31 Days – The Antikythera Mechanism

This device is just extraordinary, the only thing of its kind. The design is beautiful, the astronomy is exactly right. The way the mechanics are designed just makes your jaw drop. Whoever has done this has done it extremely well. It does raise the question: What else were [the Greeks] making at the time? In terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa.

Fragment of the Antikythera Mechanism

Fragment of the Antikythera Mechanism

Professor Michael Edmunds was speaking of the world’s most spectacular device that you’ve never heard of: the Antikythera Mechanism. It surely qualifies for inclusion in August’s 31 Days of Wonder.

Built in the first century B.C. entombed in a shipwreck until 1901, and not understood for almost another hundred years, this ancient orrery featured a complex set of gears upon gears, the likes of which would not be seen for again for a millennium and a half. It was able to calculate and display:

  • The movements of the five planets known to the Greeks, including their curious retrograde motion relative to the Earth.
  • The movement of the Sun.
  • The movement of the Moon, including its acceleration as it gets closer to Earth.
  • The phase of the Moon.
  • Solar and lunar eclipses.
  • The Metonic cycle – that is, the 19-year cycle which is the least common multiple of solar year and lunar month.
  • The 76-year Callippic cycle.
  • The dates of the Olympic games. (No kidding!)

…All this in a box just over a foot high, 7 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep.

Check it out:

2 responses to “31 Days – The Antikythera Mechanism

  1. Pretty amazing. ‘Cept I don’t think it directly calculates the dates of the Olympic games. The Olympic games are bases upon the astronomical phenomena that this devices is able to calculate. This would be considered the bridge that ties this devices ability to the occurrence of the Olympic games. Discoveries like this, though, are so exciting.

  2. Pingback: The Olive Computer Corporation « ChrisEverheart.com

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