Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Linguistic Clue Pushes Back Origin of "World's Oldest Computer"

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the multidisciplinary-isn't-just-for-the-dungeon dept.

Technology 141

Calopteryx points out a piece at New Scientist which suggests that the Antikythera mechanism may be even older than previously thought; an ancient Greek word on of the device's dials suggests the device may date to the early second century BC. The article is accompanied by a great animation of its (deduced) workings, too.

cancel ×

141 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Well that concludes many things (2, Funny)

tengeta (1594989) | about 5 years ago | (#28893055)

Watch, next thing you know that dial is how they got their ancient IP addresses.

But Does It End In 2012 (tm) (3, Insightful)

RuBLed (995686) | about 5 years ago | (#28893149)

My gut says someone is already thinking of adding this device as part of a movie plot. sigh...

Re:But Does It End In 2012 (tm) (2, Insightful)

timothy (36799) | about 5 years ago | (#28893265)

Two syllables, one color-word? And the color word might remind you of the content of (what I hear) is a vital plot device in another movie which is apparently a bit better than (say) The Da Vinci Code called Two Girls One Cup?

Because I suspect he's just floating in a pool of his own drool trying to work this device into an awful novel.

timothy

Re:But Does It End In 2012 (tm) (1)

kv9 (697238) | about 5 years ago | (#28895523)

+5, Scatological

Re:But Does It End In 2012 (tm) (3, Funny)

jandersen (462034) | about 5 years ago | (#28893333)

My gut says someone is already thinking of adding this device as part of a movie plot. sigh...

Really? Mine generally just growls.

fiction plot (1)

Anne Honime (828246) | about 5 years ago | (#28894685)

As far as I know, Clive Cussler already plotted a Dirk Pitt novel around this device. Can't remember which one though, he's quite a prolific writer.

Re:fiction plot (3, Funny)

AshtangiMan (684031) | about 5 years ago | (#28895259)

If by prolific you mean terrible then I agree :)

Re:Well that concludes many things (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 5 years ago | (#28893155)

Oh, you and your wild anachronisms. Next you'll be telling us they played D&D in ancient Rome!

Re:Well that concludes many things (2, Funny)

dkf (304284) | about 5 years ago | (#28893675)

Oh, you and your wild anachronisms. Next you'll be telling us they played D&D in ancient Rome!

No, but they did have dungeons and live-action runs of Gladiators.

Re:Well that concludes many things (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#28895151)

Oh, you and your wild anachronisms. Next you'll be telling us they played D&D in ancient Rome!

I don't know about Rome, but I hear the Egyptians were famous for their games of Dungeon Draggin'.

Computer? (-1, Troll)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 5 years ago | (#28893117)

It is a very impressive find but if that counts as a computer then so does a stick and some sand which we know is far older and is probably what was used to design the device that was discovered.

Re:Computer? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893143)

I disagree with you.
This not a free form stick and sand device.
It's a mechanical device that deterministically computes planetary data based on user input.
It's a highly specialized computer in my book.

RMS 2000 BC (2, Funny)

ciderVisor (1318765) | about 5 years ago | (#28894017)

This not a free form stick and sand device.

"GNU/Stick and Sand" has the Four Freedoms.

Re:Computer? (3, Funny)

Mozk (844858) | about 5 years ago | (#28896073)

It's a mechanical device that deterministically computes planetary data based on user input.
It's a highly specialized computer in my book.

But does it run Linux?

(Don't worry; I hated typing that joke as much as you hated reading it.)

Re:Computer? (2, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 5 years ago | (#28893163)

A computer? That's the hot chick who crunches numbers for me.

Re:Computer? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 years ago | (#28893607)

It's as much of a "computer" as my Casio G-Shock is. The Casio is microprocessor controlled so you shouldn't have a problem with accepting that.

It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1, Troll)

AftanGustur (7715) | about 5 years ago | (#28893201)

I sometimes wonder what the world would look like today if the Catholic church hadn't held back scientific research in the middle ages and killed the best and brightest minds..

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893233)

I sometimes wonder what the world would look like today if the Catholic church hadn't held back scientific research in the middle ages and killed the best and brightest minds..

They didn't actually do that, but don't let that get in the way of your prejudice. About the worst they can reasonably be accused of is encouraging bright people to remain celibate.

Either way, though, it wouldn't have changed much. The Catholics did not control the entire world, and there was plenty going on outside their reach -- particularly in the Islamic world, where massive progress was made in mathematics, chemistry, and astronomy.

Nice troll though.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (4, Insightful)

gknoy (899301) | about 5 years ago | (#28893261)

Wouldn't threatening leading scientists with heresy or witchcraft charges, crusades against a technologically advanced (and supportive of science!) civilization, and a general discouragement of literacy outside the clergy count as "holding back scientific research"? I think it does.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893311)

Please don't let the facts get in the way of GP's prejudice!

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (3, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893319)

Happened all the way later, the funny thing is the so called dark ages the middle ages were not that dark, the witch burning happened way after the middle ages with their height about 300 years ago, but when that started to happen the genie in form of the printing press was already out of the bottle.

And even worse the catholics were not even the worst witch burners in fact in the later stages during the 30 years war in europe the offical roman view was even against it (the triggering books although were clearly catholic), but it was a mass phenomenon infesting the minds of the europeans at that time, and the protestants often being worse.

Also the stance of the catholic church towards science and the trial of galileo did not change anything and it would not have happened probably in the middle ages.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (3, Informative)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893327)

Ah to add an example the so called dark middle ages, were the foundation of the first universities in paris and there was a huge exchange between the scholars of france and granada (which was the science capital of that time)

The situation was simply that the roman empire was crushed and so in the european world science was lost what was saved mostly could be found in cloisters which also opened the first schools, the other roman world the byzantime empire still had it thriving but was constantly under war so they had higher priorities, but nevertheless all the science also went into the arabic world and from then again into europe!

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893501)

but never let facts interfere with hate.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1, Insightful)

RaymondKurzweil (1506023) | about 5 years ago | (#28893593)

Jeez, AC.

Yes, maybe the GGP exageratted some things, but it still doesn't change the fact that the Catholic Church sucks.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (3, Informative)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893909)

Not more than many other churches, as soon as extremists have a certain percentage every religion starts to suck.
There are churches on the protestant side and on the orthodox side which are so extreme that the catholic church looks like a bunch of liberal hippies compared to them.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

AshtangiMan (684031) | about 5 years ago | (#28895477)

This shouldn't be modded flamebait, just left unmodded is better, after all it's just an opinion and fairly topical. Churches suck, as the goal of the institution is to control its members behavior. The Catholic church (disclaimer, I was raised catholic) seemed ok to me as a kid because it preached free will. That part seems to be missing these days, at least in the bumper sticker and sound bite world (eg you cant be catholic and pro-choice). But it falls into the same trap that most religions I have seen do, which is in its daily doctrine the church teaches that god is some being that exists externally to all of us and who all of us are beneath, like a child is beneath its parents. So in order to make it to "heaven" you have to follow the rules. Utter bullshit, but apparently effective bullshit. Any true religion rather than giving you answers will simply help you answer your own questions about what god is to you, what "right" is for you, and how to find your own spiritual sense. Any one here belong to a religion/ church like that?

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Insightful)

SlashWombat (1227578) | about 5 years ago | (#28893541)

I had always read that the Arabs were the repository of ancient knowledge, keeping good quality copies in libraries, not some cloister in some hick medieval village. (In fact, religion is often quoted as being the cause of the destruction of the library at Alexandria ...) Thus our numeric scheme (0..9, 10 ...). As much as many seem to deny (in the threads above) Religion has been accused of holding back scientific progress. If some halfwit religous nut calculates that the world is only 6231.1215926 years old, that is the age of the world! Thus evolution is a load of crap, since the world is demonstrably less than 7000 years old.

Better get of my soapbox now, before some deluded religious maniac threatens me with bodily harm.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (4, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893921)

I would not even say the arabs are the safekeepers, probably almost the entire middle age society with western europe being the dark spot only. The biggest gate was Constantinople with their book copy shops from there the books went into the arabic world and also to some degree into europe.
For those countries western europe must have looked like Afghanistan looks now for us.

This is one of the biggest mistakes tought in schools that the middle ages were some kind of age where knowledge was lost everywhere while only a small subset of the world lost its knowledge (which it never had in the first degree since france never went into this stage after the roman empire collapse neither did italy really nor spain)

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 5 years ago | (#28894201)

Yes, the church built several universities.

But scholars at these universities only engaged in intellectual masturbation (i.e. religion). They produced ZERO useful results. Literally zero. Oh, and they even failed to preserve antic texts, overwriting old parchments with stupid prayers.

And what about the Library of Alexandria? It was destroyed by Christians.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#28893747)

Funny enough, it wasn't the RCC. As much as they're dogmatic about religious things, they were (and to some degree still are) pretty lenient and progressive towards research and science. The RCC are hardly Luddites, and quite a bit of progress that was possible in medieval times was helped by Popes who wanted better artillery and more sculptures.

The RCC was a good scapegoat for emperors, though, if they wanted a cheap and easy way to get rid of gripers. Much like a lot of "terrorist" laws are today. Heretic, witch, communist, terrorist... why do you think the times change? The terms change, their use stays the same. It's a tool for those in power to intimidate their subjects and gain support for their quest to weed out the malcontents that dare to raise their voice.

The RCC wasn't keen on keeping literacy down. In fact, they taught it. Most charges of heresy and witchcraft against scientists were not raised by the RCC itself but rather by powerful individuals that were threatened by them. The Roman Inquisition was one of the most advanced judical systems in those times, and many people accused of heresy hoped to be subjected to the RI instead of a "worldly" court because your chance for a fair trial (as far as fairness went in those times) was heaps higher. You had the right to a defender who was educated in Roman Law, you had the right to be sheltered, in such a way that it is possible to you to prepare for your trial, the judges were not under the direct control of the Pope (actually quite often they acted against the Pope's interests) and your chance to go out free was not too bad, compared to other trials of that times. Maybe the best example on how much these Inquisition trials were aiming at finding the truth rather than a 'desired' result was the trial of Martin Luther, who, after all, challenged the RCC itself.

The Spanish Inquisition is the one we usually think of when we think of the term "Inquisition", with fake trials and torture and predetermined verdicts. This was by no means sanctioned by the RCC and actually just a tool of the local authorities, not one of the Holy See.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | about 5 years ago | (#28894517)

Perhaps the RCC could sponsor the development of a "moderate" button that doesn't select "Redundant" when I meant "Interesting". Posting to undo same.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

alexhard (778254) | about 5 years ago | (#28894533)

The RCC most definitely did not help improve literacy. Contrast Moorish Spain which had virtually universal literacy with the rest of Europe at the time, and their stance toward learning becomes obvious.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 5 years ago | (#28893659)

Just look at Galileo Galilei or Jean Francois Champollion for examples of what the Catholics did against science.
Galileo was pushing the sun-centered universe and was persecuted by the Church for it. And the Church went after Champollion because of a fear that he would discover something in Egypt proving that the Great Flood of the bible couldn't have happened when the Church said it did.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

smoker2 (750216) | about 5 years ago | (#28894417)

Galileo was pushing the sun-centered universe and was persecuted by the Church for it.

That's not true. The Church were quite happy with the heliocentric version of the way the solar system worked - it meant that by using those calculations, they could determine the exact date of Easter much more precisely. Previously their system had Easter moving throughout the year unpredictably, whereas under a heliocentric system it could be pinned down to within a month.

They persecuted Galileo because he had some un-politically correct things to say about the church and the Pope. That didn't stop them using the calculations though.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei#Church_controversy [wikipedia.org]

By 1616 the attacks on Galileo had reached a head, and he went to Rome to try to persuade the Church authorities not to ban his ideas. In the end, Cardinal Bellarmine, acting on directives from the Inquisition, delivered him an order not to "hold or defend" the idea that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still at the centre. The decree did not prevent Galileo from discussing heliocentrism hypothesis (thus maintaining a facade of separation between science and the church). For the next several years Galileo stayed well away from the controversy. He revived his project of writing a book on the subject, encouraged by the election of Cardinal Barberini as Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Barberini was a friend and admirer of Galileo, and had opposed the condemnation of Galileo in 1616. The book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632, with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission.

Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo's book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberately, Simplicio, the defender of the Aristotelian Geocentric view in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool. This fact made Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems appear as an advocacy book; an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defense of the Copernican theory. To add insult to injury[neutrality disputed], Galileo put the words of Pope Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicio. Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book.[90] However, the Pope did not take the suspected public ridicule lightly, nor the blatant bias. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to defend his writings.

So this tell us that by using a character called Simplicio as the geocentric supporter in the book, and making him appear an idiot, having Simplicio repeat the words of the Pope made the Pope look like an idiot. This is what damned Galileo, not heliocentrism.

The Vatican Supported Astronomy [209.85.229.132]
Did the Church Study Astronomy ? [webexhibits.org]

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Heed00 (1473203) | about 5 years ago | (#28893733)

Galileo begs to differ that, "the worst they can reasonably be accused of is encouraging bright people to remain celibate."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei#Church_controversy [wikipedia.org]

With the loss of many of his defenders in Rome because of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy in 1633. The sentence of the Inquisition was in three essential parts:

1) Galileo was found "vehemently suspect of heresy," namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to "abjure, curse and detest" those opinions.

2) He was ordered imprisoned; the sentence was later commuted to house arrest.

3) His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893941)

The church was fighting a loosing battle there, the main issue was the invention of the printing press, the church tried to supress things and development, and did not manage. You can draw a shitload of parallels to the MP/RI AA mess we have today.
That does not mean they hampered or stopped any development, and that did not happen in the middle ages!

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Heed00 (1473203) | about 5 years ago | (#28894029)

I was responding to the assertion that, "About the worst they can reasonably be accused of is encouraging bright people to remain celibate." I pointed out a counter-example to that assertion which clearly shows the church doing a lot more than encouraging Galileo to "keep it in his pants".

And yes, you're correct -- that happened about 100 years after the period in time known as "the middle ages". But that doesn't change the inaccuracy of the original assertion that all the church really did was encourage bright people to be celibate. The church clearly used its power to stifle thought that conflicted with its world view.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 5 years ago | (#28895129)

Tell that to Geordano Bruno http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno [wikipedia.org] and all the others who were burnt at the stake for heresy. Of course the stupid thing is that the real heretics were those at the conclave of nicea who decided to amend the bible to fit around the classical Aristotelian view of the world. Had they not gone down that path we may well have had the renaissance 500 years earlier.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893303)

Nothing would have been changed, in the byzantine empire and the arabic world and china knowledge thrived, so basically

nothing was held back. I think technological jumps follow a cycle and currently we are at the height of such a development cycle which might slow down again for several decades.
The main root for modern science were some factors, call it the lazy well fed european together with the connection between mathematics and physics layed out by people like Decardes Leibnitz and Newton.
It could have been developed earlier in the arabic or byzantine world or in china, the foundations always were there and also the minds and some already did, but the theories did not stay long enough to have an impact.
For instance the first steam engine was designed in Alexandria, but it never had any impact due to inherent slavery being present, same goes for the connection of mathematics and physics and generally calculus which is the foundation of the connection, all done in greece to some degree but it had not any impact because mathematics were seen by the general public as being from a to esoteric angle and the people doing the connection did not make enough impact on society.
Same in the arabic world, they took the decade system with zero from india and developed it further again no impact.
Sometimes an apple is all you need to change the world.

And I dont think it would have happend earlier with or without the catholic churchs stance on things in the middle ages.
(Which were not that bad they preserved knowledge as well, but europe was piss poor and most people had survival in mind, things became bad later when the printing press was invented)

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (3, Insightful)

bundaegi (705619) | about 5 years ago | (#28893359)

Read Bachelard Formation of the scientific mind [amazon.com] and weep. If only it were so easy and blame everything on the catholic church. For a very long period of time, it looks as if entertainment value was put way above scientific rigor... that and scientific thinking is quite a recent thing. From the book, experiment held around 1700 (from vague recollection): Electricity from a battery cell passes through a liquid and the experimenter's tongue. Experimenter then "tastes" the electricity. Taste through milk? "Soft and sweet" as opposed to electricity flowing through vinegar "strong acid taste". Anyway, interesting read.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 5 years ago | (#28893487)

For a very long period of time, it looks as if entertainment value was put way above scientific rigor

And we have recently returned to that dark age.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28894847)

Oh boo hoo, science hasn't slowed down any, and it isn't as if current researchers are working on easier problems.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28895565)

STFU

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28895461)

The real beginning of science is when natural philosophers started talking to people who worked with materials.

For a glass maker, or rope maker or metal forge owner, speculation about the world was not enough.
If they were not correct in their calculations, glass was cloudy, metal brittle and ropes weak.
If that happened, they did not get paid.

So for these people, science had to be accurate, process had to be repeatable.

So when the first real scientist, Robert Hook , started investigations, those were the people he consulted.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893457)

If anything, the catholic church promoted the brightest minds and protected them. You know, when the roman empire fell, most europeans favourite hobby was still smashing their neighbours heads with axes. It wasn't even just the northern europeans, since the german tribes spread to all parts of the old western rome.

Luckily, the catholic church eventually converted these peoples and with that came a culture where even a quiet man who spent most of his life in a room doing experiments could be regarded a great man. That would not have happened without the catholic church.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28894079)

Luckily, the catholic church eventually converted these peoples

      You make it sound wonderful. Yes, just like the Catholic church "converted" the natives living in the Americas. Oh, where are they today, anyway? That's right, most of them chose to die rather than be "converted". Now why would that be?

      No, it's not burning people at the stake that brought about the renaissance. Progress and science continued East of Constantinople which less than 300 years after the fall of Rome, converted to Islam. During the golden age of the Islamic Caliphate, great progress was achieved in mathematics and natural science while Europe was embroiled in petty squabbles and eternally warring fiefdoms and baronies. The catholic church actively persecuted scientists as heretics, whereas the Islamic world embraced them (with certain limitations in the field of medicine, like not allowing dissections of the human body).

      Then the Mongols invaded and destroyed the Islamic caliphate, and again a lot of progress and knowledge was lost in the world. Fortunately for Western Europe the big fish had eaten most of the little fish, and the squabbling local bosses had been forced to accept the rule of kings by then. This allowed for the organization of navies, the re-establishment of international trade and the establishment of universities - like Salamanca in Spain and Oxford and Cambridge in England. Finally Western Europe could afford to maintain scholars again. However what mostly happened is that they copied the knowledge that was coming from the East. It would be another 200 years before the Renaissance happened, and invention took off in the West.

      No, please don't give me that line about how the church promoted scholarship. The ONLY thing the church did was force monks to copy old texts, and that's how SOME of the ancient knowledge was preserved. However monks weren't allowed to pass that knowledge on to the general public, and didn't communicate much among themselves lest they be called heretics.

      It's no coincidence that the only "religious" scientist, Mendel, only had his work on genetics "discovered" 200 years AFTER HE WAS DEAD.

      I suggest you read a few history books, and you'll see what a nasty political tool the Catholic church (or any church, for that matter) is. But remember, God needs your money.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 5 years ago | (#28894209)

No, please don't give me that line about how the church promoted scholarship. The ONLY thing the church did was force monks to copy old texts, and that's how SOME of the ancient knowledge was preserved.

And build universities and schools and fund scientists. Funny how Europe can have so many old universities isn't it? And funny how they were all founded by a pope?

However monks weren't allowed to pass that knowledge on to the general public, and didn't communicate much among themselves lest they be called heretics.

You are making that up. It has absolutely no basis in reality.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (3, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28894359)

And build universities and schools and fund scientists. Funny how Europe can have so many old universities isn't it?

[citation needed]

University of Bologna, founded in 1088 and received a charter from Frederick I, King of Germany and Italy in 1158.
Salamanca - founded by Alfonso IX, King of Spain in 1218
University of Paris - founded between 1160 and 1170 and later recognized by Pope Innocent III (who was a graduate in 1182).
University of Oxford - founded in the 11th century, not by any pope.
University of Cambridge - founded by students fleeing the University of Oxford...
University of Padua, founded 1122 by students of the University of Bologna

in fact, here's a link [wikipedia.org] for you, where you can see that really not that many universities were founded by popes - especially outside of the Italian peninsula, and most of those were founded 200+ years after the first universities because Italy was starting to lag far behind the rest of the world. The renaissance may have begun in Italy, but if you look at the names of the great scientists, most of them are German, French or English.

I will argue that the pope's main interests in the universities was to assure that the "fourth" doctrine, theology, was taught properly, and that none of the other fields of study (law, medicine and philosophy) strayed from permitted doctrine.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Informative)

orzetto (545509) | about 5 years ago | (#28894263)

It's no coincidence that the only "religious" scientist, Mendel, only had his work on genetics "discovered" 200 years AFTER HE WAS DEAD.

That's 20 I suppose. Mendel died in 1884 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Mendel's work .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28894471)

Mendel also appeared to fudge his figures in a big way.
The main reason his work was given short shrift at the time was that his reported experimental results clustered too closely around his 3:1 ratio.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendel [wikipedia.org]

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Insightful)

mcoca (264601) | about 5 years ago | (#28894415)

You make it sound wonderful. Yes, just like the Catholic church "converted" the natives living in the Americas. Oh, where are they today, anyway? That's right, most of them chose to die rather than be "converted". Now why would that be?

Take a look south of the US border sometime. Most of the Central and South American population is of native descent. Of the ones that died, most didn't "chose" to, but died of imported diseases no one really had control over. The only large area of the Americas where natives were completely eradicated was North America, which happens to be the only area colonized largely by non-Catholic nations...

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

crrkrieger (160555) | about 5 years ago | (#28894719)

No, please don't give me that line about how the church promoted scholarship. The ONLY thing the church did was force monks to copy old texts, and that's how SOME of the ancient knowledge was preserved. However monks weren't allowed to pass that knowledge on to the general public, and didn't communicate much among themselves lest they be called heretics.

Excsue me? Weren't allowed to pass knowledge on tot he general public? I think, perhaps, you have forgotten that the general public DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO READ! It's not that they weren't allowed to pass it on, it is that they were unable to do so. Yes, perhaps there were some rules about keeping the riff raff out of the libraries, but lets be fair, when they can't read, why would they need to be there?

It's no coincidence that the only "religious" scientist, Mendel, only had his work on genetics "discovered" 200 years AFTER HE WAS DEAD.

Actually, you are right, it is not a a coincidence, it was the fault of a "scientist". Mendel took his results to the leading scientist in the area who told him he was an idiot. So, Mendel abandoned his research and went onto become a fine abbot.

As for him being the only "religious" scientist, I guess you have never heard of Copernicus? Look him up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28894905)

> It's no coincidence that the only "religious" scientist, Mendel, only had his work on genetics "discovered" 200 years AFTER HE WAS DEAD.

Mendel died in 1884. If it's 2084 already, I've been reading Slashdot _way_ too long this morning.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Potor (658520) | about 5 years ago | (#28893485)

+5 interesting for a blatant troll?

If anything held back technology, it was the slavery of the ancient world (by this, I mean slaves controlled by punishment rather than reward).

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893703)

+5 interesting for a blatant troll?

If anything held back technology, it was the slavery of the ancient world (by this, I mean slaves controlled by punishment rather than reward).

Sure, slavery eliminated the economic need for mechanical technology in many regions, but it did not hold back technology in any way. Where slaves were not practical there was plenty of mechanical technology that rivaled that of the modern industrial revolutions.
The history channel had a good show on it a while back called Roman Tech.

If you take out the social issues, slavery has usually provided enough wealth to create the good tech. Then when the tech is at a high enough level it replaces the slaves unless it is still cheaper to have slaves. both the roman and modern examples follow this example. The Romans just never totally gave up slavery.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

the_womble (580291) | about 5 years ago | (#28894489)

Of course its + interesting. This is Slashdot, the home of such fanatical atheists that they make Dawkins look reasonable.

Facts like the preservation of knowledge in monasteries after the collapse of the Roman Empire are inconvenient truths that are best forgotten.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

alexhard (778254) | about 5 years ago | (#28894567)

That's an insane view. Slavery allowed the elite to devote themselves to intellectual concerns. If Plato had to spend half his day in the fields, would he have written what he did? Of course not.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | about 5 years ago | (#28895091)

But why would you build a backhoe when you already have a gang of 40 slaves that you can work to the death and replace quickly and cheaply? Why would you build a steam engine to move goods around long distances when slaves would do the same! There is a good deal of ancient literature that refers to slaves as tools and gangs of slaves as machines. dan carlin does a good job of distilling this down in his hardcore history episode addicted to bondage [dancarlin.com] . Maybe give it a listen?

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 5 years ago | (#28895181)

Slavery allowed the elite to devote themselves to intellectual concerns. If Plato had to spend half his day in the fields, would he have written what he did? Of course not.

If Plato had had to get up off his ass and do some productive work once in a while, he might have had some more sensible ideas. Instead his anti-democratic notion of "philosopher-kings", and his metaphysical elevation of ideas over observations, have been toxic streams in Western thought for millennia.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#28893531)

I'm not really a friend of the Catholic church and its dogmatic position, but claiming they're the fiend of research and development is a bit misplaced. As usual progress was the enemy of those in power, and they in turn used the Church for their means. It's a bit like saying that today, governments are enemies of progress because they issue laws that hamper it.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28893935)

As usual progress was the enemy of those in power,

      No, progress is always the ally of those in power. However those in power are always trying to stomp on the masses and hold them back - that's how they STAY in power - because if you're not one step ahead of the masses, you are nobody.

      Thus today we have corporate lobbying and purchasing of politi - er campaign contributions, copyright laws and extensions far beyond YOUR lifetime, patents on YOUR gene sequences, etc. Government, which ideally is a big stick to prevent the strong from destroying the weak - is now a tool used by the strong to keep the weak in line.

      Back then the biggest "international" government was the church. Europe was divided into many squabbling kingdoms, but the church had the power to keep kings in line by threatening ex-communication or getting several neighbors to put pressure on an "sinful" nation. It's just the same shit, over and over again. We call ourselves civilized yet the structure of our society is similar to watching a pack of wild street dogs, only on a different scale.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893963)

That applied only to western europe and was one of the causes for the reformation to even have a ground to thrive on.
The church was never in the power to stop any progress because most of the time since the collaps of the roman empire the development simply did not happen in western europe at all!
The role of the church in all this is greatly exaggerated due to the Galileo trials, which btw. happened at a time when science already was happening in europe in full force.
The church never hampered any development in science before especially not the lectures by Pleton which triggered the Rennesaince in italy!

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28894121)

Pleton was expelled from Florence by the church in 1409 for his teachings, and ended up back in Byzantine territory. Don't give me that crap, and learn your history.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28895637)

Interesting, but seems unlikely can you give me references, i have yet to see one of this fact.
All references I found were that pleton came to florence in conjunction with the emperor, and had time on his hands and started teaching and after he left his scholars tought, but not a single reference on the net is speaking about being expelled, it seems more likely he left after the council was over.

Also unlikely because Pleton visited Florcence in conjunction with the byzantine emperor around 1407 and was therefore under the protection of his emperor, besides that he has been living in Mistra since 1393.

Truth however is he was a neo pagan and hence hat lots of enemies but he constantly was under protection of the byzantine emperor hence was sort of untouchable in Mistra.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28895747)

Sorry I mixed up the years, in 1409 Pleton was in Mistra he was expelled from Constantinople in 1393 and started to settle there, the famous council was in 1438-39, so how could the catholic church hamper the lectures which happend around 30 years later? Pleton was not even in Florence in 1409 but was sitting in Mistra studying Plato. Forget about my last posting regarding this I mixed up years a quick googling about the facts set me right.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

moonbender (547943) | about 5 years ago | (#28894397)

Those in power very much included the church for most of Europe's history.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (3, Funny)

netpixie (155816) | about 5 years ago | (#28893601)

One day in the far future:

"I've finished! The last peice of source recovered. We now know how this ancient artifact called Linux worked"

"Linux, what's linux?"

"Its a very old but staggeringly advanced computing system devised *before* the dark age of Microsoft. Its amazing to think that hundreds of years ago people had the ability to listen to music and watch videos whenever and whereever they wanted without being bound by the draconian licencing schemes, blue screens, poor driver quality and cost we have had to put up with for so many many years"

"Interesting, just think how advanced our technology would be now had Microsoft not had all heretics burned"

"Yes, it's a terrible terrible shame. What were they thinking?"

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 5 years ago | (#28893971)

Actually in case of a catastrophy on a worlwide scale, it is more likely that Linux would survive in case of computer technology can be safed than Windows, due to windows inherent closed source nature!

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893603)

I sometimes wonder what the world would look like today if the Catholic church hadn't held back scientific research in the middle ages and killed the best and brightest minds..

I often wonder what the world would look like if the roman empire never fell and the Christians and Muslims never came into power.

The reason some say the dark ages were not that dark, is that there is not a lot of history from that period because of the prevailing ignorance that was lead by the church in an effort to spread their word under pain of death.

Sure a few religious people over the centuries protected a little bit of knowledge, but for every document saved, thousands were lost. The Muslims did a better job of maintaining that knowledge and now they take credit for all those Greek and roman inventions. Of course they only kept the non-heretical stuff as well.

I am sure a computer, even and analogue one, would have been seen as evil magical technology by the church. I mean they even forgot the formula for concrete. Not exactly a mind trust IMO.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

moonbender (547943) | about 5 years ago | (#28894363)

Scientific progress didn't stop simply because it largely stopped in Western Europe. The best and brightest minds weren't killed by the church because they didn't live within its reach.

Re:It it hadn't been for the Catholic Church .. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 5 years ago | (#28895199)

Yes, because the parts of the world where the Catholic Church had no influence whatsoever (China, India, Africa, the Middle East) are (and were) so much more advanced scientifically than Western Europe. I mean imagine what the world would be like if only Europe had had the open and free attitude toward science that the rest of the world had had. /s
Think about it a little bit, where did the philosophy of science develop? Why did Europeans develop this concept of experimental science?
The Chinese were technologically more advanced than Europe in the Middle Ages, but how much of that is a result of political stability not a superior attitude toward technology? The Arabs had several advances that they gave to Europe, but there is evidence that those things either came from elsewhere (Arab numerals actually came from India) or was leftover from before the rise of Islam (this latter is controversial, but there is good reason to give this theory some credence pending further consideration).

Full res video and more info. (4, Informative)

yogibaer (757010) | about 5 years ago | (#28893221)

This device is awesome and gives you a glimpse what the "Ancients" ("Stargate" pun intended) already knew and how much of our history is lost. Imagine for a moment if there had been an uninterrupted development from the knowledge that went into this little box for 2000 years. Makes Steling/Gibbons tale of "The Difference Engine" pale by comparison. I read a fascinating book about the discovery and science of this mechanism ("Decoding the Heavens": http://www.decodingtheheavens.com/ [decodingtheheavens.com] ) and it ist is truly mind boggling how much skill went into this box, 1500 years before we "modern" people build anything remotely as sophisticated. While reading the book I had some trouble to imagine all the wheels and gears described and the full res video is very helpful (can be found here: http://www.mogi-vice.com/Antikythera/Antikythera-it.html [mogi-vice.com] (italian)). Very well done, indeed, Signore!.

Re:Full res video and more info. (1)

Hammer (14284) | about 5 years ago | (#28893283)

I am actually very curious as to what made this knowledge go lost? And why there was no further development of such fantastic devices.
Where would we be now hadn't historic society stopped this?

Re:Full res video and more info. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893323)

Politics.
Religion.
No child left behind.

You know, the same forces that always cause loss of knowledge.

Re:Full res video and more info. (2, Interesting)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | about 5 years ago | (#28893679)

Most likely the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria_library [wikipedia.org] ) in the late 4th century. Consider the things that were there - Heron's plans for the first car, complete works of Aristotle and Archimedes - and in order to show how pron is not new, the works of Sappho.

Baghdad Battery, Homopolar Motor & Antikythera (1)

j-stroy (640921) | about 5 years ago | (#28893757)

The prior devices and knowledge also come to mind. The crafts, arts, maths and sciences leading up to this must have included similar devices, possibly going back much farther. As well, other fine geared devices are likely.. I wonder what other similar mechanisms would be useful in the ancient world?

Wow, cool thought!! You heard it here first:
The Baghdad Battery [wikipedia.org] , another ancient mystery device which dates to almost exactly the same time as the Antikythera Mechanism, performs [instructables.com] well enough to drive a Homopolar Motor [5min.com] (very cool video link). I believe that there is no actual evidence of a handle with the Antikythera Mechanism, but simply an input shaft with a coupling. If I remember correctly, one turn of the shaft advanced it one day. I'll bet that a homopolar motor could accumulate enough power over a day to drive the Antikthera device.

Now the homopolar motor in its simplicity could easily be missed as a ancient device, or its 2 useful components (wire and magnet) scavenged for another use, leaving no artifact to find. Finally, here is a variable speed homopolar motor video [youtube.com] I know I'm synthesizing the electric motor invention.. its just so simple that its invention at that time is possible, let alone any other type of motor. And an voltage/amperage controlled speed regulator seems likewise possible.

Re:Baghdad Battery, Homopolar Motor & Antikyth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28894143)

Wow, cool thought!! You heard it here first:
The Baghdad Battery [wikipedia.org] , another ancient mystery device which dates to almost exactly the same time as the Antikythera Mechanism, performs [instructables.com] well enough to drive a Homopolar Motor [5min.com]

Firstly its not clear at all whether the Baghdad Battery was meant to produce electricity, or whether it was a simple storage jar that happened to be from two metals. Secondly, the article you quote on building one says things like "charge at 1.1 to 1.5 V and a few milliamps of current", so good luck bootstrapping your Baghdad Battery charger bank when your only source of electricity is the occasional thunderstorm. Thirdly, good luck building your hompolar motor from naturally-occuring magnetic lodestones when you don't have fancy neodymium magnets around. So yeah, I heard it here first, and now I will go forget it again, wake me up when you have these little issues sorted out.

Re:Baghdad Battery, Homopolar Motor & Antikyth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28895251)

Are you sure about this?

How many volts can a Baghdad Battery produce?

How many volts would a homopolar motor need?

How much current could a Baghdad battery produce?

How much current would a Baghdad battery need to draw?

How could you make a homopolar motor if the Baghdad Battery is ceramic?

If it is possible, why is there not one example of anyone doing it?

I ask because I am truly curious, and lack knowledge on the subject...

Thanks!

Re:Full res video and more info. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893781)

Nobody needed it. We are speaking of an age where antibiotics, advanced agriculture, relative safety from genocidal invasions, etc. didn't exist.

Some admittedly very intelligent snake oil vendor would invent this kind of mechanism to predict solar eclipses position of stars, etc. to impress the populace.

However, as soon as sharp townsfolk noticed that accurately predicted eclipses had nothing to do with food, war or illnesses, they burnt the useless Shaman and the machine(which nobody but the shaman, the original proprietary vendor, knew how to use).

If they had developed the technology, they could have entered the industrial treadmill, improved their agriculture, engineering, and even health care, but it is not something they could possibly have known.

Re:Full res video and more info. (1)

American Expat (1393429) | about 5 years ago | (#28894799)

Even more amazing stuff for the mechanically inclined, from Massimo's web site: http://www.mogi-vice.com/Antikythera/Antikythera-en.html [mogi-vice.com]

As an amateur clockmaker, I have to say that his model is awe-inspiring. This is by no means a simple mechanism to build, but seeing what he did I am off to try!

Re:Full res video and more info. (2, Informative)

pz (113803) | about 5 years ago | (#28895517)

Here's the thing. This is a beautiful machine, yes. It embodies tremendous amounts of skill and knowledge, yes. But then, so did creating the beautiful structures that remain in Ancient Greece that were well-documented and we know are about 2500 years old (somewhat older than this device). The flutes on columns of buildings like the Parthenon, for example, were cut by hand, and yet are demonstrably as perfect as those cut by machine in modern times. The skill to do such precision work -- by many workers, so there was a means to ensure uniformity across tradesmen -- and the skill to produce buildings with lines that are just-so not quite straight, making them appear to be straight ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenon [wikipedia.org] ), makes it not surprising at all that the same populace could have produced something like the Antikythera Mechanism a few hundred years before the current date on the device.

Re:Full res video and more info. (1)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 5 years ago | (#28896019)

From Wikipedia:

It is now thought to have been built about 150-100 BC. Technological artifacts of similar complexity did not reappear until a thousand years later.

Wow. What happened for that thousand years?

Well done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893255)

Everything is better when cunning linguists are involved.

Deja vue..... (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 5 years ago | (#28893517)

Didn't I just see this on 'Warehouse 13'?
*Spoiler Warning!!!*

Hint:
He loved puzzles, look for secret compartments!

Is it a 'computer' ? (4, Interesting)

Richard Kirk (535523) | about 5 years ago | (#28893807)

If you read the comments, there is a hot but pointless discussion on whether this device is actually a 'computer'.

My father worked in RAE Farnbrough in the '40s and '50's. The first early 'Pilot-ACE' prototypes were developed by Manchester University and the National Physical Laboratory. Another less well known one was made for the Ministry of Defence and sent to Farnbrough for calculating things like air flow over wing profiles. The NPL director at the time seems to have had a deep distrust of computers, and the early versions were explicitly forbidden to execute conditional jumps ( IF..THEN..ELSE ). The computer would solve flow equations by shooting from the boundary conditions, and then stop. A human operator then had to press a key to instruct it to execute the jump back to the beginning of the loop to take the next iteration. I can only imagine how irritating Alan Turing must have found that - to go right to the edge of computational completeness, and then stop just short. Aaaaugh!

Arguments about who made the first computer tend to get rabid, fast, so people often define a computer as something that can make a conditions jump based on it's previous calculations, and not just like a player piano, rewinding its roll when it has detected the end. This is a nice, clear rule - either the machine can do conditional jumps or it can't - so it tends to get invoked when things get heated. The Antikythera mechanism had no need of a conditional jump. I have no doubt that the people who made it could have designed it to do so if they had wanted to, just as Charles Babbage could have done for the Difference Engine. However, in both cases, they did not, so in both cases, according to the narrow definition that requires a computer to do a conditional jump, this is a 'calculator' and not a 'computer'.

I suspect the Antikythera mechanism may have had immense value for calculating the tides and the safe dates for shipping. As such, you can imagine the ship's captain chucking it over the side in an emergency, like a U-Boat commander disposing of an Enigma machine, rather than let it be captured, and copied. Maybe this is why these devices have vanished so completely from known history.

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (2, Informative)

tsjaikdus (940791) | about 5 years ago | (#28893997)

I agree. It's an orrery. It's not something we would call a computer today, however amazing it is. Babbage's Difference Engine wasn't a computer in that sense too. The Difference Engine is more like an ALU. Today, two Difference Engines are in existance, one is in the science museum in London, the other one will be shipped to some MicroSoft billionaire anytime soon. The machine is about GBP 1 million. Babbage's Analytical Engine, however, that's what we would call a computer today. A real nice box of tricks. The Analytical Engine was somewhat bigger and somewhat more complex. For example, the difference engine is an adding machine. This in itself is enough to make a computer out of, but the AE also had dedicated mechanisms to multiply and divide 50 digit decimal numbers in about 3 minutes upon request of a punched card. Babbage also got rid of the ripple carry we all learn about in elementary school and created something that could add the same 50 digit numbers in 2 steps (adding all numbers, then adding all carries at once by linking 9's next to each other mechanically). I've no idea what it would cost to make it today. It was also never finished, but part of the ALU has been built by Babbage (and later his son did some work too). Babbage called the ALU the mill and the memory the store, concepts that were taken from the weaving industry. He also used somthing similar to the Jacquard loom to read the punched cards.

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | about 5 years ago | (#28894045)

I forgot to say that a jump was referred to as backing or advancing the punched cards. This could be either unconditional as conditional. Conditional jumping is a way for the machine to "change its program".

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28894495)

It's a model, or at best an analog calculator. Computers are defined by their universality, their ability to perform different algorithms according to a program. Whether that program must be allowed to include conditional jumps is debatable, but a hardware implementation of a single algorithm satisfies no reasonable definition of a computer.

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | about 5 years ago | (#28894595)

So it's not a computer because it doesn't conform to the narrowest of definitions ? By any normal definition, a computer is a device (or person) that takes in data and uses that data to produce different data according to a fixed set of rules. Under this definition, the Antikythera mechanism is most definitely a computer. It handles IF / THEN rules mechanically. IF a certain marker is aligned with another distinct point, THEN a certain result is produced. IF that marker is aligned with a different point, it produces a different result(ELSIF). If it doesn't align with a marker at all you get your ELSE. The only limitation is that the inputs are restricted to those available on the mechanism.

if(pointerA=marker1){
$result=x;
}elsif(pointerA=marker2){
$result=y;
}else {
$result=0;
}

I can think of simpler devices that can be called computers. Ever heard of a "go- no go" test ? By making a template or a mould that is exactly the dimensions you require, by applying a manufactured item to the "go - no go" test you can determine whether the item passes the dimensional requirements without further calculation. That is computing. The fixed rules are the template, the data is the manufactured item. What's more, it can be parallel computing by measuring more than one dimension at once.

If you define computing by what an electronic computer can do, you are missing the bigger picture.

Define compute [google.co.uk]

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | about 5 years ago | (#28894907)

IF a certain marker is aligned with another distinct point, THEN a certain result is produced. IF that marker is aligned with a different point, it produces a different result(ELSIF). If it doesn't align with a marker at all you get your ELSE. The only limitation is that the inputs are restricted to those available on the mechanism.

There's no value added. It's like saying it's true because it's true and it's true because it's not false.

The computer should be able to change its program based on a previous result. That's what "if then else" is all about. The antikythera can not do that.

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28895111)

Why is it that in that set of comments, there is a pointless discussion about computers, while in /., the discussion is about old cultures and other details.
I felt that /. discussion is much more mature than the comments on the article.
Why is it so? Is it that the age group of /. is higher?

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (2, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | about 5 years ago | (#28895241)

If you read the comments, there is a hot but pointless discussion on whether this device is actually a 'computer'.

Only because some people have unilaterally declared that "computer" always means "universal Turing machine" rather than "something or someone that computes".

Humptey-dumptey syndrome ("words mean precisely what I intend them to mean") and the pathological inability to accept that words can have multiple similar but different meanings seems to be an industrial disease amongst nerds.

Guys: if you want a new word to always mean something highly specific and techical then iether make one up or use something from Latin/Greek/Klingon/Elvish, don't overload an existing English word!

Let's get formal. (2, Informative)

Clueless Moron (548336) | about 5 years ago | (#28895753)

If we define "computer" as "turing machine", then yes it is a computer.

People are using "IF-THEN-ELSE" as a touchstone for this. This is wrong. What the Antikythera machine is (if you're willing to encode the input and output digitally, which you may as well because of gear lash slop) is a Turing machine with an unwritable tape, otherwise known as an FSA (Finite State Automaton).

An FSA, since it's a Turing machine, does effectively do IF-THEN-ELSE operations. The important thing is that it is not programmable.

To put it in layman's terms, I could build a standalone computer that emulates the Antikythera, with the programming in ROM. It'll do everything the Antikythera does and vice versa, but nothing else. They are interchangeable. But mine does use IF-THEN-ELSE.

Years back people used the two phrases "Computer" and "Programmable Computer" fairly distinctly. These days the word "Programmable" has become implied, hence the confusion.

Maybe we should start saying "Nonprogrammable Computer" and "Computer" to clarify things.

Re:Is it a 'computer' ? (3, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | about 5 years ago | (#28895869)

Maybe this is why these devices have vanished so completely from known history.

What is more likely is that devices like this were never widely known because there was very little that resembled a scientific community, so there was no way to make such knowledge public. By "no way" I mean there was neither the technical means of dissemination nor the social means of rewarding the creators of such knowledge.

Science is a public, communal activity. Until the founding of the Royal Society in the 1600's there was no way for the nascent scientific community to actualize itself in archival journals and shared results. Such "science" as there was was carried on by practitioners who swore oaths of secrecy (much of the actual text of the vaunted Hipocratic Oath is actually about not teaching anyone but the sons of physicians any trade secrets, and not stepping on the toes of any of the other medical services unions.)

It is therefore likely that similar techniques and ideas were rediscovered and lost many times during the past few thousand years, in a wide variety of fields. And extreme example of this is knowledge of the diameter of the Earth, which the Greeks knew pretty well, but which was sufficiently debatable 1500 years later that a nutjob like Columbus could convince people that it was about half the actual figure.

The lack of comprehensive, authoritative publications embedded in a living community of empirical investigators meant that knowledge tended to wither and die with time, resulting in relatively slow accumulation over the long term.

Whopdedo, 100 years older (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28893937)

big whoop

I doubt it'll run Crysis... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28894313)

... but can it handle Nethack?

So who is selling replicas? (1, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#28894451)

n/t

An even earlier "device" for calculations (3, Informative)

vorlich (972710) | about 5 years ago | (#28894791)

Existed in prehistory and takes the form of the Harry Potter Wizards hat, where the markings are used to calculate the position of the moon and to predict the seasons. You can see a magnificent example of this in the Staatliche Museen Berlin http://www.smb.museum/smb/sammlungen [www.smb.museum] /details.php?lang=en&objID=15&p=24&typeId=1&img_id=2 .

a 3,000-year-old 30in high Bronze Age cone of beaten gold that was discovered in Switzerland in 1995 and purchased by the museum the following year.

Full story in a Telegraph article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/1388038/Mysterious-gold-cones-hats-of-ancient-wizards.html [telegraph.co.uk]

And, no it doesn't run linux but it may be possible to imagine a beowulf cluster of them.

Am I the only one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28895027)

who thinks the amphora(?) in the background are much more desirable, and beautiful, than the encrusted subject of the article?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>