mersenneforum.org  

Go Back   mersenneforum.org > Extra Stuff > Science & Technology

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 2006-11-29, 20:22   #1
ewmayer
2ω=0
 
ewmayer's Avatar
 
Sep 2002
República de California

101101011100002 Posts
Default Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists

As reported in today's The New York Times. I wonder if it conformed to the IEEE floating-point standard?

Quote:
An Ancient Computer Surprises Scientists
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: November 29, 2006


A computer in antiquity would seem to be an anachronism, like Athena ordering takeout on her cellphone.

But a century ago, pieces of a strange mechanism with bronze gears and dials were recovered from an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Greece. Historians of science concluded that this was an instrument that calculated and illustrated astronomical information, particularly phases of the Moon and planetary motions, in the second century B.C.

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the world’s first computer, has now been examined with the latest in high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography. A team of British, Greek and American researchers was able to decipher many inscriptions and reconstruct the gear functions, revealing, they said, “an unexpected degree of technical sophistication for the period.”

The researchers, led by Tony Freeth and Mike G. Edmunds, both of the University of Cardiff, Wales, are reporting the results of their study in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

They said their findings showed that the inscriptions related to lunar-solar motions and the gears were a mechanical representation of the irregularities of the Moon’s orbital course across the sky, as theorized by the astronomer Hipparchos. They established the date of the mechanism at 150-100 B.C.

The Roman ship carrying the artifacts sank off the island of Antikythera around 65 B.C. Some evidence suggests that the ship had sailed from Rhodes. The researchers speculated that Hipparchos, who lived on Rhodes, might have had a hand in designing the device.

In another article in the journal, a scholar not involved in the research, François Charette of the University of Munich museum, in Germany, said the new interpretation of the Antikythera Mechanism “is highly seductive and convincing in all of its details.” It is not the last word, he concluded, “but it does provide a new standard, and a wealth of fresh data, for future research.”

Historians of technology think the instrument is technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterward.

The mechanism, presumably used in preparing calendars for seasons of planting and harvesting and fixing religious festivals, had at least 30, possibly 37, hand-cut bronze gear-wheels, the researchers reported. An ingenious pin-and-slot device connecting two gear-wheels induced variations in the representation of lunar motions according to the Hipparchos model of the Moon’s elliptical orbit around Earth.

The functions of the mechanism were determined by the numbers of teeth in the gears. The 53-tooth count of certain gears, the researchers said, was “powerful confirmation of our proposed model of Hipparchos’ lunar theory.”

The detailed imaging revealed more than twice as many inscriptions as had been recognized from earlier examinations. Some of these appeared to relate to planetary as well as lunar motions. Perhaps, the researchers said, the mechanism also had gearings to predict the positions of known planets.

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.

It seems clear, Dr. Charette said, that “much of the mind-boggling technological sophistication available in some parts of the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman world was simply not transmitted further,” adding, “The gear-wheel, in this case, had to be reinvented.”
ewmayer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2006-11-30, 05:11   #2
mfgoode
Bronze Medalist
 
mfgoode's Avatar
 
Jan 2004
Mumbai,India

205210 Posts
Thumbs up Ancient computer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
As reported in today's The New York Times. I wonder if it conformed to the IEEE floating-point standard?


Quote:
In another article in the journal, a scholar not involved in the research, François Charette of the University of Munich museum, in Germany, said the new interpretation of the Antikythera Mechanism “is highly seductive and convincing in all of its details.” It is not the last word, he concluded, “but it does provide a new standard, and a wealth of fresh data, for future research.”

Historians of technology think the instrument is technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterward.

The mechanism, presumably used in preparing calendars for seasons of planting and harvesting and fixing religious festivals, had at least 30, possibly 37, hand-cut bronze gear-wheels, the researchers reported. An ingenious pin-and-slot device connecting two gear-wheels induced variations in the representation of lunar motions according to the Hipparchos model of the Moon’s elliptical orbit around Earth.

The functions of the mechanism were determined by the numbers of teeth in the gears. The 53-tooth count of certain gears, the researchers said, was “powerful confirmation of our proposed model of Hipparchos’ lunar theory.”

The detailed imaging revealed more than twice as many inscriptions as had been recognized from earlier examinations. Some of these appeared to relate to planetary as well as lunar motions. Perhaps, the researchers said, the mechanism also had gearings to predict the positions of known planets.

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.
This computer has been in the news for quite some time now. I hope their dating methods are accurate enough to predict this early period.

There have been ancient observatories all over the world which predates this find where they could predict the course of the moon and planets like those built by the Incas in S/America, India (The Jantar Mantra) and Stonehenge in Britain to name a few not to forget the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt

Bronze was an alloy also known in the early civilisation so its no wonder that they used it in gears for its anti wear properties and ease of moulding and cutting.

However I observe that, as expected it was an an analog device as were abacuci and other calculating machines dating back to the time of Archimedes who himself constructed such devices.

The difference and beauty of abacuci are they dealt with numbers which is more mathematical than observatories following the movements of the moon which is comparatively simple to construct.

Still the news is astounding for that early period.

As Francois Charette says "It is not the last word, he concluded, “but it does provide a new standard, and a wealth of fresh data, for future research.”

Mally
mfgoode is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2006-11-30, 09:45   #3
ixfd64
Bemusing Prompter
 
ixfd64's Avatar
 
"Danny"
Dec 2002
California

2·3·397 Posts
Default

As Carl Sagan once said, humans from 10,000 years ago are just as intelligent as humans of today. :)
ixfd64 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2006-11-30, 14:24   #4
Spherical Cow
 
Spherical Cow's Avatar
 
Nov 2004

22×33×5 Posts
Default

Fascinating.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
As reported in today's The New York Times. I wonder if it conformed to the IEEE floating-point standard?
And one wonders, as the ship with this computer sank into the deep blue Mediterranean, if this was the original source of the phrases "Sorry; the computer is down" and the famous MS "Blue screen of death"?

Norm

Last fiddled with by Spherical Cow on 2006-11-30 at 14:25 Reason: partially asleep
Spherical Cow is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2006-11-30, 17:01   #5
mfgoode
Bronze Medalist
 
mfgoode's Avatar
 
Jan 2004
Mumbai,India

22×33×19 Posts
Arrow Right word.


Its more an astrolabe than a computer in the modern sense of the word
Mally
mfgoode is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 2006-12-01, 14:46   #6
mfgoode
Bronze Medalist
 
mfgoode's Avatar
 
Jan 2004
Mumbai,India

22·33·19 Posts
Lightbulb The mystery unravelled.


Here's some more gen on this astrolabe.
Scroll right down to the bottom for 4 computer constructed images as to what this machine looks like.
Strange in the mystical science of Reiki there is an inscription called the ANTHAKARANA (Google it) which is a similar sounding name but more a mysterious swastika. I do not now recall whether its left handed or a right handed one.
I do not claim that it is connected to this instrument but perhaps a coincidence.

http://www.livescience.com/history/0...hera_mech.html

Mally

Last fiddled with by mfgoode on 2006-12-01 at 14:52
mfgoode is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Can a RAM-less computer run? jasong Lounge 20 2012-11-26 00:22
Old Computer Primeinator Information & Answers 21 2011-12-12 22:05
Scientists Find Active Volcano in Antarctica ewmayer Science & Technology 1 2008-01-21 18:51
Brazilian Scientists make the Savannah Bloom ewmayer Science & Technology 0 2007-10-02 21:39
Ancient notebook won't run Prime95 kwstone Hardware 4 2004-01-15 00:11

All times are UTC. The time now is 10:01.

Mon May 17 10:01:46 UTC 2021 up 39 days, 4:42, 0 users, load averages: 1.14, 1.40, 1.45

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

This forum has received and complied with 0 (zero) government requests for information.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.
A copy of the license is included in the FAQ.