[FPSPACE] Ancient Astronomical Computer - PBS, April 3 2013 at 9 pm EDT

JEOberg jeoberg at comcast.net
Sun Mar 31 13:40:59 EDT 2013

I had a chance to actually get right up to the device at a special exhibit 
at the
National Archeological Museum in Athens last October, it was a very detailed
report on the entire wreck's contents, with some particular attention on the

The ship was loaded with Greek antiques [antiques THEN!!] being exported to 
roman buyers.

While it was a clever piece of gear-work [its internal design remains 
speculative even
with X-rays], and it was clearly a follow-on of many earlier, simpler 
devices, two points need
to be made to somewhat squelch the hype:

1. Anything made of bronze would be recycled as needed into other objects, 
over the centuries,
so the lack of any other examples above sea level is not surprising.

2. The Babylonians had already observed the repetitive nature of lunar 
eclipses and
the Greek astronomers were quite familiar with this. After a period of very 
nearly 19,756 days
[only about 18 minutes off], about 54 years, lunar eclipses repeated in the 
same local time and place
in the day/night [but not sidereal] sky. Solar eclipses, less so because of 
latitude variations -- and
there's no evidence that the device was ever used to predict SOLAR 

See wikipedia 'saros' [a misnomer], one third of the full same-location/time 

The Greeks called it the 'ekseligmos', of 'turn of the wheel'..

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David R. Woods" <drwoods at stny.rr.com>
To: <fpspace at friends-partners.org>
Sent: Saturday, March 30, 2013 10:19 AM
Subject: [FPSPACE] Ancient Astronomical Computer - PBS,April 3 2013 at 9 pm 

> Ancient Computer
> A Greek shipwreck holds the remains of an intricate bronze machine that 
> turns out to be the world's first computer.
> http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/ancient-computer.html
> In 1900, a storm blew a boatload of sponge divers off course and forced 
> them to take shelter by the tiny Mediterranean island of Antikythera. 
> Diving the next day, they discovered a 2,000 year-old Greek shipwreck. 
> Among the ship's cargo they hauled up was an unimpressive green lump of 
> corroded bronze. Rusted remnants of gear wheels could be seen on its 
> surface, suggesting some kind of intricate mechanism. The first X-ray 
> studies confirmed that idea, but how it worked and what it was for puzzled 
> scientists for decades. Recently, hi-tech imaging has revealed the 
> extraordinary truth: this unique clockwork machine was the world's first 
> computer. An array of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels, originally housed 
> in a shoebox-size wooden case, was designed to predict the dates of lunar 
> and solar eclipses, track the Moon's subtle motions through the sky, and 
> calculate the dates of significant events such as the Olympic Games. No 
> device of comparable technological sophistication is known from anywhere 
> in the world for at least another 1,000 years. So who was the genius 
> inventor behind it? And what happened to the advanced astronomical and 
> engineering knowledge of its makers? NOVA follows the ingenious sleuthing 
> that finally decoded the truth behind the amazing ancient Greek computer.
> Airing April 3, 2013 at 9 pm on PBS
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