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Science

Recreating a Mysterious, 2,100-Year-Old Clock 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-you-thought-modern-gadgets-were-expensive dept.
fergus07 writes "Swiss watchmaker Hublot has created a scaled-down working replica of the ancient Antikythera mechanism. The question is — why on Earth would you want to strap one of these to your wrist? It barely tells the time, and it can't take pictures, tweet or connect to your Facebook. In fact, very few people would have the faintest idea what it is, or why you'd want one at all. But for those that do recognize its intricate gears and dials, this tiny, complex piece of machinery tells a vivid and incredible tale of gigantic scientific upheaval, of adventure and shipwreck on the high seas, of war and death."
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Recreating a Mysterious, 2,100-Year-Old Clock

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  • Antikythera in Lego (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:39PM (#38087904)

    Antikythera in Lego [youtube.com]

  • Lego Version (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:41PM (#38087936) Homepage

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

    Pretty cool project. :)

  • RepRap Map needed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:44PM (#38087982)

    If it can be done in LEGO, surely we can create the RepRap CAD files to make one?

  • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:56PM (#38088154) Homepage

    Way past the distant memory of peak oil and even "post oil"? Not to mention peak- and post- almost everything else industrially useful.

    But that's an incorrect historical take on the matter. To blossom a contemporaneous-like science requires, among other things, an extremely solid logical and mathematical foundation, way past what had been developed back in Ancient Greece, plus a very specific kind of world view that only developed once, under a very specific historical context. The first two aspects were advanced to the point of usefulness only during the three later centuries of (what we now call) the Middle Ages, while the third aspect required two more centuries, building upon the first two aspects. These three simply weren't available at the time.

    What doesn't mean considering the possibility isn't fun. There are some quite nice alternate history fiction on the subject out there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:04PM (#38088262)

    A lot of nerds simply don't get horology. They'll consider hand-crafted masterpieces as "junk" that your el-cheapo thinkgeek-powered watch renders useless...

    But not all nerds are like that: quite some of them also recognize true craftmanship and fine horology when they see some. I do certainly see the appeal of such a watch for people into pure mechanical watches...

  • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by InfiniteZero (587028) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:12PM (#38088366)

    Well the Peloponnesian War predates this clock by about 300 years...

    But the ancient Greeks indeed came so close to the scientific and industrial revolution that it makes a fascinating fiction of alternative history. For example they even had working steam engine and railway around the same time period of the clock:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolipile [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diolkos [wikipedia.org]

  • Really cool ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:12PM (#38088376) Homepage

    So I'm suddenly imagining an alternate "steam punk" timeline in which we had mechanisms and gears 2000 years ago. It's always amazing to see what was really known back that far.

    That's absolutely cool.

    As someone with a lot of watches, that Hublot wrist watch is a really cool timepiece. A skeleton watch with 2000 years of history to it.

    Though, as other people have pointed out, I bet this would cost a pretty penny.

  • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @01:47PM (#38088816)
    Roman society was born from and thrived upon 'barbarity' (an ironic description considering it is a term whose Latin etymological origin meant persons/cultures who were not Roman). It was not a devolution, it was the impetus and drive of the culture which led it to a leadership role throughout the Mediterranean world. This cold pragmatism led to things like the rape of the Sabines (which was not some aberrant exception to Roman behavior, marriage rites in the earliest Roman society included ritualized kidnapping and 'free prostitution' {citation: Otto Kiefer's Sexual Life in Ancient Rome, which is not in front of me at the moment so I can't give you a page number}). In order for Rome to achieve and maintain its success it had to actively fight against human rights and equality. It fought several wars against its slaves (the Servile Wars), ruthlessly put down several populist movements (the brothers Gracchus among many, most of which probably had anti-populist ulterior motives in the end anyway), and would decimate any population in revolt.

    Rome fell not because it was brutal (as it always had been), but because it ceased to be. It had built an empire upon exceptionalism and an inhumane disregard for any opposition, and this simply could not be translated to fit the mindset of the early church as it was instituted as the state religion. It would not be until the Crusades that the clergy would succeed in bastardizing Christianity enough that it could be used as an excuse for further military brutality.
  • Re:Amazing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:39PM (#38089468)

    You might be surprised at the mathematical and logical complexity of ancient Greek thought. The logic gets more press (cf. Aristotle), and the math was sometimes looked down upon as un-philosophic and overly technical, but that doesn't mean that people weren't working on it. Archimedes, for one, is known to have asked complicated questions, and Eratosthenes has not only a prime number algorithm named after him but also managed to invent ways to measure the size of the earth. The rudiments of algebra are already in place in the Greek world, albeit not developed to what you'd find in Western Europe during the Enlightenment, and there's no knowledge of calculus, but there was room for a lot of scientific development that didn't happen. As for the world view of science, I don't see what's so specific about it: the notion that cause-effect relationships are observable is available in Epicurean poetry, and I'm not sure what else you have in mind that was available to early modern science but not to other cultures outside a narrow range of centuries in part of the West. What world view do you have in mind?

  • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:25PM (#38090688)
    The Edict of Milan neither established Christianity as the state religion nor did a mark a turning point in the empire's status. The demarcation comes when Theodosius I establishes Christianity as the religion of the state, and by the way, the borders of the empire from Diocletian to Theodosius I are largely the same. It is, in fact, only after Theodosius and the sea change in Roman civic life with regard to religion that the empire itself begins to shrink. Cases can be made for systemic weakness at just about any time in Rome's history.

    You also have your history quite backward. The Huns were not an active pressure upon Rome until after its Christianization. When the Edict of Milan granted religious tolerance (not establishment), the Hunic Empire didn't even exist. By Theodosius I's time, it had barely managed to tame it's barbarian neighbors and still posed no direct threat to Rome. That came much later.

    So while there's a certain argument for correlation doesn't equal causation, the real decline of the empire did occur *after* the Christianization. Lots of seeds were sewn before then, both systemically and by some very poor decisions. As an example of the latter, the carrot of Romanization, Roman citizenship, was devalued to nothing by a double blow under Caracalla. First, it was made universal to all free men in the territories. Second, Caracalla got butthurt by the Alexandrians' mockery of him and order thousands of them slaughtered, which, if they were now truly full Roman citizens, inexcusably violated the basic tenet that no Roman citizen could be executed without trial. Roman citizenship was no longer something anybody had to seek, nor was it anything somebody would want.

    Rome could have persisted through the barbarians' rise if it would have worked with them instead of being delusional about its superiority. Alaric I who sacked Rome was in fact part of Theodosius' legions (what a coincidence, the emperor who established Christianity...), and was a mercenary for Rome until Honorius betrayed him and his Roman handler Flavius Stilicho. Because Rome broke its promise to pay Alaric and his men, and purged many mercenaries and their families whose survivors clamored to Alaric to lead them in revenge, he did so. If Rome had given the deference Alaric had asked for and not persecuted other foederati, the Western Roman Empire might have been stable enough to resist the Hunic hordes. Hypothetically.

    Either way, the important point hear is that you have your history very backwards. The most significant pressures from barbarians and the Huns specifically undeniably followed, not preceded, the establishment of Christianity within the Roman Empire.

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