A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works. The machine was lost among cargo in 65BC when the ship carrying it sank in 42m of water off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. By chance, in 1900, a sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck and recovered statues and other artifacts from the site.The machine first came to light when an archaeologist working on the recovered objects noticed that a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from thestricken ship subsequently revealed 80 pieces of gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon.
Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.
computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning, a team
led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University peered inside
fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest
inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of themachine.
Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests it dates back to 150-100 BC
and had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon
and the sun through the zodiac, predict eclipses and even recreate the
irregular orbit of the moon. The motion, known as the first lunar
anomaly, was developed by the astronomer Hipparcus of Rhodes in the 2nd
century BC, and he may have been consulted in the machine's
construction, the scientists speculate.
Remarkably, scans showed
the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to
have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation
and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century
Some researchers believe
the machine, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, may have been among
other treasure looted from Rhodes that was en route to Rome fora
celebration staged by......
Two of the pyramids of Giza , the last surviving wonder of the ancient world, were conceived as a single project--a sort of grandiose stage show to represent the final and most important part of a pharaoh's journey to the afterlife, an Italian study has concluded.It is widely believed that the pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafre and grandson Menkaure built their pyramids on the edge of a desert plateau at Giza between 2600 and 2450 BC. But according to Giulio Magli of the mathematics department at Milan's Polytechnic University, astronomical alignments and the landscape indicate that the two main pyramids, those identified with the tombsof Khufu and Khafre, were not built in different stages.
On the contrary, they were planned as a single, grand project."Khufu was the mind behind the project. He conceived both pyramids to have strong symbolic meaning. He wanted to state forever that his soul had joined the sun god," Magli told Discovery News.
which has been published on the Cornell University physics Web site
arXiv, suggests that Khufu planned the construction of two pyramids,
exactly as his father, Snefru, did in Dahshur. Only later did Khafre
claim for himself the slightly smaller pyramid.
Little is known about the 4th dynasty pharaoh Khufu (2589-2566 BC), whose only portrait is a tiny three-inch high statue.
Greek historian Herodotus
depicted him as a cruel despot who enslaved his people to buildhis
huge pyramid complex. But archaeologists dispute that account.
"The name of Khufu and his
pyramid is always attached to a popular notion that the pyramid was
built by slaves. But that was not the case, because the workers built
their own tombs near the pyramid of Khufu, and prepared their tombs for
eternity like nobles and officials. They were also paid by the king, or
worked instead of paying tax," Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme
Council of Antiquities, wrote on his Web site.
According to Magli, Khufu imagined himself as the "son of the sun god," who was thus destined for eternal life.
"What better way to prove this relationship than making the sun, himself, talk about it?" said Magli.
Indeed, during the summer solstice, a spectacular show appears to observers standingby......
At its most glamorous, the life of an experimental high-energy physicist consists of smashing obscure subatomic particles with futuristic-sounding names into each other to uncover truths about the universe—using science's biggest, most expensive toys in exciting locations such as Switzerland or Illinois. But it takes a decade or two to plan and build multibillion-dollar atom smashers. While waiting, what's a thrill-seeking physicist to do? How about using some of the perfectly good, and completely free, subatomic particles that rain down on Earth from space every day to peek inside something really big and mysterious,like, say, a Mayan pyramid? That's exactly what physicist Roy Schwitters of the University of Texas at Austin is preparing to do.
High-energy particles known as muons, which are born of cosmic radiation, have ideal features for creating images of very large or dense objects. Muons easily handle situations that hinder other imaging techniques. Ground-penetrating radar, for instance, can reach only 30 meters below the surface under ideal conditions. And seismic reflection, another method, doesn't fare well in a complex medium. With muons, all you need is a way to capture them and analyze their trajectories. Besides probing pyramids in Belize and Mexico, physicists are applying the muon method to studying active volcanoes and detectingnuclear materials. The concept sounds out of this world, but it's really quite simple. When cosmic rays hit the Earth's atmosphere, collisions with the nuclei of air atoms spawn subatomic particles called pions that quickly decay into muons that continue along the same path. Many of the muons survive long enough to penetrate the Earth's surface. Because of their high energy, the particles can easily pass through great volumes of rock or metal or whatever else they encounter.
Anthony North: In the early years of the 20th century an artifact was recovered from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera. Dated to about 80BC, it was considered a mere artifact. However in 1971 research on the Antikythera Mechanism showed it to have an intricate arrangement of gears, dials and graded plates. One theory is that it was a computing device to work out the movement of the Sun and planets. If this idea is true, then the ancients had a degree of technology way above previously imagined. Mysterious mechanisms: This is further shown by a crystal skull found in 1927 belonging to the Maya civilisation of ancient Mexico. The skull is carved from a single block ofquartz crystal.
So perfect is the skull that it would have taken some 300 years to carve by known means of the time. If a light is placed below it, a prism in the mouth directs the light through the eyes, lighting up the skull. A further hint of advanced technology used by the ancients comes from the Baghdad Battery found in 1936. Said to be at least 2,000 years old, fruit juice was added to a replica and it produced half a volt of electricity. Archaeologist Flinders Petrie added to the controversy with his words on certain elements of ancient engineering. A most systematic and exacting man, he wasn’t prone to flights of fancy, but he noted grooves and inscriptions on pottery and other artifacts that could not have been produced by modern precision engineering techniques. Sounds good: Moderntoolmaker Christopher Dunn suggested a possible explanation for such precision engineering. He puts forward the possibility of the ancients using the vibrations produced by ultrasound. Just how sound could have been used is unknown, but as to its power, the singer Caruso was said to have shattered a wineglass by singing a certain note at the correct resonance. Could the ancients have had technology such as ultrasound that we know nothing about? Modern technology is based on certain principles discovered as we went along.