Antikythera Mechanism: A Computer Built In Ancient Greece Stuns Scientists


An ancient Greek computer more than 1,000 years before its time was able to accurately predict the movements of the planets and stars, even when they would appear to be moving backwards in the sky, new research has discovered.

The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece in the early 20th century.

Archaeologists immediately suspected that it was some kind of astronomical clock, but they thought it was probably of Renaissance origin due to its complexity.

It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that researchers realized that it dated to ancient Greece, probably around 100 BC-200 BC, and that it accurately tracked the movement of the sun and the moon, predicting when eclipses would occur. .

Never has another machine of such complexity been found that dates back so far, as the technology was lost until late medieval times.

Now it has been discovered that the Antikythera Mechanism also tracked the movements of Venus and Saturn, even when their orbit, viewed from Earth, appeared to be traveling backwards across the sky.

Antikythera venus saturn computer mechanism

Until now, no one knew that the ancient Greeks possessed this kind of astronomical knowledge, let alone how to program it into an analog computer, leaving researchers baffled.

“Classical astronomy of the first millennium BC originated in Babylon, but nothing in this astronomy suggested how the ancient Greeks found the highly accurate 462-year cycle for Venus and the 442-year cycle for Saturn,” said the doctoral candidate. and UCL Antikythera research team. member Aris Dacanalis.

Antikythera Mechanism Computer

Evidence the researchers uncovered using X-rays found that the mechanism, which was found in pieces, also mapped the orbits of all the other planets known to the ancient Greeks.

“After considerable struggle, we managed to match the evidence in Fragments A and D with a mechanism for Venus, which exactly models its 462-year planetary period ratio, with the 63-tooth gear playing a crucial role,” said the team member David Higgons. .

Antikythera First Computer Mechanism
Left: Fragment A of the Antikythera mechanism. Correct:
AM gear diagram (courtesy Adler Planetarium, Chicago).

The next step, the researchers say, is to build a physical recreation of the Antikythera mechanism, something they admit will be difficult, even with modern technology.

“A particular challenge will be the nested tube system that carry the astronomical exits,” said study co-author Adam Wojcik.

The research was published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Our work reveals the Antikythera mechanism as a beautiful conception, translated by superb engineering into a device of genius,” he concludes.

“It challenges all our preconceptions about the technological capabilities of the ancient Greeks.”

On this day in 1902, the Antikythera mechanism was discovered.



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