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Dublin: 17 °C Monday 24 June, 2019
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2,000 year old computer reconstructed in Lego

…Eh, how did he do that?

Still from video
Still from video

WE DON’T MIND patting ourselves on the back nowadays for our advances in science and technology – and that’s fair enough – but it’s sometimes all too easy to forget the level of sophistication our ancestors displayed in engineering and mathematics.

Few artifacts serve as so strong a reminder of the sophistication of our predecessors as the Antikythera mechanism; an artifact fished out of an ancient shipwreck by spongedivers off the Greek mainland at the turn of the last century.

For almost a century the significance of the mechanism was not fully understood, until – at last – science historians realised the artifact was nothing less than a complex 2,000 year old analogue computer, designed to calculate astronomical positions with near-perfect accuracy.

All in all, a pretty good find from 100 BCE.

The actual Antikythera mechanism is displayed the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, so your chances of having a poke at it are minimal. However Andrew Carol thankfully decided to have a crack at building a mechanism that reproduces the algorithm out of Lego – with very impressive results: Using all plastic gears, Carol’s creation predicts the year, date, and time of future solar and lunar eclipses accurately to within two hours.

(Warning: Watching video below may cause doubt over the superiority of one’s own Lego techniques.)

Video via Vimeo

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