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Math Technology Hardware

Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism (hackaday.com) 75

szczys writes: We attribute great thinking to ancient Greece. This is exemplified by the Antikythera Mechanism. Fragments of the mechanism were found in a shipwreck first discovered in 1900 and visited by researchers several times over the next century. It is believed to be a method of tracking the calendar and is the first known example of what are now common-yet-complicated engineering mechanisms like the differential gear. A few working reproductions have been produced and make it clear that whomever designed this had an advanced understanding of complex gear ratios and their ability to track the passage of time and celestial bodies. Last year research by two scientists suggested that the device might be much older than previously thought.
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Understanding the Antikythera Mechanism

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  • well, things built by people, anyway. caveman cold fusion.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @12:04AM (#50991457) Journal

      The Greeks were amazing thinkers. They also used complex wrapping of rope around poles, pulleys, and pegs to program automated plays--mechanical TV's essentially.

      Too bad they never leveraged it, probably due to the abundance of slaves.

      William Wilberforce, a UK abolitionist, may have sparked the industrial revolution more than the steam engine and technology.

      A steam engine was invented by the ancient Greeks. However, because slaves were so common then (usually captured enemies), they didn't think much about labor saving devices. Their gizmos were mostly considered show pieces, and thus there was little incentive to improve on their efficiency or utility.

      William Wilberforce's pressure on UK politics reduced slave usage, making machines a more attractive alternative, thus propelling advances in manufacturing machinery.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There's another problem with ancient society: Plato. If you read Plutarch's life of Marcellus, the Roman who beat Archimedes and Syracuse, you'll find that Platonic philosophy and its emphasis on pure mathematics had vilified those who translated mathematics (and physics) into the realm of the physical - into machines. Ancient Greeks and Romans highly prized the transcendent truths of mathematics but not their application on earth, which was the province of lesser thinkers. Plutarch makes the point that

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I don't know if that was a Greek or if it was a Greek living in a later date and living in Egypt. I forget his name and am a bit too lazy to look it up but if the person you're speaking of is the same one that I'm thinking of (the first to do such) he was also the person who made the first steam engine except he never made it work. He did things like make a coin operated holy water dispenser? If it's him then it's usually (wrongly) attributed to the Greeks and to the age where they were at their peak. He wa

      • The Greeks were amazing thinkers.

        And then they ran into the Romans, who were pretty good doers.

      • I think it was Democritus, but it could be a different Greek, who said that there will always be slaves until we have automatons to do the boring, uninteresting and menial jobs. That without complex machines there will always be slaves. So they did think about it critically but didn't really see an alternative, or that alternative would only present itself when technology was advanced enough.
    • I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens.

      Ancient aliens!!
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Hmm... This is more true than you might know. I watch an obscene number of documentaries and the subjects vary greatly. One of my favorite subjects is archeology as it ties in nicely with my absolute favorite - history. Other favorites are a variety of sciences, more specifically astrophysics and astronomy.

      As of late, a recurring subject that is tangentially included is that things are turning out to be quite a bit older than we had previously thought. We're finding that ancient civilizations and their tech

  • Lets hope the Solidworks project gets more people thinking about and enjoying the maths.
    Thats a great after all the computerized tomography work that was done.
  • by harvey the nerd ( 582806 ) on Monday November 23, 2015 @11:35PM (#50991359)
    There are echoes of multiple catastrophes like "The Deluge" and Thera in legend. No telling what we will find when the archeology of the last 25,000 years is recovered from the flooded ice age shores in 300-400 ft of water. Thales awed warring Greeks to scamper away from battle in 585 BC with his showmanship about blotting out the sun, showing us he could predict total eclipse. Bits of math and astronomy might be precious surviving threads no telling how far back. Plato's claim of priests' families handing down secret history / legends across the millenia might not be total bs. Time immemorial indeed.
    • To be fair, Plato is closer to our day than he is to the beginning of written history.
    • It is tempting to think that the flooded area contain traces of ancient advanced civilisations but more realistically, they are probably not very different from those found on solid ground. After all, the flooded areas only represent a few percent of the whole area occupied by humans at that time. Even assuming that the coastal regions were the more densely populated, it is difficult to imagine that an ancient advanced civilisation would not also have occupied some areas that are now inland.

  • This is one of the downsides to a craft-based technological society: when the creator dies knowledge goes with them.

    • As opposed to modern society: when the computers die knowledge goes with them.

      I don't envy the jobs of future historians 1,000 years from now trying to recover what happened in our day. Even if physical media survives that long (which it won't), how will they discern the methods required to read the information back? It's hard enough trying to recover data from 30 year old floppy disks given that you can't buy 40 TPI magnetic heads any more and 80 TPI magnetic heads often won't read the fatter tracks.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's hard enough trying to recover data from 30 year old floppy disks given that you can't buy 40 TPI magnetic heads any more

        Yea, but anyone with a micro machine shop doesn't have much trouble making something as coarse as a 635 micron solenoid. It's no trouble at all for me to make a solenoid with a magnetic focus 1/10th that size, though I can't fabricate anything close to a state of the art hard disk drive or magnetic microscope.

        Besides, you can just remove the disc from the diskette and place it in a spinning magnetic microscope and make a much finer image of the domains, which gives you much more detail to identify what look

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        We can still read the first computer media, and any important media is replicated to modern media at convenient intervals.
      • Future historian may not be able to read our electronic forms of storage but they will have plenty of artefacts to study. A middle size landfill site from the 20th century is likely to produce more objects than 4000 years of ancient Egypt history.

        The fact that they won't be able to visualize your porn collection won't matter much for them.


      • As opposed to modern society: when the computers die knowledge goes with them.

        My computers have information in them. The knowledge is in my head.

    • This is one of the downsides to a craft-based technological society: when the creator dies knowledge goes with them.

      I find it hard to believe that this artifact was developed by a single individual in isolation. It seems more like something that required a fair bit of history behind it, long term development of multiple threads by multiple individuals.

      Ie this seems like just one product of a civilization and the rest of this civilization is missing from the historical and archaeological record.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @12:27AM (#50991555)

    It is said that a wealthy shipowner had the Mechanism built as a navigational aid but the captain of his flagship, incensed at the slow operation of Debian on it, hurled it into the Aegean.

  • It's to defend against these guys...

    http://www.kythera.com/ [kythera.com]

  • The abstract here was so astoundingly poor that I didn't bother to read the article (this IS slashdot, of course).

    This device wasn't for "tracking the calendar"; any Greek who had the power of speech could "track the calendar". This device was for tracking the positions of celestial bodies to a great degree of accuracy. There is a strong suspicion that it was designed and/or built by Archinedes himself.

    After scanning this thing with all kinds of fancy technology, archaeologists are discovering that it is a

    • You don't just make one of these out of the blue then throw away the tech you developed.

    • Though I find the assumption that the starting point of the device is the same as it's creation date a bit of a reach. It's not uncommon for someone making mechanical device to track something, use a known historical reference point to then gauge it's accuracy. If it can correctly calculate the stuff you already know, then you can have a reasonable expectation it will work for unknown events as well. On the other hand, if it fails to properly perform on past events, you know it will definitely be useless sc

It's later than you think, the joint Russian-American space mission has already begun.