The Time Machine-like device from the past
In 1900 sponge-divers working off the isle of Antikythera found statues and the remains of a clocklike mechanism 2,000 years old, and a year later they were recovered from the wreck that went down in circa 65 BC. The Antikythera mechanism was originally housed in a wooden box about the size of a shoebox, with dials on the outside and a complex assembly of bronze gear-wheels within.
There are at least thirty gear-wheels including a very sophisticated assembly of gears that probably functioned as a differential gear system. The input was through an axle, probably rotated by hand, that turned two trains of gears and, eventually, pointers on the dials. Thus, when the main axle was turned, all the pointers turned simultaneously at various speeds. The mechanism must have worked, because it was mended twice and assumptions have been made that it was in use at the time of the wreck. The instrument was probably made about 82 B.C., used for two years (just long enough for the repairs to have been needed) and then taken onto the ship within the next 30 years. Many images and reconstructions shows the instrument standing on the edge, but in my opinion it was much simplier using it lying on the longside with the handle on the top (click on the image of the reconstruction above and the new link to an article in LiveScience.com to see the source and the difference of the images). And it looks also aesthetically better, because greeks wanted harmony in arts and crafts; look for example att the Doryphoros, the Spearbearer statue or the Parthenon temple -- they don't look as if they might topple over like the Antikythera mechanism standing on the edge.
Derek Price, a science historian at Yale University, concluded that the device was an astronomical computer capable of predicting the positions of the sun and moon in the zodiac on any given date. A new analysis, though, suggests that the device was cleverer than Price thought, and reinforces the evidence for his theory of an ancient Greek tradition of complex mechanical technology. It is a bit frightening to know that just before the fall of their great civilization the ancient Greeks had come so close to our age, not only in their thought, but also in their scientific technology.
The device is on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens where I saw it in May 16:th 1990. There is a one line explanation saying something like "Computer from Anti-Kythera". A huge understatement if you ask me -- for me it is a sort of a Time Machine from the past ...
See more information offsite here
, with a JAVA-animation here
, with (huge!) MOV-animations here
Buy the book Gears from the Greeks: The antikythera Mechanism
The Time Machine-like device for the future
Danny Hillis is constructing a timepiece which will last for 10,000 years. It is called the The Long Now clock and is also known as the 10,000-Year Clock. It is an entirely mechanical clock, people will have to wind it once a year and it displays on it the sun, the moon, the stars plus the calendar date and that's all. Danny Hillis is working on designing the clock right now and a working prototype of the clock is now on display in the London Science Museum.
The Long Now clock is got to be placed in a mountain in the middle of Nevada which has got some mile-long tunnels going through it. People who want to visit this clock will really have to want to, because they will have to go a long way and climb a mountain -- a sort of pilgrimage. And in the same time they are standing in front of the clock, they are winding it up, because they are standing on a weight-sensitive platform.
If a future human arrives in this place where the Long Now clock is buried
in 10,000 years' time, they will find the artefact. They will perhaps
also be able to understand that it's a clock because of the way that it
is constructed. It is kind of obvious and mechanical and they will be
able to tell from its construction what time it is. They will be able
to set it by setting it to the stars. They will find in the clock, for
instance, an artefact that is a kind of modern Rosetta Stone, which has
1,000 different languages on it. It will be literally a kind of Rosetta
Stone with parallel text in a thousand languages. Danny Hillis hope what
they will find is a sort of sense of connection to us and they will connect
backwards with us -- and thus it is a sort of a Time Machine for the future
Source of images: click on the images above and see them
in larger versions offsite.
Sandra Petojevic, Master of Arts, Juny 11, 2006 (updated
December 2, 2006)