This digital recreation of Antikythera, the world’s oldest computer, claims to have figured out how it worked
Few gadgets are more enigmatic to humanity than Antikythera. Considering the oldest analog computer in the world, it dates from 205 BC Since it was discovered in 1901, archaeologists, engineers and mathematicians have tried to figure out how it worked. Now, a new digital recreation seems to have found the answer.
Antikythera was discovered in 1901 by divers along with a series of treasures rescued from a sunken merchant ship. The ship, off the Greek island of Antikythera, is believed to have been sunk by a storm in the 1st century BC. It is not in perfect condition, not at all. Only a third of the device remains and evidently mistreated by the conditions of the environment and the weather.
Antikythera is some kind of astronomical calculator. The device showed the movement of the planets known at that time (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), the Sun and the Moon. It was based on the idea that the Earth and not the Sun was at the center. Despite everything, he got the trajectories right. How he used to accurately predict these movements is something that continues to baffle everyone.
Composed of dozens of bronze cogwheels, dials and pointers the device allowed to move a crank to see how each of the stars moved in time. It was kept in a wooden box and also contained a “user manual” inscribed on it. Despite everything, it has still been impossible to know exactly how it worked internally.
In a new research published by a University of London team (UCL), they say they have found the answer. At least in part, although this also raises more and more questions and doubts about Antikythera.
Easy to build with modern tools, seemingly impossible in ancient times
Based on previous work by other researchers, on the user manual that came with the device and on mathematical theories of the time … the UCL team has built a new Antikythera. This new Antikythera is digital at the moment, a 3D model made by computer that, in principle, works. They have published a video where the 3D model is appreciated.
The result is a model with dozens of toothed wheels that fit in a mechanism just 2.5 centimeters deep. This, in addition to being amazing, raises many doubts. And the mechanism is so complex that now The question arises as to how the ancient Greeks would have built these gears without a lathe to shape the metal. In other words, it is currently relatively easy to build with a lathe and current technologies, but not with the tools of old.
The goal now is rebuild Antikythera in a real model. First they will do it with current metal molding techniques, then they will try it with the technologies known to the Greeks two millennia ago.
Via | UCL More information | scientific reports