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2000-year-old Analogue Computer of Ancient Greece Reconstructed after New Research

Analogue computer.  (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/mar/experts-recreate-mechanical-cosmos-worlds-first-computer)

Analogue computer. (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/mar/experts-recreate-mechanical-cosmos-worlds-first-computer)

The device was most likely used to predict the positions of the Sun, Moon and the planets as well as lunar and solar eclipses in the old days.

Scientists from the University College London may have solved the missing piece that puzzled the scientific community about a 2000-year-old engineering marvel, also known as the first analogue computer of the planet. The Antikythera Mechanism is considered one of the most complex pieces of engineering to have survived from the ancient world. The Antikythera Mechanism had piqued fascination of scientists, drawingintense controversy since its discovery in a Roman-era shipwreck in 1901 by Greek sponge divers near the small Mediterranean island of Antikythera.

The device was most likely used to predict the positions of the Sun, Moon and the planets as well as lunar and solar eclipses in the old days. In their research published in the Scientific Reports on March 12, 2021, the multidisciplinary UCL Antikythera Research Team revealed a new display of the ancient Greek order of the Universe, within a complex gearing system at the front of the Mechanism.

Speaking to the UCL News, lead author of the study and a mechanical engineer at UCL, Professor Tony Freeth explained that their research is the first model that confirms all the physical evidence and matches the descriptions in the scientific inscriptions present on the Mechanism itself. Freeth said that the ancient machine has images of the Sun, Moon and planets engraved in an impressive tour de force of ancient Greek brilliance.

The ancient calculator is made up of bronze that comprises a sophisticated combination of 30 survivinggears that was most likely used to predict astronomical events, including eclipses, phases of the moon, positions of the planets and even dates of the renowned athletic event, Olympics.

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Scientists explained that even though immense progress has been made over the last century to understand how the machine worked, a full understanding of the gearing system at the front of the device had eluded the best efforts of researchers. This was because only about a third of the Mechanism had survived, and was split into 82 fragments, which presented another challenge for the UCL researchers.

However, after a considerable struggle, the team managed to match the evidence in the mechanism for Venus planet, which exactly models its 462-year planetary period relation, with the 63-tooth gear playing a crucial role. Co-author, Dr Adam Wojcik said in their statement that the study is a key theoretical advance on how the Cosmos was constructed in Mechanism and now they must prove its feasibility by making it with ancient techniques. A particular challenge will be the system of nested tubes that carried the astronomical outputs, he said.

Keywords: Greece, Roman Empire, Astronomical Event, Lunar Eclipse, Solar Eclipse, Mechanical Engineering, Antikythera, Antikythera Mechanism, University College London

first published:March 15, 2021, 19:04 IST