The Antikythera mechanism is one of those historical marvels (perhaps “mysteries” is a better word) that never fails to grab my attention and imagination whenever I come across an article about it.
Discovered in an ancient shipwreck in 1901, the Antikythera mechanism is an ancient clockwork computer from about 100 BCE. It was of a complexity that was not seen again for almost 2000 years. For whatever reason, the skill used to make the device was lost. In fact, it wasn’t until a high-resolution X-ray study was done in 2006 that the real purpose of the device became clear: it was a calculator used, among other things, to predict the movements of heavenly bodies and the timing of eclipses.
The level of knowledge about the movement of celestial bodies required for such a mechanism is boggling, but the degree of engineering needed to make the device is doubly so. How this knowledge was gained and lost is the fodder for a great debate, and the main source of my interest in the topic.
Recently, an engineer recreated the Antikythera mechanism. Out of Lego!
Seeing exactly how the thing works makes me marvel at those ancient nerds all that much more.