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Mystery of Ancient Calculator Finally Cracked 241

jcaruso writes, "It's been more than 100 years since the discovery of the 2,000-year-old Antikythera Mechanism, but researchers are only now figuring out how it works." From the article: "Since its discovery in 1902, the Antikythera Mechanism — with its intricate and baffling system of about 30 geared wheels — has been an enigma... During the last 50 years, researchers have identified various astronomical and calendar functions, including gears that mimic the movement of the sun and moon. But it has taken some of the most advanced technology of the 21st century to decipher during the past year the most advanced technology of the 1st century B.C."
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Mystery of Ancient Calculator Finally Cracked

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  • Just goes to show... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:01PM (#16968736)
    Don't throw out the instructions; archaeologists from the 40th century might need them.

    On the serious side, though... How much of our stuff will be unusable only 200 years from now?
  • by Suzuran ( 163234 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:17PM (#16968862)
    As part of the Project Apollo research effort, I can tell you that the Apollo spacecraft (Which is arguably one of mankind's greatest achievements) didn't even make it 50 years - Even now, with the spacecraft still intact and the crew still alive, we are having to undertake a large reverse-engineering project with limited documentation to recreate the operation of the spacecraft.
  • Re:Beowulf cluster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EraserMouseMan ( 847479 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:32PM (#16969416)
    Just makes me think. If it's this hard to figure out what a geared mechanism does, how hard is it going to be for a hypethetical future generation discovering a computer to figure out what the heck it was for?

    If we all get wiped out by a comet or something and humanity has to start from scratch would we eventually end up using silicon? Or would we come up with a biological solution (like the human brain)? It's cool to think about.

    Maybe we've already dug up things that are more advanced than what we have but we're too primitive to recoginize what it is.
  • by pbhj ( 607776 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:44PM (#16969492) Homepage Journal
    I find it amusing.

    This is a heliocentric astrolabe style device from about 80BC; an advance from geocentric designs. Yet most people on /. appear to espouse the view that everyone before the middle-ages thought the earth was flat. Now granted - the rotation of planets around a common star doesn't necessarily imply the understanding of rotation of a non-flat planet but as soon as you consider other planets rising and setting you're going to start getting some major clues ... really, we've not developed that much.

    I guess at 1:43am I'm easily amused!
  • by Petrushka ( 815171 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:44PM (#16969502)
    they keep the writing secret? What's up with that.

    Because it's kind of hard to read, even if you know Greek. Quite a lot of work needs to be done to get the text transcribed fully, even if parts of it are easy to read. Have you looked at the third image in the slide show? Could you make an accurate transcription of the text shown?

    FWIW, I can read Greek, but all I can make out is some references to a "square showing a given" something, some numbers, and something about moving some bits of the mechanism but not others. The third line's got some words in it but I can't fit them together without context.

  • Link to Working Unit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @10:23PM (#16969808)
    Pictures and Images to a working unit can be found here []
  • I wonder ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:43AM (#16970656)
    ... had the Library of Alexandria not been sacked, would we still have the instruction booklet for this thingy?
  • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Friday November 24, 2006 @06:26AM (#16972496) Homepage
    'Linus' is already a Roman name - from the Greek 'Linos'. According to many theologians, the second Pope was one Saint Linus.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury