Talk:Antikythera mechanism/Archive 4

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 4

Attributes by de Solla Price for Intro

According Derek de Solla Price, who did the first modern technical investigation, it is "the most complex scientific object that has been preserved from antiquity." Price (1959). Still today there is no known object for any objection.

At first glance "it must have resembled a well-made 18th-century clock." Price: "Consisting of a box with dials on the outside and a very complex assembly of gear wheels mounted within, it must have resembled a well-made 18th-century clock." Price, D. de S. (1959). "An Ancient Greek Computer". Scientific American 200 (6): 60-67.

This may have caused the objection that it may be a later time work sunk there or a fraud. I think both citations should be mentioned in the intro to get the object in historical perspective. Price was Avalon Professor of the History of Science at Yale University and therefore qualified for such statements. -- Portolanero (talk) 12:26, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

Mentioned around the year 500

A device like the reconstructed Antikythera mechanism existed was known (1) in Italy around AD 500: "A machine has been made to exhibit the courses of the planets and the causes of eclipses." According a letter by Cassiodorus King Theodoric send it as gift to the Burgundians.

By the translator in 1886 - before the Antikythera find - it was called "perhaps something like a modern orrery": "It will be a great gain to us that the Burgundians should daily look upon something sent by us which will appear to them little short of miraculous. Exert yourself therefore, oh Boetius, to get this thing put in hand. You have thoroughly imbued yourself with Greek philosophy[246]. You have translated Pythagoras the musician, Ptolemy the astronomer, Nicomachus the arithmetician, Euclid the geometer, Plato the theologian, Aristotle the logician, and have given back the mechanician Archimedes to his own Sicilian countrymen (who now speak Latin). You know the whole science of Mathematics, and the marvels wrought thereby. A machine [perhaps something like a modern orrery] has been [Pg 170] made to exhibit the courses of the planets and the causes of eclipses. What a wonderful art is Mechanics! The mechanician, if we may say so, is almost Nature's comrade, opening her secrets, changing her manifestations, sporting with miracles, feigning so beautifully, that what we know to be an illusion is accepted by us as truth." "The Letters of Cassiodorus - Being A Condensed Translation Of The Variae Epistolae Of Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator", Translator Thomas Hodgkin, London 1886. BOOK I. 45. King Theodoric to Boetius, Vir Illustris and Patrician.

It is the third known such device located in Italy. But it is unlikely to be identical to one of those two mentioned by Cicero as located in Rome. The lifetime of such a bronze mechanism is limited to few centuries. So this is evidence for a tradition to build such devices still in Roman Imperial times. -- Portolanero (talk) 12:23, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

(1) The translation by Thomas Hodgkin seems in error regarding the actual presence of a device as a gift in 506. Certainly the machines were known. Either by use with astrologers like mentioned by Nonnus (see Mike Edmunds "Before & After the Antikythera Mechanism") or known from the book Cassiodorus mentioned above. It was sometime called the "Mechanica" and probably of 4th century origin but attributed to Archimedes. It existed in the Middle Age and Renaissance but is now lost. Probably Leonardo da Vinci had access to it. -- Portolanero (talk) 17:44, 5 October 2013 (UTC)

Documentaries and Popular Culture

There is a paragraph about this device being mentioned in the latest installment of the popular video game "Assassin's Creed". However the author of that section neglected to provide 1) a reference, and 2) the name of the particular installment (there are many). This needs to be corrected. (talk) 00:19, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

Why would anybody waste a mechanical computer for planetarium purposes, rather than naval artillery fire control?

A strong argument could be made that "Antikythera clock" tech being useful for the Greeks and getting forgotten later on, is not a very realistic squence of events.

I mean, this kind of mechanical computer technology is higly useful for ballistic calculations and is actually not much different from the "artillery tables" used for fire control in WWI era battleships, allowing them to pound each other with large caliber shells, from up to a dozen miles away.

I would argue it is much more like an ephemeris rather than ballistic tables. One could perhaps use the same technology to build an analog ballistic computer, but that is not at all what this is. SkoreKeep (talk) 09:30, 21 May 2014 (UTC)

Considering makind's desire to find ever more innovative ways to cut thy neighbour's throat, why would any civilization allow an important tech to go to waste that could otherwise support a revolution in naval warfare waged with ranged weapons? Who cares about watching mini celestial bodies dance, when the mechanical computer allows vanquishing the other kingdom's battle fleet? (talk) 21:35, 28 September 2013 (UTC)

Good idea. The torsion catapults of classical time were more difficult to predict than modern guns. Their energy storage element was of biological origin. They used the best available and I heard it was human female hair. Today we still use it for hygrometers because it is sensitive to moister. By such hard to predict material and the rather short distance (< 500 m) I expect tables or graphs would do the calculation faster but with still sufficient accuracy. -- Portolanero (talk) 17:46, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
The Greeks of this time were under Roman control; they did not have the same drives for such tools as we do today. Drawing suchparallels is pretty faulty. SkoreKeep (talk) 09:30, 21 May 2014 (UTC)

Actually, ancient artillery controlled range through the torsion of the fiber bundle which gave the necessary energy. One of such controls has come to us, from the most unlikely source (the Samnites, who fought bravely - and won - the Romans in the IVth century b.C.), and is on display in the Chieti Museum. Its use was only recently recognised. Its stops are numbered by letters in the Samnite alphabet (used for numbers in the fashion of the Attic convension of numbering: A for 1, B for 2 and so on). The range was roughly proportional to the torsion, as can be shown by a little of mechanics: the ancient must have discovered the relation through practice rather than theory.

This is not an appropriate discussion. Talk pages aren't forums to discuss the whys and wherefores of the subject of the article. Unless you all have reliable sources, please try to find a web forum. Thanks. Dougweller (talk) 16:21, 8 October 2013 (UTC)

Very long article

This article is over 120kb, and when exported to pdf is 27 pages long. There is a lot of room for the prose to be condensed, which would improve the article's readability and navigation. It seems like right now the article is a mashup of the Mechanism and the entirety of several researcher's careers. Tagged with the 'long' template. R0uge (talk) 21:30, 5 August 2014 (UTC)

Yes, I agree. A while back I thought to remove two sections, The "Latest results" and the "Investigations and reconstructions". This is where most of the "researcher's careers" information lies. I'm going to go ahead and do that as it appears to me to be mainly 20th century history rather than about the mechanism itself. Later this data can be collected into a "Hunt for the Antikythera Mechanism".  :) SkoreKeep (talk) 00:05, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
I also removed exhibitions, Purposes and oher similat machines. That reduced it about 40%. It's now 70 kb. SkoreKeep (talk) 01:19, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
Comes cplakidas to restore some of the now missing history back into the History section. I appreciate the additions, but please wait until the companion article, containing the information that I deleted yesterday from this one, is published; it should be within the next couple of days, and the story of Admiral Theofanidis will be there. I don't really intend to squat on this article and not allow others to edit, just give me a little time from the rather brutal cuts of yesterday to get coherence back into both articles. Thanks. SkoreKeep (talk) 14:49, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, I had not seen that there was a wholesale restructuring, I just happened to come across it and found it odd that Theofanidis had been removed. I am eagerly awaiting the companion piece. Cheers, Constantine 15:53, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
I suggest that you move the "Descrition" section to the end. Such changes must be made after careful reading of the entire document, but after a first reading I think "Description" (with major and minor fragment subsections) should be moved to the end. Encyclopedic articles almost by definition must contain more information than the average reader wants to read. This can be alleviated by putting less relevant material at the end of the document. I rarely find the second half of any WP article very interesting.--guyvan52 (talk) 15:25, 17 August 2014 (UTC)
A good suggestion. The problem is that in the detailed re-construction to follow some references to "fragments" and specific fragments are made. I did look at it and decide the size of the description could be reduced by moving the fragment specific notes into the table. Not too sure what else can be done. SkoreKeep (talk) 16:45, 17 August 2014 (UTC)


Concerning the changes made to the text by and my reversion of them, allow me to be clear: the Ptolemaic system with deferents, single epicycles per deferent, eccentrics and equants, is precisely as predictive as Copernicus' system of deferents, double epicycles per deferent, and eccentrics, and also indeed to Brahe's hybrid system. They are mathematically equivalent systems: given the same input data, they will generate the same orbital predictions. More epicycles added to either system was an attempt to make the orbits more closely match the unevenness now attributed to elliptical orbits under Newton's gravitational theory. Geocentrist/heliocentrist point of view is irrelevant to this fact. SkoreKeep (talk) 23:36, 1 September 2014 (UTC)


The text in the article implies that the "instructions" part of the inscription has been translated. Why then, is it not in the article?--Auric talk 00:16, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

About 2200 of the estimated 22,000 characters of text that once existed on the face plates and the covers has been detected. Obviously, given the nature of the wreckage, it is in localized chunks and individual small groupings of disconnected text in areas of less disintegration. Some of it is displayed on the front cover display linked to in the text. The ability of the modern technical means to read the text is amazing, but that has about reached its limit, unless new archaeological finds are made. The text is in the papers which discuss findings. SkoreKeep (talk) 15:37, 21 September 2014 (UTC)

Return to Antikythera

Project in Sep 2014: (talk) 17:57, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

A clock?

An edit defining the AM as an "astronomical clock" (in addition to the earlier "analog computer") was added to the lede. I don't think this can be supported. The mechanism has no autonomous time-keeping mechanisms; it has only a crank, gears, and indicator pointers on fixed dials. At best (vis-a-vis time keeping), it performs calculations between various solar and lunar calendars. It's best resolution is a solar day; turning the crank one revolution advances the calendar by approximately 73 days. The use of "astronomical clock" might be stretched to cover calendrical functions; only in this sense would the phrase work. SkoreKeep (talk) 23:30, 21 November 2014 (UTC)


After a discussion of the pre-equant theoretical inaccuracy and the mechanical inaccuracy, this line was added:

Carmen and Evens believe that many of these inaccuracies can be remedied by using a Babylonian arithmetic model based on center and day velocities as opposed to Greek trigonometric models.[7]

The article cited discusses inaccuracy in time-of-day predictions made on the Saros dial on the back, and how the Babylonian data used to compute the inscriptions on that dial may be slightly off due to misunderstandings of the Babylonian timekeeping practices; it has nothing to do with either the length of the planet retrograde (which the equant of Ptolemy would eventually fix) or the mechanical accuracy. A rewrite to make that clear, that this is a separate form of inaccuracy, would be welcome. For that purpose the named reference was left in place. SkoreKeep (talk) 00:44, 3 December 2014 (UTC)

The Olympic Dial

A point could be made that the Olympic dial was not meant as an indicator of the actual games (which would be pretty useless) but helped to set the date on the front side. Since the calendar ring was based on the Sothis year, it deviated from the solar year by one day within four years. To compensate this deficit, the calendar ring was readjustable, as the main article correctly states, but only to one day = four years precise. The Olympic dial would then have helped narrow the setting of the date down to the exact year. This hypothesis was to my knowledge first suggested in The Dominion Device. 2014. ISBN 1502558211. . Nafiris (talk) 19:56, 30 November 2014 (UTC)

That might be true, but your use of a gaming fiction book would probably be inappropriate as a reference...unless it references some other document in support...? The one thing I note is that the names of the years events are inscribed on the dial, which doesn't preclude your suggestion, but does indicate what, basically, the dial is for. In your sense, ALL of the dials perform the function of informing the year set, as long as no gearing ever slips internally, and the pointers on the backside are always attended to. SkoreKeep (talk) 15:26, 30 November 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it's obvious that the names are inscribed on the Olympic dial. That's exactly why said authors build their description on the hypothesis that predicting games was likely not its primary purpose: It would seem a too trivial use of such an elaborate instrument. The Olympic dial would make sense, however, according to what seems to be their genuine assumption, in identifying an individual year out of a sequence of four in the Sothis period that cannot be distinguished from reading the front dials only. Since the Greek calendars lacked any consecutive numbering but referred to great games only, some other means would be necessary to adjust the Sothis calendar ring (365 days) to the solar calendar (365 1/4 days), they ascertain in their description, and the Olympic dial with its period of four years served that requirement perfectly. Nafiris (talk) 19:56, 30 November 2014 (UTC)
OK, fine. I'm more than happy to see a writeup of this notion as long as it is clear ("The Olympic dial would then have helped narrow the setting of the date down to the exact year" needs to be expanded, for example) and that there is some scholarly authority for it. Finding a meaning for this dial, when it would appear to be no more and no less than one more small tour-de-force in a box full of such, will need some explanation. I have to deny that the indication of the year in the Olympic cycle is far from "pretty useless", in a society without common clocks or calendars. SkoreKeep (talk) 00:59, 3 December 2014 (UTC)
As Shorekeep said, this is Original Research at best, and speculation at worse. It shouldn't go in the article unless you can find a legitimate source for it. R0uge (talk) 03:17, 4 December 2014 (UTC)
Point taken, R0uge. Nafiris (talk) 07:51, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

A set of quizzes for this article is under construction.

Three quizzes specifically targeted to this article are currently under construction at: Antikythera mechanism/Quizzes

They can now be found at --Dweller (talk) 11:26, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

"only 17 further gears"

Given that we know of 30 gears, the "only" that precedes "17 further gears" in our article seems very strange - and unscientific. Is it in the original source, or have we editorialised? --Dweller (talk) 11:22, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

As an engineer, it sort of surprises me that the additional functionality can be had that cheaply, but that's just me. I suppose that's what comes with practicing science without a proper license.  :) SkoreKeep (talk) 23:53, 8 December 2014 (UTC)
Lol. Yes, I see your point. Either way, we shouldn't be expressing an opinion, unless it's sourced. "Only" is a judgement, not a fact. If the source expresses the same surprise you have, then it's fine to include. (Probably best to put in the verbatim quote). --Dweller (talk) 10:49, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

Other machines

It may be worth noting that if other copies were built it is likely that when they broke down there was probably no one around who could repair it, and the kparts were probably melted down and reused, explaining why we can't find any other versions.--Varkman (talk) 10:01, 20 April 2015 (UTC)

Yes, this has been noted by other researchers, such as Jo Marchant. The relatively expensive bronze available during the middle ages meant that almost anything made of bronze would have been scrapped once it had stopped working, or had even outlived its inventors. SkoreKeep (talk) 23:20, 20 April 2015 (UTC)

My edits today on the "Accuracy" section

Re: these changes - I wanted to make clear that the reason I altered the wording is that those particular statements did not appear within Freeth & Jones 2012 IASW paper. While they were true & verifiable from other sources the paper 1)did not mention Ptolemy's equant and, re circular/elliptical orbits, 2)only mentioned Kepler's Second Law ("true orbits are not uniform and circular but elliptical and subject to Kepler's Second Law") with no mention of the 1609 date. To include them in that section, while apparently only discussing the 2012 paper, could be seen as possibly veering into WP:SYNTHESIS territory. Also, the text within the one block quote was not completely accurate so I changed it to a direct quote. I also wanted to make clear that the block quotes are directly from the Freeth/Jones paper so altered the referencing somewhat. Shearonink (talk) 16:11, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

South Facing Chariot

To all

"rotation of the ball. It requires a differential gear, a gearing arrangement that sums or differences two angular inputs. Among its other first-known aspects, the Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest verified construction of a deliberate differential gear scheme in history.[citation needed]"

is incorrect. The chinese south pointing chariot was Ref-

also no mention is made of Allan Bromley (aus) see references


chris Johnson

P.S. It interests me that no check/search was run through Wikipedia itself :-). Shouldnt this be standard practice for all artic les and edits?

My guess is that the paragraph should be saying is that the AM is the oldest extant use of a differential gear. I cannot find any mention that any of the south-facing chariots exist from the times mentioned. I'll try out an edit to that effect.
At one time there was extensive words about all the people involved in discovery/recovery of the AM in the article. These were removed in favor of a description of the mechanism, with the intention of bringing them back in a separate article. Time can be a real task master. You are certainly welcome to essay such an article; the deleted text can be easily recovered from an edit on 7 Aug 2014. Noting the length of the current article, a new, separate article is recommended.
As to your question about standard practices, certainly something like that would be desirable. It assumes that any editor be fully aware of all the wiki pages that may have a word to say, let alone the outside references you cite. By all means, an automated tool to search for references in a text and find all that have pages in wikipedia would be welcomed. Giving the tool enough smarts to finish before Andromeda crashes into our galaxy, or more likely completely bog down the wikipedia servers, might be a challenge. I for one, was not aware of the chariots page; I was aware of Allen Bromley, having read Jo Marchant's book and working through all the controversy on that, but it's of interest mainly in the history of the AM, not its functionality, and so was edited.
Thanks for your comments. Be bold and edit where you think it may be necessary; all you have to fear is fear itself. SkoreKeep (talk) 11:06, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

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In the text it says 'another expedition was planned for spring 2015': did this happen? Jackiespeel (talk) 16:50, 30 November 2015 (UTC)


Could the mechanism be an double astrolabe? --Nfarrow (talk) 08:27, 11 June 2016 (UTC)

If you mean it showed the positions of celestial bodies; yes. But as far as I'm aware only the single-dial side of the mechanism did this; the two-dial side indicated not positions but dates/times of certain (celestial) events. Drabkikker (talk) 14:28, 11 June 2016 (UTC)
The dial on the side is input, and is in terms of relative time. A full rotation moved the mechanism forward or back 72 days. The two major output dials and the associated small dials generated approximate dates for some celestial phenomena and theoretical clock times. The concentric dials on the front (with from 3 to 8 needles) read out in circular degrees along the ecliptic, therefore a position in the sky sphere. 16:34, 11 June 2016 (UTC)

Babylonian speculation

I'm not going to argue this, but there's this a few days ago and I've seen some before. Doug Weller talk 16:06, 22 May 2016 (UTC)

@Doug Weller: Sorry Doug, I hadn't seen it was you who added this at the time of the revert, otherwise I would have explained it in more detail, or not reverted at all, as I don't revert editors I have known and respected for a long time. Only after I performed the revert I realised it was you. My point was that in the article the Babylonian origin theory/speculation has not been covered so it would seem as undue to add it to the lead. Dr. K. 16:19, 22 May 2016 (UTC)
@Dr.K: No problem. You are of course right, careless of me. In any case, it is certainly just speculation. It's a bit more than speculation that the mathematics is Babylonian though. Doug Weller talk 16:45, 22 May 2016 (UTC)
Thank you Doug for your kind comments. I agree about the underlying math. A case is being made in the article that they could have been of Babylonian origin. Dr. K. 17:00, 22 May 2016 (UTC)
My understanding is that the instrument was the fusion of Babylonian long time-line astronomical observations, Egyptian calendars and Greek theoretical astronomy and mechanical abilities. It is the latter capability which has most surprised modern technologists, and mainly because all examples of it, other than the AM, have been long destroyed.SkoreKeep (talk) 16:38, 11 June 2016 (UTC)