Friday astronomical blogging

Okay, it’s just about computers but it’s about ancient computers.

a century ago, pieces of a strange mechanism with bronze gears and dials were recovered from an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Greece. Historians of science concluded that this was an instrument that calculated and illustrated astronomical information, particularly phases of the Moon and planetary motions, in the second century B.C.

The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the world’s first computer, has now been examined with the latest in high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography. A team of British, Greek and American researchers was able to decipher many inscriptions and reconstruct the gear functions, revealing, they said, “an unexpected degree of technical sophistication for the period.”

Here’s a picture I took in Groningen, Netherlands of a sundial in the Prince’s Garden, which shows the time in the city and in Rome. The Latin at the top of the clock reads something like:


“Time flies … The future is uncertain, the present is unstable/changing, take care of … (do not waste it)”

(h/t Frederic for the translation)

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