By: Dr. Tom Macon, Ph. D.
The Unimaginable Discovery
Scientists would definitely have been astonished at the site of a wooden box about the size of a shoebox being brought out by divers off Greece more than a hundred years ago. It would have been mind boggling to conclude that what appeared to be a rotten piece of metal was capable enough of predicting the positions of sun and moon in the zodiac on any given date.
Almost like a science fiction tale of archaeologists we have an example of a mechanism which can be easily attributed to be one of the most complex antiques in existence. The Antikythera Mechanism or a polished wooden case holding bronze gears within which the entire universe dances, is basically a kind of mechanical analog computer used to calculate the movements of stars and planets in the universe.
The Structure that shook us
It has been estimated to be built around 87 B.C. The device was made of bronze and it appeared very thin. It was mounted in a wooden frame with various Greek characters inscribed over it. The Antikythera mechanism seems to fill the void that existed in ancient scientific history about the possibility of any such device that could predict cycles of the solar system.
How Capable is this Mechanism
It provides a unique window on history, giving us an opportunity to view the knowledge of the Ancient Greek. It witnesses the mathematical and engineering capabilities that the Ancient Greeks had. The mechanism seems to provide us with a lot of information on the wide database that the Ancient Greeks had regarding astronomical knowledge of that time. The device could mechanically imitate the irregular motions of the moon which are caused by its elliptical orbit around the earth.
Intricacies deep within
The device consists of three dials. One dial appears in the front and two at the back. The front dial has divisions according to the Egyptian calendar and the back dials have them regarding the Greek signs. This inner dial is movable and can be adjusted to pay off for leap years. Since the Greeks were aware of five planets in their time, there is a possibility that the device could have indicators for all five planets along with references in inscriptions about Mars and Venus.
Why Should We Care
Nothing comparable to the Antikythera device is known. Nothing like this instrument ever preserved anywhere either from scientific text or literary insinuation. From all the knowledge of science and technology that we have we can gather that nothing of this sort could ever exist at a time when Greek were thought to be non- experimental people. This was mainly due to the existence of notions of slavery.
Also, it has been long recognized that in astronomy and mathematics, the Greeks were no beginners but people of another school of thought who attained great heights of superiority. Even the most complex devices of that time contained simple gears. The development of Antikythera mechanism in such a time stands as an issue that needs to be cared about.
High Time that We Care
The mechanism had some really interesting features and putting all pieces together it can be inferred that the whole purpose of the device was to mechanize the cyclical relation that existed in the bodies of the universe. There is hardly any ancient discovery that we ought to care about. A few details taken and the whole body with mass remains just an amount of dust collected and moulded into fine shapes.
A Mechanism that can Open Minds
The Antikythera mechanism however requires some more attention since it potentially is one of the most efficient findings of modern times that can change all pre-conceived notions in our minds on heavenly cycles. It demands care not only because of the whole significance in astronomical terms attached to it but also because of the need to open our minds to the acceptance of inventions that can possibly be better than the modern times.
The Incredible Invention
The Antikythera mechanism is a breakthrough in modern science and an answer to innumerable astronomical puzzles, a key to the hidden treasures of modern scientific discoveries right from the minds of the ancient intellectuals.