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Monday, March 23, 2009

Decoding the Heavens

Decoding the Heavens by Jo Marchant
Nelson Hernandez, in the Washington Post reviews a pre-historical mystery that is a lot more fascinating than the rather blah jacket.
In 1900, a group of divers and archaeologists salvaging an ancient ship fished out a corroded, fragmented box with Greek writing on it and bronze gearwheels arrayed with a sophistication unmatched until the Renaissance. They had found the Antikythera Mechanism, an astronomical computer dating from about 80 B.C. that modeled the motions of the sun, the moon and possibly the planets, all by cranking a handle.
"Its discovery . . . was as spectacular as if the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb had revealed the decayed but recognisable parts of an internal combustion engine," wrote Derek de Solla Price, one of a parade of historians, archaeologists and computer scientists to become obsessed with how the device worked.


lscollison said...

Sounds interesting... I'll look into it further.

Vanda Symon said...

Me too - it looks most intriguing.