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TOPIC: Antikythera Mechanism


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The delicate workings at the heart of a 2000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists.
The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles.
Using advanced imaging techniques, an Anglo-Greek team probed the remaining fragments of the complex geared device.
The results, published in the journal Nature, show it could have been used to predict solar and lunar eclipses.

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The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project is to hold a full two-day conference in Athens between Thursday 30 November and Friday 1 December 2006.
This Conference opening is scheduled at 9:00 of Thursday November 30 and the end about at 21:00 of Friday December 1.

The Conference will be held at the:
Lecture theatre of the National Bank of Greece
Karatzas building
82-84 Eolou street, Athens
Greece

Latitude: 3758'55.59"N; Longitude: 2343'43.21"E

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-- Edited by Blobrana at 15:19, 2006-11-24

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Since its discovery in 1902, the Antikythera Mechanism with its intricate and baffling system of about 30 geared wheels has been an enigma... During the last 50 years, researchers have identified various astronomical and calendar functions, including gears that mimic the movement of the sun and moon. But it has taken some of the most advanced technology of the 21st century to decipher during the past year the most advanced technology of the 1st century B.C.

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akamech
Latitude 35 52' 30'', Longitude 23 18' 35'', depth -42 metres

"Nothing else with the same level of technology is known to have been built for another millennium. What we're trying to find out is exactly what its purpose was. We know it's a mathematical calendrical device, which would seem to have something to do with the movements of planets and the sun, moon and stars. But we don't know whether it was an educational or display device, or used for predicting the future of astronomical movements. There's even a theory it could have been used to predict the future.
What we're now able to do is look in much more detail at ancient Greek inscriptions which we couldn't previously see
" - Professor Mike Edmunds of Cardiff University's astrophysics department.

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The mysterious bronze device scooped out of a Roman-era shipwreck at the dawn of the 20th century has baffled scientists for years. Now a British researcher has stunningly established it as the world's oldest surviving astronomy computer.
A team of Greek and British scientists probing the secrets of the Antikythera Mechanism has managed to decipher ancient Greek inscriptions unseen for over 2,000 years, members of the project say.

"Part of the text on the machine, over 1,000 characters, had already been deciphered, but we have succeeded in doubling this total. We have now deciphered 95 percent of the text" - Yiannis Bitsakis, physician at Athens University, part of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from universities in Athens, Salonika and Cardiff, the Athens National Archaeological Museum and the Hewlett-Packard company.

Scooped out of a Roman shipwreck located in 1900 by sponge divers near the southern Greek island of Antikythera, and kept at the Athens National Archaeological Museum, the Mechanism contains over 30 bronze wheels and dials, and is covered in astronomical inscriptions.
Probably operated by crank, it survives in three main pieces and some smaller fragments.

"(The device) could calculate the position of certain stars, at least the Sun and Moon, and perhaps predict astronomical phenomena. It was probably rare, if not unique" - Xenophon Moussas, astrophysicist at Athens University.

The rarity of the Antikythera Mechanism precluded its removal from the museum, so an eight-tonne 'body scanner' had to be assembled on-site for the privately-funded project, which used three-dimensional tomography to expose the unseen inscriptions.
The first appraisal of the Mechanism's purpose was put forward in the 1960s by British science historian Derek Price, but the scientists' latest discovery raises more questions.

"It is a puzzle concerning astronomical and mathematical knowledge in antiquity. The Mechanism could actually rewrite certain chapters in this area."- Xenophon Moussas.

"The challenge is to place this device into a scientific context, as it comes almost out of nowhere... and flies in the face of established theory that considers the ancient Greeks were lacking in applied technical knowledge" - Yiannis Bitsakis.

The researchers are also looking at the broader remains of the Roman ship -- believed to have sunk around 80 BC -- for clues to the Mechanism's origin.
One theory under examination is that the device was created in an academy founded by the ancient Stoic philosopher Poseidonios on the Greek island of Rhodes.
The writings of 1st-century AD Roman orator and philosopher Cicero -- himself a former student of Poseidonios -- cite a device with similarities to the Mechanism.

"Like Alexandria, Rhodes was a great centre of astronomy at the time. The boat where the device was discovered could have been part of a convoy to Rome, bearing treasure looted from the island for the purpose of a triumph parade staged by Julius Caesar" - Xenophon Moussas.

The new findings are to be discussed at an international congress (www.antikythera-mechanism.gr) scheduled to be held in Athens in November.

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X-Tek Systems has played a vital role in an innovative link-up between high-tech industry and international universities, aimed at uncovering the secrets of a two-thousand-year-old astronomical calculation device, more advanced than any other known mechanism for at least a thousand years after its manufacture in around 100 BC..

X-Tek's equivalent of a body scanner has been used to probe the secrets of the ancient artefact, estimated to date from around 80 BC. Discovered in 1900 AD in a shipwreck in the Greek islands, the Antikythera Mechanism contains over 30 gear wheels and dials and the remains are covered in astronomical inscriptions. It may be a device to demonstrate the motion of the Sun, Moon and planets, or to calculate calendars or astrological events. Although the Mechanism is no bigger than a shoe box, it's too priceless and unique to leave the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, so a major expedition at the end of last year brought a unique 400kV microfocus Computed Tomography System, weighing over 7.5 tonnes, from X-Tek to examine the artefact in Greece.

As the results of the research are analysed, the structure and purpose of the mechanism, now in dozens of fragments, will become clearer. X-Tek's imaging equipment has enabled researchers to view inscriptions inside the Mechanism which haven't been seen for over 2,000 years and work can now continue on counting the gear teeth and deciphering the inscriptions. Looking at the data with X-Tek, academic principal investigator Professor Mike Edmunds commented,

"The outstanding results obtained from X-Tek's 3-D X-rays are allowing us to make a definitive investigation of the Mechanism. I do not believe it will ever be possible to do better."

X-Tek's Managing Director Roger Hadland added, "We are delighted to be able to exhibit the cutting-edge capabilities of our X-ray technology in this way. The project has ably demonstrated that X-Tek's X-ray technology, originally developed for industry, can be inventively used for a wealth of other applications."

A final conclusion on the Mechanism's purpose is expected after full examination of the data. The investigation continues to be filmed for a major TV documentary.

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A working reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek computer which was found at the bottom of the ocean in 1900 has been unveiled and is on display at the Technopolis museum, in Athens.



The device was used to calculate the positions of various celestial bodies including the sun and the moon on any given date. While some guesswork was required in the reconstruction, the bulk of the design is based on updated X-ray photographs of the device.



The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 87 BC.
It was originally housed in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, with dials on the outside and a complex assembly of bronze gear wheels within. X-ray photographs of the fragments, in which around 30 separate gears can be distinguished.

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