Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Ancient analog astronomical computer


Fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism, left, have now been examined with the latest in high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography. New York Times / School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University

Its geared teeth enabled it to perform astronomical calculations of the moon's motion and possibly planets as well -- more than 2,000 years ago. According to the NYT, it turns out that mechanical computing devices far more advanced than previously thought existed in the classical world. The technology eventually was lost and had to be rediscovered much later.
Dr. Charette noted that more than 1,000 years elapsed before instruments of such complexity are known to have re-emerged. A few artifacts and some Arabic texts suggest that simpler geared calendrical devices had existed, particularly in Baghdad around A.D. 900.
Hard to imagine today that Baghdad was once a great center of learning and technology, but of course, it was.

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