The Antikythera Device

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 year, 3 months ago to History
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That no other similar mechanisms are known is troubling. It is easy to underestimate how much was lost over the centuries of the slow decline of Rome. We know from other citations that the wife of the emperor Claudius was Etruscan. For her, he wrote a history of her people, perhaps in their own language. Not only is that work – the creation of the most powerful citizen of Rome – lost, so is knowledge of the language. We can read the inscriptions we have found, sounding out the letters. Except for the names of some gods such as Minerva and Mercury, and other smatterings, we know nothing.

Civilization is fragile.

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  • Posted by ProfChuck 1 year, 3 months ago
    The Antikythera device strongly suggests the presence of adjacent technologies such as precision machining and metallurgy. Like the pot that survives the potter or potters wheel this may be all that is left of a previously unknown civilization with advanced technology but some remnants should have survived unless they were deliberately concealed. The gears and the engraved inscriptions on the device suggest advanced capability that extends beyond the machine its self. Where are the supporting mechanisms that would be necessary for its construction?
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 3 months ago
      If that were true, there would be other indications, other devices, even partials or remnants. Perhaps we just do not correctly perceive what we do know of, such as catapults.

      It is also quite likely that this device was the singular work of one person. Its construction does not necessitate the prior existence of machine tools, except, of course, iron hand tools for cutting bronze.
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    • Posted by Lucky 1 year, 3 months ago
      The Antikythera Mechanism is fascinating, both the story and the thing itself.
      It required no technology that was not available at that time - as far as we can tell.
      It was made with human inventiveness of the highest order in that good workmanship and current materials could be used to do something that was a completely new idea, to enable prediction of positions and movements of the planets as seen from a position on earth.
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  • Posted by IndianaGary 1 year, 3 months ago
    The Antikythera device reminds me of Galt's motor just languishing and rusting in an odd corner of the 20th Century Motor Company. Perhaps the inventor was the first striker? Just sayin'.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 3 months ago
      Read the article. Follow the story. The device was found amid other treasures in a wreck on the floor of the Mediterranean. Some of the bronze statues were the finest known since. One easy explanation is that the Antikythera Device was among the loot from Greek cities being taken to Rome.
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  • Posted by  $  Olduglycarl 1 year, 3 months ago
    Nifty device and it shows we do not have the whole historical story and That's painful and frustrating.
    It's tragic when anything in history is lost, good, bad or ugly. So much has been lost due to natural events but it's even worse when history is purposely or carelessly lost.
    Today...history isn't merely lost, it's purposely erased right before our eyes.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 3 months ago
      The reason that so many classical statues have no noses is that they were defaced when mobs of Christians ran through the streets smashing idols.

      We easily cite the Caliph Omar and the general Amir ibn al-As who destroyed the Library at Alexandria. "If the books agree with the Quran they are unnecessary. If they disagree, they are heresy." But Paul said, "Beware that any man destroy you through philosophy."

      On the other hand, we know of the great library at Baghdad and, of course, those hard-working scribes of the European Dark Ages. Similarly, various mechanical devices were used and improved upon.

      Specifically preserving knowledge is especially important.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 1 year, 3 months ago
    Fortunately for civilization (though others of us may not survive a collapse), there are more "preppers" that are preparing for a serious EMP event. The survival bunker business is booming, and there are people doing their best to preserve information as well as themselves. Hopefully a catastrophic event won't occur before we become a real spacefareing society, which should extend the life of human civilization.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 1 year, 3 months ago
    When I read Foundation, there was that plot about the empire collapsing, decreasing in technology, loosing space travel and nuclear power, and going back to burning fossil fuels. I thought this was absurd. In my world progress is always fast and going forward. I imagine it's accelerating, so the world 100 years from now would be unrecognizable to me, possibly with self-aware robots, a partial cure for aging, and elevators to space. It's weird to remember it's not always that way. Maybe I'm just living in an unusual time, and the pendulum could swing back.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 3 months ago
      I also expect civilization to continue to expand and extend. I agree that the world of 2112 may be less recognizable to us than our world would be to a Roman.

      And of all the things lost with the fall of Rome, the worst was not the Etruscan language. People still speak ancient languages such as Basque and Lithuanian. The Etruscans just died out, culturally. (They are still with us: we call them "Florentines" from "Tuscany.") I think that the fall of Rome was hallmarked by the loss of cement. Portland cement had to be reinvented.

      As I point out in this blog post
      Latin was still a preferred language for scholars into the 19th century. Even in the high Middle Ages, as vernaculars were rising, the reason that there is something called "Medieval Latin" is that more-or-less ordinary people across Europe still used the language, but gave it new style. They no longer wrote like Cicero, and they knew it.

      Something lost, something gained...

      I think that the worse catastrophe was the Bronze Age Collapse. (Perhaps geological: Moses at the Red Sea; the Minoan fleet swept from the Mediterranean; city walls crumbled and cities exposed.) But, there, too, we have arguable evidence. And however slowly civilization recovered.

      As for Foundation, just a quick note. You may be right that some planet was burning coal, but mostly, it was just the recession of the Empire and the rise of local rule. They still had space travel - even hyperspace, apparently - and all the rest. But the collapse was clear. And it was deep. Hari Seldon sold the emperor on the establishment of Terminus to preserve the knowledge of the Empire with the Encyclopedia Galactica. The very fact that the emperor accepted preservation was an example of the loss of spirit, of a loss of "psychic" or cultural "energy" across the galaxy. We see a lot of that here in the Gulch.

      Asimov wrote:
      "So success is not a mystery, just brush up on your history, and borrow day by day.
      Take an Empire that was Roman and you'll find it is at home in all the starry Milky Way.
      With a drive that's hyperspatial, through the parsecs you will race, you'll find that plotting is a breeze,
      With a tiny bit of cribbin' from the works of Edward Gibbon and that Greek, Thucydides."

      (More on Foundation in a different topic.)
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  • Posted by  $  1 year, 3 months ago
    The Archimedes Palimpsest
    shows how close he came - interestingly enough - to Newton and Leibniz on limits, and therefore the calculus.
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    • Posted by ewv 1 year, 3 months ago
      Archimedes was a brilliant mathematician for the intellectual state of the age he worked in, but he did not come close to inventing calculus. His method of exhaustion was repeated and verified over and over for each calculation of certain type, and he did not generalize and have the concepts of calculus, including limits, only the beginning of the idea of the method underlying it. His method of exhaustion, was a great accomplishment, but was the beginning of a long progression of development (picked up again long after him) that ultimately led to the calculus of Newton and Leibniz with many advances along the way to that.
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