Scientists Unlock Mysteries Of The World's Oldest 'Computer' That Tracked The Cosmos

Scientists Unlock Mysteries Of The World's Oldest 'Computer' That Tracked The Cosmos

This 2,000-year-old device has been recreated by scientists in an attempt to understand how it worked.

Most people may not realize this, but even the ancient cultures and civilizations had access to technology which still continues to puzzle modern scientists. Consider the Mayan civilization, which unearthed the secrets of mathematics and astronomy, but could not discover the wheel or domesticate animals. Among these mysteries is a 2,000-year-old device that has been called the world's oldest "computer". Scientists have now recreated this device in order to better understand how it once worked, BBC reported. 



This 'computer' is called the Antikythera Mechanism which has baffled researchers ever since it was discovered on a Roman-era shipwreck in Greece back in 1901. This is a hand-powered device traced back to Ancient Greece and is believed to have been used to predict eclipses and other astronomical events. That is another thing of sheer brilliance that the ancient people were experts at. They could predict eclipses and various celestial phenomenon using a myriad of ways which modern astronomers don't make use of. 



Unfortunately, only a third of this archaic device has survived, and researchers are trying to figure out how the complete object looked like. The back of the mechanism had been deciphered earlier after much studies and experimentation. However, the nature of its gearing system at the front remains very complex and is a mystery. Due to this, scientists from University College London (UCL) believe that they have finally cracked the puzzle using 3D computer modeling. They managed to recreate the entire front panel and now hope to build a full-scale replica of the Antikythera using modern materials. 



A paper was published in Scientific Reports on Friday which revealed a new display of the gearing system. The design has shown its fine details and complex parts to the utmost satisfaction. "The Sun, Moon, and planets are displayed in an impressive tour de force of ancient Greek brilliance," the paper's lead author, Professor Tony Freeth, said. "Ours is the first model that conforms to all the physical evidence and matches the descriptions in the scientific inscriptions engraved on the mechanism itself," he added. "The calculation of the Moon’s position in the Zodiac and its phase is defined by surviving physical evidence7,10. Since the evidence is missing for the Sun and planets, we need to develop theoretical mechanisms, based on our identified period relations," the paper stated. 



Looking at the mechanism, it has been described as an astronomical calculator as well as being the world's first analog computer. The device was made of bronze and includes dozens of gears. The back cover of the device has a description of the cosmos display, which shows the heavenly motions of the five planets that were known at the time of the device's construction. However, only 82 fragments, which amounts to a third of the device, still remain with us. Scientists had to piece together the full picture using X-Ray data and an Ancient Greek mathematical method.  The completed working model has, at the center, the dome of the Earth, the phase of the Moon and its position in the Zodiac—then rings for Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Date, with “little sphere” markers and smaller markers for oppositions. 


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