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Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Favorite Ancient Gadget - Astronomical Clock

I have covered the Antiythera Mechanism in two previous posts. What can I say? This 2000 year old Astronomical Clock fascinates me. I think it is quickly becoming my gadget of choice.

The Washington Post has a wonderful discussion the the clock and you can read it here: Science: Human Behavior and the Antikythera Mechanism.

This falls right in line with my book review of Arthur Koestler's book, Sleepwalkers. On page 80, he speaks of how everything at that time was thought to be in perfect circles. However:

"There exist some fragmentary remains, dating from the first century AD, of a small sized Greek planetarium - a mechanical model designed to reproduce the motions of sun, moon, and perhaps also of the planets, but it's wheels, or at least some of them, are not circular - they are egg-shaped. The orbit of Mercury in the Ptolemaic system... shows a similar egg-shaped curve staring into one's face. All these pointers were ignored, relegated into limbo as a sacrifice to circle worship."

We had it! We had it right! We had it right, but by being told we were wrong, we fell past being right, back into stumbling around trying to figure out the cosmos we live in. We as people seem to have consciousness like waves. We get a concept, then get side tracked by another concept (especially a more aesthetically pleasing one), and only hundreds of years later do we "rediscover" what we once knew. Batteries in ancient Egypt, for instance. Should we then, as human beings, be so amazed that previous inhabitants had some of the same technology (or variations of it) that we now take for granted?

It is obvious by Koestler's mention of this Astronomical clock that in 1959, when the book was written, the true use of this amazing device was still not known.

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