countries and the fight between royal families and nobilities brought warriors/heros, philosophers, strategists, and scholars etc. into highest positions of governments, which will very soon end the era of feudalism in the "country", which later form a periodic country wide examination to select all levels of government officers.

            Well, it's
    • Surprised with all the negativity. Studying cryptic machines that change the way we view technology's historical progression and after years of work crafting a working replica hardly seems worthy of scorn.

      Some of us graduated with Computer Science degrees and all we studied were cryptic machines, trying desperately to craft working replicas. Does that explain it?

    • by devotedlhasa (1298843) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @07:08PM (#26153015)
      ...but enough about COBOL...
  • i am afraid (Score:5, Funny)

    by sleepy_sanchez (1301981) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:39PM (#26152109)
    and so starts the story of Sylar, the villain watchmaker.
  • Antikythera (Score:5, Funny)

    by EdZ (755139) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:40PM (#26152123)
    Thank goodness we're prepared for when the sinister Kythera device is unearthed.
  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:45PM (#26152191)

    There's a good chance that it was a custom job made for Hipparchus, either for his lab or to impress the king.

    "Hi, this is Hipparchus. I placed a custom order for an Antikythera about 8 months ago."

    "Oh, we shipped that out. It looks like there was a problem with the delivery... Ah, here we go. The boat sank."

    "What? I've got to present that next week!"

    "I'm sorry, did you buy shipping insurance? It doesn't show here on the invoice that you paid for insurance."

  • by nitsnipe (1332543) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:53PM (#26152263)
    It looks like Digg has invaded slashdot. Anyways, The fact that 2 millennia ago some were able to make a calculator to predict eclipses is astounding, taking into consideration the religious beliefs and the gullibility of the masses on those times.
    • by rts008 (812749) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:00PM (#26152341) Journal

      "...taking into consideration the religious beliefs and the gullibility of the masses on those times."

      And scientists today are still struggling up this same mountain.

      • by cromar (1103585)
        All in all, we're not. There are still a few problems. (Obviously!) However, the climate in Ancient Greece, Arabia, hell, even apparently Ancient Egypt wasn't so ridiculous as during the European Dark Ages, which is what I think you are generally referring to. This is probably the best time for Science in the history of Humanity. (IANA Historian.)
      • ... the mountain of failing to understand that the masses are perfectly happy in their bliss?

        3 billion people on earth can be wrong, but expending effort proving it just to make them upset seems a little sadistic.

      • by guruevi (827432)

        I say these days sometimes science is just as much religion and scientists are it's priests. Scientists and doctors of all types are the untouchables of this time, having the enlightened form of thinking and being that much closer to the explanation of everything than everybody else. Sometimes, they even feel like that and think they're infallible in their thinking.

    • by Seraphim_72 (622457) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:11PM (#26152465)
      Yes, especially as it was those religious beliefs that allowed this device to be created in the first place, or did you miss the part about the Babylonian priests? Good God, can't you people get off your Anti-Religion Flaming Horse for one thread a day?
      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:51PM (#26152825)

        Yes, especially as it was those religious beliefs that allowed this device to be created in the first place, or did you miss the part about the Babylonian priests? Good God, can't you people get off your Anti-Religion Flaming Horse for one thread a day?

        Tell me more about the horse. That sounds awesome.

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          Good God, can't you people get off your Anti-Religion Flaming Horse for one thread a day?

          Tell me more about the horse. That sounds awesome.

          Totally. I want to see this flaming horse! If we worship the Good God of Flaming Horse, do we get a flaming horse too?

        • *Flaming High Horse* ...Preview is your friend. And to answer Dill and Dun - Oddly enough in my D&D campaign you can get a horse that flames (in battle +1d4 to who ever you are fighting (save vs dex for half)). Mostly they are owned by the CN Priests of a Fire (an elf slaying) god of my Campaign.

          Sera
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Leafheart (1120885)

        People seem to forget a lot that a lot of the most brilliant science developments for a long time was due mainly to religion. Go no far than all that astronomy, mathematics, physiology, trigonometry have to thanks the Arab Sufis and scientists of old. And all their motivation were base on spreading and understanding Islam.

        If you go further back you see for example the Maya Calendar, was that an Atheistic scientist who devised and created? No, it was probably a bunch of priest working with the paradigms of t

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          People seem to forget a lot that a lot of the most brilliant science developments for a long time was due mainly to religion.

          That's arguing that the bathwater is OK because there's a baby in it. The fact that many scientific discoveries happened in a religious context is no more relevant than the moon landings happening in a NASA context. There'd have been science without religion just as there would be moon landings without Cape Canaveral.

          • There'd have been science without religion just as there would be moon landings without Cape Canaveral.

            To me that is like advocating Parthenogenesis. The scientific method would have arisen by itself without intervention. Only because in many many cultures across the planet that had the chance - it *never* did, ever. Religion gave context and organization. Ogg may have made stone tools but something else made him human.

            Sera

    • taking into consideration the religious beliefs and the gullibility of the masses on those times

      No, that gullibility part only came into effect some 500 years later, when someone [wikipedia.org] convinced people that a woman could remain a virgin after giving birth to a child [wikipedia.org]. This belief was formally adopted into Christian doctrine [wikipedia.org] in the year 431 AD, which more or less marks the start of a thousand years when all intellectual progress in Europe stood still.

      • Unfortunately, enough people are gullible enough to believe you that I feel compelled to respond...

        So really quick, during those thousand years when "all intellectual progress in Europe stood still..."

        • Europe in general was in a period of declining agricultural output, and not surprisingly, was concerned primarily with feeding themselves first.
        • It withstood repeated invasions by Muslim conquerors on two fronts.
        • Not to mention a few bouts with the Plague which killed about 1/3 of Europe.
        • And in spite of
      • Ah yes - like believing in a god who polymorph at will into multiple animal forms (Zeus) didn't require gullibility? Not to mention the things gods of other contemporary religions got up. Despite what your nakedly displayed bias and ignorance would have you believe, all religions require gullibility.

        • It's not about how crazy the story is, it's about whether or not Joe Peasant thinks the story is literally true.

          • It's not about how crazy the story is, it's about whether or not Joe the Peasant thinks the story is literally true.

            There. Fixed it for you.

    • Actually it was probably created to predict religious holidays... just as the Catholic Church funded many of the works that would later threaten them.

  • It's not going to be long before this is THE thing to have on a desk or shelf.

    I want to be the first in line to purchase one.

  • by Brett Buck (811747) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @05:57PM (#26152313)

    You do realize that technology existed prior to computers, do you not? How the heck is this not technology?

            Brett

  • Something of note (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:21PM (#26152555)

    Kythera was the name of the island it was found near, thus anti-kythera means it was found off the coast of the island.

    It's what we call it, we have no idea what they would have called it.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:21PM (#26152559) Homepage

    I'd love to get one of these for my shelf or desk somewhere. I wonder if someone would make these and sell them on ThinkGeek.com? Another good question might be whether or not someone has modelled the device in OpenGL? It would make a really cool screensaver!

    • No, but it reminds me of the lockward screensaver in gnome/ubuntu. Its been my screensaver for years, and although its technically more greycode emulating than this, it looks like the back of the device in the demonstration video, and usually memorizes anyone who happens to see it.
  • Tag: Stargate? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcardno (450934) on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:33PM (#26152659) Homepage

    How did someone miss that opportunity? :-(

  • Origins and uses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whiteox (919863) <htcstech@gmREDHATail.com minus distro> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:36PM (#26152693) Journal

    There was an article a few months ago about this that stated [cnet.com] that the mechanism was used to calculate Olympiads.
    That was the first interpretation of the mechanism. Now the model shows that it was much more than that as it can predict eclipses and planetary positions.

    As for it not being a 'computer' I disagree. There are two forms of computers, analog and digital. An analog computer is basically a measuring device like a ruler or slide rule, thermometer and so on.
    The mechanism is definitely an analog computer.
    The Greeks were very good at building gadgets and even extremely large hydro-mechanical machines. Most of these constructions were used in temples to simulate thunder, automatic opening and closing doors, automated movement of objects (think Temple of Doom).
    Their skill was renown in the ancient world and the mechanism is a tribute to their ingenuity.
     

  • by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <.gro.aixenna. .ta. .hcir.> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @06:39PM (#26152723) Homepage
    This page is kind of fun [hp.com], showing HP's technology where they light the mechanism from lots of angles and photograph them. (Needs Java).
  • Some (admittedly vague) requirements for something to be a computer are allowing variable inputs that produce variable outputs based on a programmable function. If there were only one function it would be a (primitive) calculator. This is not even a calculator. It's a clock. As one would expect there is natural evolution here from less complex to more complex.

    As an aside I'm not sure why everyone wants to find examples of our ancestors having super advanced technology that was lost in the mists of time.

    • by argent (18001)

      It's an analog computer.

      So is a clock.

      • No. It's not. Try again. A computer allows for variable input. Some things that are called clocks are computers, but this isn't one of them.

        • Actually I'm wrong. It may be a calculator and a clock might be a calculator, but it's not a computer. Computers require programmable functions.

  • 'nuff said.

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