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Workings of Ancient Calculating Device Deciphered

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the nearly-unbelievable dept.

Hardware Hacking 268

palegray.net writes "Scientists have discovered new meaning behind the functions of the Antikythera Mechanism, which has been referred to as the oldest known analog computing device. In addition to providing a means to calculate the dates for solar eclipses, the device apparently tracked the four-year cycles of the Olympiad. From the New York Times article: 'Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument's back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.'"

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Yeah but... (1, Funny)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407211)

Does it run Linux?

Re:Yeah but... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407267)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

Re:Yeah but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407277)

No, but it's completely open source.

Re:Yeah but... (1)

dashesy (1294654) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407533)

Open source and old. It should be one of those cryptic C programs with no comments. That explains why they could not get any instruction on how to operate it!

Re:Yeah but... (1)

JiminyJones (1334765) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407287)

Even if it did, there would probably not be any drivers for it. The Greeks weren't big OSS supporters.

Re:Yeah but... (1)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407347)

Demosthenes. That asshole.

cute but... (5, Informative)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407639)

Bad example; when working as a speech-writer for legal disputes, Demosthenes was actually criticized for revealing his arguments to his opponents before trial; though considered unethical at the time, that approach seems pretty consistent with open source. He also published all of his speeches so that students could learn from them; again, very much an open source practice.

Re:Yeah but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407659)

Demosthenes. That asshole.

Up yours, Locke! :)

Re:Yeah but... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407399)

I'm imagining Beowulf imagining a Beowulf cluster of these things.

Re:Yeah but... (4, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407573)

I'm imagining Beowulf imagining a Beowulf cluster of these things.

Nah, if anything, I can imagine Beowulf ripping out one of its clock hands and throwing it to the sea

Re:Yeah but... (4, Funny)

Pincus (744497) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408415)

Maybe this is the true origin of the term Beowulf cluster. Beowulf, being the jock/bully, would see a nerd playing with his calculator and give him hell. The nerds responded by clustering together for protection and inadvertently discovered greater computing power.

Re:Yeah but... (4, Funny)

Theolojin (102108) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407447)

I, for one, welcome our new analog computing overlor...

What do you mean, "They're dead"?

Re:Yeah but... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407787)

They aren't dead, they leave really deep under the earth.

Yes (5, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407545)

But some idiot lost the boot cog and it won't work with any known version of GRUB, LILO, SYSLINUX or LOADLIN :(

Historians speculate that if someone could get it to boot up, it would run faster than a modern PC running Vista!

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407795)

it would run faster than a modern PC running Vista!

So does my left nut...

Re:Yes (2, Funny)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408431)

That's... not saying much. That's like saying "My car runs faster than a dead walrus!"

Rebuild? (4, Interesting)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407583)

Once they finish working this out, I would really be interested if someone manages to reproduce a working version.

Re:Rebuild? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407769)

There is a working version reproduction at the historical museum in Athens, I think.

Re:Rebuild? (5, Funny)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407917)

Me too. And the first thing I'd do is turn it upside down and try to spell BOOBIES.

Re:Rebuild? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24408287)

It's analog, though... :-/

Re:Rebuild? Imagine if they did... (1)

Namlak (850746) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408069)

Once they finish working this out, I would really be interested if someone manages to reproduce a working version.

You could build a Beowulf cluster of them!

Re:Yeah but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407605)

Can you imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these things? That'd be so cherry...

Re:Yeah but... (1)

linuxpyro (680927) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407733)

I'll bet it could run NetBSD.

about time (2, Funny)

darkheart22 (909279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407235)

it was about time...

Whoops (1)

Oxy the moron (770724) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407239)

At first glance, I read this as "Workings of Ancient Calculating Divorce Deciphered."

Good to know that the darn things were as hard to calculate to the "Ancients" as they are today!

12 Ancient months eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407243)

I hope they included Febturday

Re:12 Ancient months eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407371)

I hope they included Febturday

He said turd!

Workings of AC Frost Posting Script Deciphered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407269)

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

print "frost it!\n";

Re:Workings of AC Frost Posting Script Deciphered (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407903)

Psh...if you were using a compiled language like C you probably would have gotten first post.

Re:Workings of AC Frost Posting Script Deciphered (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408459)

    If it was written in assembly it would have posted before the story. :)

Data Sets (5, Informative)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407293)

For those interested here are the data sets and some nifty images available to download:

The Data [antikythera-mechanism.gr]

Re:Data Sets (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407761)

Also, a good video of Tatjana van Vark's demonstrator.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX3dTKdxoSo [youtube.com]

From her site,

This model of the Antikythera Mechanism is made after schematic fig. 5 in Nature vol. 444 and includes a Hipparchos Solar Mechanism of my own design. However I see a-1 as an output to drive a hypothetical planetarium as illustrated.

The Antikythera Mechanism cannot easily be driven from a-1 as any engineer will understand, taking into account the gear ratios. My input is the disk containing the lunar phase mechanism. This works beautifully and allows very subtle setting even with the additional load of my hypothetical planetarium.

From the engineers point of view d-2 would be the perfect input gear. With a crown gear exactly like a-1 engaging d-2 and a little crank, the Antikythera Mechanism (and planetarium) can be driven smoothly and subtly. Experiments confirm this. There is however as far as I know no sign of this arrangement in the original, it is purely my personal curiosity that made me investigate this.

My geocentric planetarium is based on modern data of planetary motion and is realised by conventional asymmetrical spur gear differentials as described in engineering text books. It is similar in principle to Mr. Wright's but rather different in details. I do not know of any detailed description of Mr. Wright's excellent work so I worked this out myself. As it represents the same solar mechanism, with good approximations, the differences cannot be great. Mine has 28 gears.

The strange ratio of a-1/b-1 48/223 is an advantage here. My planetarium, after independent use, can be resynchronised with the Antikythera Mechanism from anywhere in a very wide window of time. Since a-1/b-1 is mirrored in my planetarium to provide a one-year-wheel there the actual ratio is irrelevant. I made b-1 with 223 teeth because I had to make it anyway for e-3 and the information does not exclude this.

Let's not link her site to spare her bandwidth from the click-happy. The sincerely curious can Google.

it just needed to be set... (5, Funny)

notgm (1069012) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407307)

when they found it, it was flashing 12.

Re:it just needed to be set... (0)

Shimdaddy (898354) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407421)

You sure it wasn't flashing 8008135?

Re:it just needed to be set... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408325)

Don't you mean 5318008?

I guess now we know... (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407315)

... what Stargate Atlantis's next McGuffin-centric episode will be about.

Where would we be today? (5, Insightful)

BobTheConvict (1330575) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407321)

I've always marveled at the "how did they do that" nature of such discoveries and honestly makes me realize an incredible loss of knowledge and skill occurred somewhere in the past (Dark Ages perhaps) that set us back thousands of years.

Re:Where would we be today? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407395)

I believe a big "thank you" is in order for organized religion.

Re:Where would we be today? (5, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407519)

I believe a big "thank you" is in order for organized religion.

Actually, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with it.

The Church, if anything, managed to save some of the knowledge that would otherwise would have been lost.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_ages [wikipedia.org]

Re:Where would we be today? (3, Insightful)

Apathist (741707) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407747)

The Church, if anything, managed to save some of the knowledge that would otherwise would have been lost.

Sure, if by "save" you mean "appropriate for exclusive use".

Yes, the fall of the Roman Empire immediately preceded the Dark Ages. However, problem of the Dark Ages was not so much that there was no central empire to act as a beacon of light, but more that education and knowledge was available only to the clergy (and the wealthy, via the clergy). It is very telling that the Renaissance only began with the translation of the Bible into a common tongue, instead of being exclusively in Latin - that only priests could read.

Re:Where would we be today? (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407905)

The translation of the Bible into the vernacular was a result of the Renaissance, not a trigger of it.

Re:Where would we be today? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24408169)

Have you considered the invention of the Gutenberg press at all? Before that many books were hand-transcribed and cost a small fortune. the Cambridge library in 1424 only contained about 125 books, the total value of which was probably around the size of a king's entire estate. A single book could cost as much as a farm.

Re:Where would we be today? (3, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408449)

Points of order:

* "exclusive use", while not perfect, is far preferable to "left to rot", which is pretty much what would've happened if there wasn't at least some entity willing to preserve what would otherwise be disposed of by various invading armies, hordes, etc).

* Throughout Europe (save for Spain during the Islamic occupations), Latin was the common metric of literacy and fluency among anyone who had even the most rudimentary of noble titles. For most of the early portions of the Dark Ages, IIRC it was pretty much the only language of inter-kingdom commerce (which meant that import-export type merchants either knew it, or they got ripped off a lot).

* Err, The Bible wasn't printed in any non-Latin language until the 1450's CE, during the Italian Renaissance, which began quite a bit earlier (13th century), with the arrival of Islamic mathematics and philosophies that came back with returning crusaders... and not by Latin-to-Vulgar biblical translations. You were close, though - in that one invention during the same time period made knowledge easier to access... though not for the reasons you state.

Don't think "Bible", think "Printing Press". Scribe-time before the press was invented was hella expensive for anyone not in the Church wanting copies of something (said church was otherwise busy trying to keep copies of not only internal liturgical and dogmatic script, but to maintain legible copies of everything they could scrounge from the by-now-dead Roman and Greek empires).

HTH a little,

/P

Re:Where would we be today? (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407965)

Actually, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with it.

The cause of that fall is still under debate, but the least that can be said is that it was closely correlated to the rise of the Roman Church. OK, correlation is not causation, but there is no causation without correlation, causation hasn't been disproved either.

The Church, if anything, managed to save some of the knowledge that would otherwise would have been lost.

Yes, and the rest of that knowledge was lost when they scraped old parchment to write their own texts [wikipedia.org]

And the Church murdering scholars and librarians [wikipedia.org] that didn't belong to the Church didn't help too much either. The Church Father known as "Pillar of Faith" [wikipedia.org] who had Hypatia killed was the same man who had Mary mother of Jesus proclaimed as an "eternal virgin".

Re:Where would we be today? (5, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408389)

The Church Father known as "Pillar of Faith" who had Hypatia killed was the same man who had Mary mother of Jesus proclaimed as an "eternal virgin".

Eternal virgin? If that was true, then to heck with this "saint Mary" stuff... Joseph was more of a saint than she was!

Re:Where would we be today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24408159)

On top of the fall of Rome, there were also the purges of pagan and other texts the Christian church didn't agree with.

Re:Where would we be today? (4, Interesting)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408413)

Wasn't it a mob of rabid Christians that finally succeeded in destroying the great library of Alexandria? It might have been the single greatest loss of knowledge/history/culture in the entire existence of mankind. Just think of one of tens of thousands of losses, the complete works of Imnhotep, the man who invented modern architecture, medicine, mathematics and who knows what else, thousands of years before anybody else.

Re:Where would we be today? (2, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407665)

You're right, but not the way you think. Modern science was started by the Catholic church. The dark ages were brought about by the fall of the Roman Empire. Had it not been for the church we might well still be in the dark ages.

Re:Where would we be today? (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407609)

In "Cosmos", Carl Sagan kept mentioning the burning of the Library at Alexandria as such a loss of knowledge. Checking the Wikipedia article, apparently we don't actually know when it was destroyed.

Re:Where would we be today? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24408157)

Yep. I remember me as a little kid crying because of all those papyrus burning, when I was watching Cosmos.
But not only that, the burning of the codex dresdensis and many other mayans documents, and all the other books/papyrus burning organized by the Christian churches and sects also were responsible for destroying pretty much all the knowledge of the ancient past.
So, replying to my other friends, as well: you watching too many movies and reading too much fiction books about the Catholic/Christian churches. Their religion, since the beginning, as a schism from the Judaism, was AGAINST knowledge and education. As the Islamism, as another branch of the same religions is still against knowledge. Pretty much, on the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianism and Islamism) only a small group of out-casts kept the knowledge (Khabalists on the Judaism, some persecuted sects on the Christianism, and the Sufists on the Islamism). The raging mobs those religions always gathered, were and are known by the constant book barbecuing...

not just the first known analog computer... (5, Funny)

Bob the Hamster (705714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407323)

... also the first known example of "feature creep"

modern data recovery (1)

crescente (1334029) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407375)

Haha, X-rays decipher your transcriptions! Someone forgot to do a wipe before throwing away the computer.

Re:modern data recovery (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407675)

I don't even want to imagine a computer with the developers' manual carved on it!

Hey, maybe that's why ancient computers depicted in Sci-fi shows have these gigantic walls with hieroglyphs on them... *ponders*

Re:modern data recovery (2, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408243)

>I don't even want to imagine a computer with the developers' manual carved on it!

One of the Corinthian Letters mentioned in the bible actually was named "Read me first!" (in Corinthian Bold Condensed), but since they didn't understand what it was about, it was not included in the bible.

Need one today (5, Informative)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407381)

The article is dated tomorrow. NYT needs a device for calculating time more precisely.

Re:Need one today (2, Funny)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407541)

...or maybe the Antikythera Mechanism is actually a time machine!

Re:Need one today (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407617)

I noticed this myself when submitting the article; it was an amusing bit of irony, considering the subject matter. Be sure to read the New York Times tomorrow, when they'll be reporting on the outcome of the Olympics :).

Re:Need one today (1)

trongey (21550) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407635)

The article is dated tomorrow...

So is half of the mail in my inbox. Most of the rest is dated 2038.

good news is... (2, Insightful)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407383)

now we, computer geeks, can claim ancient greek heritage.

how cool is that, hmmm ?

Re:good news is... (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407471)

You mean like getting out of bath naked? Sometimes it's so cool you can even freeze to death (very cool death it is).

Again? (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407403)

Isn't this the eighth or ninth time this year that they've "discovered" the inner workings of this damn thing?

Re:Again? (4, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407457)

Isn't this the eighth or ninth time this year that they've "discovered" the inner workings of this damn thing?

It's hard to say. They're also using the device to keep count... They think.

but (1)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407419)

how do we use it to open a stable wormhole to other planets?

Re:but (2, Funny)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407703)

how do we use it to open a stable wormhole to other planets?

You hook it up to the Baghdad Battery [wikipedia.org] .

You kids, I swear (5, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407555)

With your bronze gears and such tomfoolery. Back in my day we sisn't even have abacuses. We had to count everything by hand, do the math in our heads, and remember it!

Now get off my lawn, and take your newfangled gizmo with you!

Re:You kids, I swear (0)

sokoban (142301) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407707)

Back in my day we sisn't even have abacuses.

Or spellcheckers, apparently.

Re:You kids, I swear (0)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408033)

We had to count everything by hand

That's why I was more intelligent than my sister, I could count up to 11.

Re:You kids, I swear (0)

Pontiac (135778) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408155)

Wow, Senator John McCain right here on Slashdot..

Old news. Drumming up Olympics interest. (0)

molo (94384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407571)

This news is almost 2 years old. I suspect that this is being reported now to drum up Olympics interest.

From wikipedia:

Recent research, reported on 30 November 2006 in the science journal Nature, has concluded that the mechanism tracked the Metonic calendar, predicted solar eclipses, and calculated the timing of the Ancient Olympic Games. Inscriptions on the instrument closely match the names of the months on calendars from Illyria and Epirus in northwestern Greece and with the island of Corfu.

-molo

I'm wrong. (1)

molo (94384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407607)

Nevermind. I have been trolled by wikipedia.

-molo

Of course it runs NetBSD!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407587)

Of course it runs NetBSD!!

Deciphered information (1)

swb (14022) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407611)

I think it read "Proof of license -- Certificate of Authenticity -- See License Terms -- Label not to be sold seperately".

Meh. (0, Offtopic)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407631)

They also had a device capable of telling you WHERE the Olympics would be held -- it's very elegant. You just have everyone who wants to host the Olympics bring a lot of gold to one place, and you place each person's amount of gold on the device. The device measures the relative merits of holding the Olympics at any particular place.

Re:Meh. (1)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407721)

That would have been a card that read Olympia! [wikipedia.org] Where else would they hold the Olympic games?

Re:Meh. (0, Redundant)

jesdynf (42915) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407851)

I know, I know.

12 months? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407633)

Weren't there only ten months at that time? I think the Antikythera Mechanism predated the Julian calendar by many years.

Re:12 months? (1)

tedmg09130913 (635019) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407771)

It seems to use the Metonic calendar.

Re:12 months? (5, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408179)

The original Roman calendar had ten months, yes, and actually only covered about 300 days, with most of winter considered off-calendar. However, by tradition, the second Roman king, Numa Pompilius reformed this calendar and added January and February (at the end of the calendar), giving the year 12 months (and so at this time, the names of December, etc. as numbered months still made sense). This was the calendar used (with modifications) from roughly 700 BC to the introduction of the Julian calendar in 46BC. The calendar of Numa Pompilius ended up with some crazy leaps and intercalations to keep it reasonably in line with the solar year, so reform was definitely due.

In doing so, the Romans consulted with Greek astronomers, who had a lot of data about such things (though the Julian calendar is merely a solar calendar that keeps pretty good time with the moon, and not a true lunisolar calendar like one based on the Metonic cycle would be). Greece at the time of the Antikythera mechanism (about 50-100 years earlier than the Julian reform), had in fact just come under Roman control.

In addition to reforming the "leap" system, January got pushed to the start of the year, making the "number-names" months no longer descriptive, and the months of Quintilis and Sextilis were renamed for Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, respectively.

That's great but... (5, Funny)

DustoneGT (969310) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407655)

Don't let the patent trolls know any of this. I am sure they each have ten patents on the operation of this device.

This can not be correct .... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407681)

The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument's back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.'"

The Greek calendar only had 10 months. The Roman's bastardized the calendar to have 12 month (adding August and then July) centuries after the was created.

Re:This can not be correct .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24408237)

From the article :

Dr. Freeth, who is also associated with Images First Ltd., in London, explained in an e-mail message that the Metonic calendar was designed to reconcile the lengths of the lunar month with the solar year. Twelve lunar months are about 11 days short of a year, but 235 lunar months fit well into 19 years.

Doubt it... (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408267)

There are 12 lunar periods. I have never heard that the Greeks had 10 months.

Macedonian Olympians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24407725)

Speaking of ancient Olympics.... I always thought only Greeks were allowed to compete in ancient Olympics. I recently read at some blog that ancient Macedonians were slavic not Greeks. (mind you the same blog claimed Aristotle was a slavic philosopher)

So did the ancient Macedonians see themselves as Greeks or not? I'm leaning on yes (since there is that follow-up whole Hellenic period too) but I'm no history major. Anybody know?

Re:Macedonian Olympians? (2, Informative)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408233)

The didn't exactly LIKE one another but they intermarried and got along. Alexander the Great (or rather more to the point, his father Phillip the Great) was Macedonian and would come to rule pretty much all the Greek Islands and (by the end of Alexander's life) most the known ancient world all the way to India.

There is clear references in Alexander's diary that he suffered some discrimination as a child for being a Macedonian but it was like the difference between a modern-day Scottish and Welsh. Very much like that actually. Ultimately the political differences were small and the cultural differences even smaller. Small enough for Macedonians to become the first Greek emperors anyway.
Now as for Macedonians having been Slavic - that is a bit of a stretch, the slavic nations as we typically think of them didn't really come into their own for close on a thousand years AFTER the time of Alexander, though they outlasted the Romans by a bit they appeared around the same time.
I would say it's plausable that the Slavics may have had Macedonian ancestry, since Macedonia was quite possibly the first settlement of any kind of civilization in Europe but that far back we have almost no evidence of anything and that is pure conjecture. The Slavics could just as easily have been there 10 thousand years earlier and just not left any earlier evidence. To say they may be descended from Macedonians is plausable, but no more so than to say they may have been the descendents of interbreeding between early homo-sapiens and early homo-Neanderthalenses that only developed into a more structured society later. Their highly barbarian society (as opposed to the highly tribal Greeks and Macedonians) doesn't really fit with a RECENT common descent though (for what my gutt feeling is worth - which is at least as much as any other person who studied ancient cultural history).

In the end, the only thing we know for an absolute fact about descent more than one thousand years old is that we are probably ALL descended from Africans our earliest human ancestors were probably dark skinned. Even THEN there are things we do not know - like did the Australian Aborigines split off from the same people who migrated to Europe ? Or did they reach Australia before the continents split ?
There is no way to know short of DNA research which nobody has done yet.

*No, the fact that it is written down is NOT proof to a historian. Alexander probably wouldn't lie about being Macedonian as it must have put a crimp on his career prospects, but we cannot know that he DIDN'T - and a king could easilly pretty damn sure that nothing ever gets written down that contradicts his story - so seriously, we have no real proof. Only tiny bits of supporting evidence, history is trying to figure out the most sensible explanations for them, knowing one of your students will probably come up with something better than you did and be too lazy to write in his paper.

Why calculate timing of the Olympiad? (1)

thedullroar (944296) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407735)

The wikipedia article indicates that people think the device was designed with compactness in mind. So why would you add the feature of calculating when 4 years had passed? It's already keeping track of the months, so couldn't you just count them as they went past? Did I miss something?

Re:Why calculate timing of the Olympiad? (4, Insightful)

Tofino (628530) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408143)

The wikipedia article indicates that people think the device was designed with compactness in mind. So why would you add the feature of calculating when 4 years had passed? It's already keeping track of the months, so couldn't you just count them as they went past? Did I miss something?

You've clearly never developed software for salespeople.

Using my own device... (0)

mholve (1101) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407833)

...I've determined the next Olympiad to begin in...

Eight days.

It Computes Dates (4, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407835)

Okay, it computes dates. So does it also end on December 21, 2012?

BSOD (0)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407901)

A blue screen of death on this thing meant Zeus shot a lightning bolt at your ass!

Computer Model Proves GeoCentrism (2, Interesting)

HighOrbit (631451) | more than 6 years ago | (#24407983)

This is mostly a repost of some things I wrote a few years back, but this should serve as a cautionary tale about computer models and science. This device could "scientifically" prove geo-centrism in the sense of being valid science according to the scientific method.

Valid reproducable observations that lead to a hypothesis and valid proven predictions does not make it "true". Based upon the Article, the Greeks used this to *accurately* predict the positions of planets. This meets all four steps of our modern scientific method.

  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena. The Greeks see the planets, moon, and sun move across the sky
  2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. The Greeks form a geo-centric hypothosis "in which each body describes a circle (the epicycle) around a point that itself moves in a circle around the earth"
  3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations. The Greeks build a mental model of the universe to predict where the the heavenly bodies will be in the sky and then build a device (computer model) that will execute their prediction.
  4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments. The Greeks can run the machine over and over and every time come up with a reasonably accurate prediction that can be verified by going back and seeing that the phenomena conforms to the prediction of the computer model

So, does this mean that a geocentric universe was "proven" by science in the 1st century BC? We would say that was absurd because we have more information about the universe now than the Greeks had from just looking skyward. But how many other computer models and predictions do we take on faith as "science" which are based on incomplete information. Our best global warming climate models are extemely *inaccurate* compared to this relatively accurate device. Yet we accept the (modern) inaccurate models on faith and reject the (ancient) accurate model that this device "proves".

So my point here is that "scientific" computer models should be greeted with skepticism, even when they accurately predict. They should be absolutely scorned when they fail to accurately predict. There are a whole bunch of "scientists" out there running computer similations that are far less predictive than this device that is likey based on a geocentric theory of the universe.

Re:Computer Model Proves GeoCentrism (2, Informative)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408393)

Dear HighOrbit,

Please take a history class, or read a book. There were plenty of heliocentric and round-earth hypotheses put forward during the classical Greek period. Often, the observations and measurement-taking were fantastically good. Furthermore, science doesn't seek to prove anything.

Re:Computer Model Proves GeoCentrism (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408405)

Emphasis mine:

So my point here is that "scientific" computer models should be greeted with skepticism, even when they accurately predict. They should be absolutely scorned when they fail to accurately predict. There are a whole bunch of "scientists" out there running computer similations that are far less predictive than this device that is likey based on a geocentric theory of the universe.

ALL models should be greeted with skepticism. Hell, all THEORIES and all HYPOTHESES should be greeted with skepticism.

That is the very foundation of successful application of the scientific method.

There's a big problem with what you're saying, however... you say that a model that does not accurately predict should be scorned. That is false. Models are often revised to account for inaccurate predictions. As one famous scientist explained, it is not the Eureka! moments that drive true discovery, it is the "That's funny..." moments. In other words, the failure of a model to accuately predict will often lead to greater understanding of what is being modeled. Do you think that the General Theory of Relativity should be scorned, even though, as a modeal, it fails to accurately predict the existence of dark energy and dark matter?

So, to sum up -- yes, skepticism is important in all science. But a model that does not predict accurately may still have value to the scientific community... at the very least, it can be the starting point for a revised model that does accurately predict.

Looks like they found... (1)

Boap (559344) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408017)

An ancient doping clock/calendar.

that thing sucks (1)

nih (411096) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408023)

the only answer i ever get is 42, useless

13 months (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408077)

28 days each.

Then there's new years day, but that's just a blur.

YKIMS.

 

RS232 9600 baud ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24408113)

Looks like its has a Serial port on the side of it?
wait, nevermind, its USB 2.0, I thought they were more advanced than that.

Early Edition? (1)

Huggs (864763) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408171)

This device seems to have the ability to accurately predict the future as well. According to the date on TFA, the article hasn't even been published yet!

Truly a marvel of ancient ingenuity! (all sarcasm aside)

Workings of Ancient Calculating Device Deciphered? (0, Troll)

justaguylikeme (963377) | more than 6 years ago | (#24408419)

They're behind the times... I learned how to use a slide rule ages ago.
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