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Unlocking the secrets of the world’s oldest computer

BBC: A hundred and twenty years ago, divers discovered a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera in Greece. What they found changed our understanding of human history. The mysterious Antikythera Mechanism has captured the imagination of archaeologists, mathematicians, and scientists ever since. Now, using the latest 3D x-ray and modelling technology, experts are unravelling the secrets of what this machine may have been capable of…

The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical calculator, has challenged researchers since its discovery in 1901. Now split into 82 fragments, only a third of the original survives, including 30 corroded bronze gearwheels. Microfocus X-ray Computed Tomography (X-ray CT) in 2005 decoded the structure of the rear of the machine but the front remained largely unresolved. X-ray CT also revealed inscriptions describing the motions of the Sun, Moon and all five planets known in antiquity and how they were displayed at the front as an ancient Greek Cosmos. Inscriptions specifying complex planetary periods forced new thinking on the mechanization of this Cosmos, but no previous reconstruction has come close to matching the data. Our discoveries lead to a new model, satisfying and explaining the evidence. Solving this complex 3D puzzle reveals a creation of genius—combining cycles from Babylonian astronomy, mathematics from Plato’s Academy and ancient Greek astronomical theories…”

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