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.
Saudi Arabia Announces $1M “Freedom of Expression” Art Award
Kanye West, Roman Polanski, and Carl Andre are among the shortlisted artists.
British Museum Offers Greece “Exclusive NFT” of the Parthenon Marbles
“With the power of blockchain technology, there will be no question who the real owner is,” said a British Museum spokesperson.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
MoMA to Co-Curate Exhibition With NYPD
Arrest Me, Daddy hopes to cast a more positive light on the work of law enforcement officers.
Repatriation-Inspired Fragrance Line Hopes to Heal Collector Wounds
The exotic scents of the Rapatriement line offer solace and joy to dismayed collectors who were forced to return looted artifacts.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Prince Harry to Star in New Van Gogh Biopic
The estranged prince said he took the role to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Vatican Partners With Balenciaga on “Spiritual” Menswear Line
A spokesperson for the church cited “shared values” with the fashion brand.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
Iran Issues Fatwa Against AI
A reinterpretation of the Quran through a queer lens, written by an AI chatbot, is said to cause the move.
Met Gala Announces 2023 “Looting and Plunder” Theme
Select A-list guests will be invited to wear any artifacts from the museum’s collection that have not yet been seized by the Manhattan DA’s office.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Florida School Censors Madonna and Child; Calls It “Assault on Family Values”
The school said the Virgin Mary in the painting “doesn’t look happy enough” about experiencing the joy of motherhood. Governor Ron DeSantis applauded the move.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Finally Spicing Up
In the penultimate episode, the show’s editors managed to ignite the spark of mindless reality TV.