Details of a 2,000-year-old Moon "computer" unveiled

The delicate workings at the heart of a 2000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists
  • (Network World)
  • — 30 November, 2006 13:26

Details of the newest research on the ancient astronomical calculator called the Antikythera Mechanism have been published online by Nature magazine in advance of Thursday's international conference in Athens.

The 2,000-year-old device is a complex of hand-cut bronze gears and dials, inscribed with numbers and astronomical terms. It was found a century ago by accident in a wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera and has baffled scientists for much of the time since then.

Researchers in recent years have clarified the device was used to calculate and display the relative positions of sun and moon, and possibly the five then-known planets. But many mysteries remained.

Now there are fewer remaining. The latest research, aided by advanced imaging software and 3-D X-ray computed tomography, confirms some previous insights by researcher Michael Wright and expands on them. The mechanism is revealed as a sophisticated mechanical calculator that displayed a variety of astronomical events and periods, including the sun and moon moving through the zodiac, accurately predicted solar eclipses, and apparently displayed movements of the known planets.

Nature has a general story about the mechanism and its historical context, coupled with material available only via paid subscription or institutional license: diagrams, a detailed technical paper from the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project and a technical summary by science historian Francoise Charette. The latter two documents were made available to Network World.

Roughly the size of shoebox, the mechanism shows two concentric scales, the inner one showing the Greek Zodiac with 360 divisions, the outer, moveable scale is the Egyptian 12-month calendar, widely use then in Greek astronomy. The Egyptian names for the months are written in Greek letters. Pointers show the relative positions of the sun and move, and a device showing the moon's phase was probably attached to the moon pointer. On the back of the device are two dials, each based on spiral design, whose pointers show time based on two astronomical cycles.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Cox

Network World
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?