Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but researchers have finally unlocked an understanding of an ancient mechanical work that has been arrested for about 2,000 years. Discovered more than a century ago, the Antikythera Mechanism is a kind of astronomical calculator, characterized by some as the first computer. The fragmented device, which is thought to predict planets’ movement, was found in the sea in 1901, salvaged from a merchant ship that wrecked off the Greek island of Antikythera. According to the Guardian, the shipwreck was the result of a storm in the first century BCE, which beset the vessel as it passed between Crete and the Peloponnese en route to Rome from Asia Minor.
Researchers at UCL have labored to reconstruct a working model of the 2,000-year-old mechanism, based on 82 bronze fragments that survived the millennia underwater. Many unsuccessful attempts have been made over the past 100 years to reconcile astrological and mechanical patterns with a display of the ancient Greek Cosmos of Sun, Moon, and all five planets known in antiquity. This first computer contained more than 30 bronze gearwheels connected to dials and pointers and is activated by a crank handle.
Researchers had to decipher engravings on the front and back of the device, which was originally housed in a wooden case, that specify events and predictions for the behavior of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Then followed a great deal of calculation designed to reconcile “period relations” — the relationship between planets in orbit — by calibrating the geared mechanism. Between the study of ancient astronomical records, complex mathematics, and precisely engineered parts, researchers have finally constructed a working model that replicates the function of the first computer. However, while the current experiment utilizes a set of nested, hollow axles that allow the precise, interlocking rotation of the heavens, the research team isn’t sure ancient Greeks had the capacity to create such hardware.
“The concentric tubes at the core of the planetarium are where my faith in Greek tech falters, and where the model might also falter,” Adam Wojcik, a materials scientist at UCL, told the Guardian. “Lathes would be the way today, but we can’t assume they had those for metal.”
Whether or not the research team has nailed down every particular, the mere fact of creating a working model from such a complex and fragmented template is wildly impressive.
Lebanese art dealer Georges Lotfi, who once helped authorities seize looted antiquities, is now accused of doing his own share of trafficking too.
An exhibition depicts how people have reimagined the medieval period in the centuries since, and how they have revealed their own interests and ideals with each new interpretation.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
During his 84-year life, Liu Shiming helped shape a new Chinese cultural image rooted in the contributions and sacrifices of everyday people.
Playing at several film festivals this late summer, Ana Vaz’s It Is Night in America asks the viewer to take on unusual perspectives.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
The sealant used for gem-crusted ancient Maya teeth had medicinal properties that prevent tooth infections and decay, according to a new study.
Patrons can listen to a collection of 400 titles at the library and borrow them for up to three weeks.
The Los Angeles-based photographer offers an updated version of the mythologized American cowboy, calling rodeos “the traditional drag of America.”
At its core Line Berg’s Fra Far manifests the anguish of a family whose loved one is convicted of a serious crime.
At first, simply watching people read In Search of Lost Time might seem dull; by the end, you’ll be itching to read or reread it yourself.