July 19, 2024

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New analysis of Antikythera mechanism challenges century-old assumption

New analysis of Antikythera mechanism challenges century-old assumption
Zoom in / Part of the Antikythera Mechanism, dating from around 205 BC, is held in the collection of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Beautiful Art Pictures/Heritage Pictures/Getty Images

The inspiration for the device was the movie of the same name released last year, Indiana Jones and the Disc of DestinyIt was an actual artifact: Antikythera Mechanisma 2,200-year-old bronze mechanical computer. It doesn’t have any mysterious powers to travel through time, but the machine he have Astronomy has been the subject of fierce scientific scrutiny for several decades and is believed to have been used to predict eclipses and calculate the positions of planets.

a New paper A study published in The Horological Journal found evidence that the mechanism’s calendar ring was designed to track the lunar calendar based on statistical techniques drawn from physics, particularly the study of gravitational waves. This contradicts a century-old assumption among mechanism scientists that the calendar ring has 365 holes and therefore follows the solar calendar, but is in line with the conclusions of the 2020 analysis.

“It’s an elegant symmetry as we adapt the techniques we use to study the universe today to understand more about the mechanism that helped people track the heavens nearly two thousand years ago.” Co-author Graham Wan said,“We hope that our findings on the Antikythera Mechanism, while less impressive than those of Indiana Jones, will help us deepen our understanding of how this remarkable device was made and used by the Greeks.”

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As previously reported, a Greek sponge diver named Ilias Stadiatis discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship in 1900 off the coast of the island of Antikythera in Greece. He and other divers recovered all sorts of artifacts from the ship. A year later, an archaeologist named Valerios Stadiatis was studying what he thought was a piece of rock salvaged from the shipwreck when he noticed a gear wheel buried in it. It turned out to be an ancient mechanical device. Antikythera Mechanism Now located in National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

In 1951, a British science historian named Derek J. de Solla Price began investigating the theoretical mechanism of the device. Based on X-ray and gamma-ray images of the fragments, Price and the physicist Charalambos Karakalos published 70 page paper In 1959 in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Based on these images, they hypothesized that this mechanism had been used to calculate the motions of stars and planets, making it the first known analog computer.

The Antikythera Mechanism inspired the title.
Zoom in / The Antikythera Mechanism inspired the “Disc of Destiny” in the 2023 Indiana Jones film.


Michael Wright, Curator of Mechanical Engineering at the Science Museum in London, made headlines In 2002, Wright obtained new, more detailed X-ray images of the device, taken with linear computed tomography. Wright’s careful analysis revealed a fixed central gear in the main wheel of the mechanism, around which other moving gears could rotate. He concluded that the device was specifically designed to model “circular” motion, in keeping with the ancient Greek idea that celestial bodies move in circular patterns called epicycles. (This was before Copernicus, so the fixed point around which they moved was thought to be the Earth.)

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In 2021, a multidisciplinary team at University College London (UCL) led by mechanical engineer Tony Frith, Emeritus Professor at UCL, presented a new computational model, revealing that Amazing show From the ancient Greek universe. The team’s efforts built on Wright’s work as part of an ongoing project Research project on the Antikythera mechanismwhich has made the most advanced 3D X-ray imaging possible with the help of X-Tek Systems in the UK and Hewlett-Packard, among others. Pictures revealed This original Greek version claims that it was an astronomical computer used to predict the positions of celestial bodies in the sky. The Antikythera mechanism likely once had 37 gears, of which 30 remain, and its front face had graduations showing the solar cycle and the zodiac, along with indicators indicating the positions of the sun and moon.