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ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism (a glorified view)
A hundred years ago, Greek sponge divers brought up an archaeological find that has since baffled scientists. It was a remarkably well preserved mechanism with a complicated gear train and a calendar feature, broken down into months, spanning a 19-year cycle.

The Antikythera Mechanism, named for the Greek island off whose waters it was found, dates to the 2nd century B.C.E. and has been called "the most sophisticated mechanism of the ancient world." But what was it? An early computer of some sort? An astrolabe? A complex calendar?

Experts from the international community have studied this thing extensively, deciphering the bulk of its 2,000 or so characters and x-raying its 30-plus gears to understand their complexity. The prevailing theory is that this machine was based on ancient Greek mathematical theories tracked planetary movements. The ancients, it appears, used it to calculate the position of the sun, moon and stars, very useful in calculating the timing of big events, such as the Olympic games. Remarkably, it was also used to predict lunar and solar eclipses.

Nothing this complicated showed up again until the 14th century C.E.

The mechanism is displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
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