Scientists unlock mysteries of world's oldest 'computer'

Stephen Palmer

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I have to say, this is a rather misleading headline and article, there've been many advances over the last 40 years, and the "new" ones may or may not be correct. Still fascinating stuff, though. Jo Marchant's book Decoding The Heavens is highly recommended from me.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
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The thing about the Antikythera Mechanism that I need answers on is:

Has there been anything remotely similiar been found or described for the time? (I googled that it might have been constructed from 87 BCE or thereabouts)

The level of detail that we get on how this mechanism worked seems to show a"very well developed industry" in creating such mechanisms - where are the simpler versions?

Yours perplexed ;)
 

Biskit

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I have to say, this is a rather misleading headline and article, there've been many advances over the last 40 years, and the "new" ones may or may not be correct

I'm always wary about these sorts of articles (even on the Beeb!) because small advances get inflated with click-bait style headlines. Even so, it is intriguing stuff.
 

Dave

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The level of detail that we get on how this mechanism worked seems to show a "very well developed industry" in creating such mechanisms - where are the simpler versions?
I agree. There "should" be earlier machines showing a progression in complexity, which would enable better understanding. I'm assuming they've proved it isn't a hoax with radiometric dating. Could the fact that it was made in Bronze make a difference (if say earlier, or later, machines were of Iron or Wood)? This could be a "special edition" machine made for someone of high standing.

click-bait style headlines
I also agree. We desperately need more science literacy if we are not to repeat recent mistakes made. We need more historical literacy too. We certainly need more experts. The general public gets its science, history and other expert knowledge mainly from journalists and TV presenters and media websites. They don't read science journals or academic published articles. Those kind of dumbing down headlines serve no one. It is done merely to bolster viewing figures. Then you usually find that the journalists are not up to scratch either.
 

mosaix

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The thing about the Antikythera Mechanism that I need answers on is:

Has there been anything remotely similiar been found or described for the time? (I googled that it might have been constructed from 87 BCE or thereabouts)

The level of detail that we get on how this mechanism worked seems to show a"very well developed industry" in creating such mechanisms - where are the simpler versions?

Yours perplexed ;)

Yes, and us it likely there was just one? Where are the others?
 

Stephen Palmer

author of novels
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Location
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The thing about the Antikythera Mechanism that I need answers on is:

Has there been anything remotely similiar been found or described for the time? (I googled that it might have been constructed from 87 BCE or thereabouts)

The level of detail that we get on how this mechanism worked seems to show a"very well developed industry" in creating such mechanisms - where are the simpler versions?

Yours perplexed ;)
As I understand it, it was most likely made 200BC - 100BC.
There are various possible locations for that, including Rhodes, and Sicily.
Pindar's seventh Olympic ode suggests there was a mechanical "industry" on Rhodes:

The animated figures stand
Adorning every public street
And seem to breathe in stone, or
Move their marble feet.
 

Robert Zwilling

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We are lucky to have found the Antikythera Mechanism.

According to Sprague de Camp, in his book, The Ancient Engineers, some of the temples did make use of mechanical devices to impress the worshippers.

It could well be that the Antikythera Mechanism was the best one built. Even then it didn't survive very well. The metals used could have been severely lacking in corrosion resistance. Other, less expensive models could have been made out of even less durable material, maybe even wood. Even now our technological brilliance can sometimes be limited to the aspirations of a single person. Nowadays we can almost manufacture Galileos and Da Vincis, but back then I would say they were few and far between. If you had something that made you a big success the idea of sharing its secrets probably was not going to happen.

Global population estimates, both the number of estimates and population numbers for that period are also very sparse in number, could be 150 million people. There was probably only a few countries where hard science was extensively practiced. The social grouping was distinctly pyramid shaped, with few at the the top and slavery a commonplace position in life. Possibly one third of the Roman population in big cities was slave status. Outside of the big cities anywhere there were large peasant populations. That had to limit the quantity of cool stuff.

With any product, it has a procedure for proceeding through time, that involves it either fading away or becoming so popular that some form of it can always be found. As it starts to travel through time one of the things that can happen is cannibalizing of its parts, either because they can be used for something else, or they look really cool. The pyramids were covered with fine stone work. All of that has disappeared, taken down and used for other projects. Early in their paths to the future engineering instruments were probably always collectible for any number of reasons, falling into private hands and then disappearing. After a country's fall from power it probably wasn't unusual for things that represented that country's success to be trashed.
 

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