The Antikythera mechanism, a 2,000-year-old wreck found in a Greek shipwreck in 1901, has left scientists puzzled. Considered 'the first computer,' this remarkable ancient device, used for astronomical calculations, continues to captivate researchers.
Bizarre 2,000-Year-Old Wreck ‘The First Computer’ Is So Complex Scientists Can't Explain It
Scientists are completely baffled by a 2,000-year-old crash that has been termed "the first computer."
Researchers have been in awe of the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient astronomical calculator, since it was uncovered in a Greek shipwreck more than a century ago, in 1901.
The hand-powered tool, which is considered to be 2,000 years old, employed a wind-up dial system to keep track of the celestial time of the sun, moon, and five planets as well as a calendar, the Moon's phase, and the timing of eclipses.
It was more advanced than any tool created in the next thousand years.
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Since then, scientists have been puzzled as to how the ancient Greeks managed to produce a tool that was so much more sophisticated than anything else of that time.
But more than a century after its discovery, scientists at University College London (UCL) think they have partially solved the puzzle by recreating the device using 3D computer modeling to see if their suggestion actually works.
“We believe that our reconstruction fits all the evidence that scientists have gleaned from the extant remains to date,” said Adam Wojcik, a materials scientist at UCL, back in 2021.
According to Scientific Reports, the UCL team explained how they devised new gear arrangements that would move the sun, moon, and planets in the proper order in an area only 25mm deep by drawing on the work of earlier researchers, using a variety of mathematical techniques, and using inscriptions on the mechanism.
The system may have shown the motion of the sun, moon, and numerous planets on concentric rings, according to the team's theory.
It was more difficult to recreate the paths of the planets with gear wheels when the sun was at the center because the ancient Greeks believed that the sun and planets rotated around Earth.
The scientists also suggested using a double-ended pointer, which they dubbed a "Dragon Hand," to predict when eclipses would occur.
The Antikythera device has been the subject of extensive study and investigation, which has helped to clarify how it works.
However, lingering questions remain about the integrity of its construction and the techniques used by the ancient Greeks to produce its intricate parts without the aid of modern technology. We can only hypothesize as to the true function of this extraordinary mechanism because of the lack of clarity surrounding its true purpose.
It might have been a toy, a teaching tool, or it might have had some other, as-yet-unidentified use. Exploring these secrets makes us feel awestruck and curious, and it makes us wonder about the scope of the ancient Greeks' accomplishments beyond what we have learned thus far.
In addition to shedding light on the creativity of ancient civilizations, discovering the Antikythera mechanism's secrets also raises intriguing questions regarding any undiscovered technological advances they may have made.
Despite ongoing studies, this ancient device continues to captivate, leaving us with more questions than answers.