The Antikythera Mechanism Episode 11 – Inscribing the Back Plate – Part 1

76 points10
gus_massa7 hours ago

This is a new episode after more than a year. :)

I highly recommend this serie of videos about building a reconstruction of the The Antikythera Mechanism with tool similar to the ancient tools. [Warning: It's a huge time sink] Complete playlist:

sakopov56 minutes ago

The amount of skill shown in the videos is incredibly mind-boggling. One wrong move and you're starting over on the entire part, which would be bad enough using modern tools he's using now and I can't even imagine what it must have been like at the time when the mechanism was designed. What a marvel of engineering considering the time it was made. Makes me wonder what other ancient inventions were out there that we'll never know anything about.

gus_massa28 minutes ago

> One wrong move and you're starting over on the entire part

My guess is that it's possible to fix typos, but it would be a lot of additional work. For example to fix pieces, he makes a hole and put a small bronce in the hole, then he punch it, and then polish the surface until it's invisible. For example see this port of the previous episode Anyway, I'd be terrified of making a mistake if I had to do this.

lini5 hours ago

Went to Athens last month and saw the mechanism (a replica) in person in one of the museums. Overall, for me it was a strange experience looking at the ancient Greek civilization - these people were not thinking about simple things like sustenance or other basic needs. They were very much involved in improving their minds in any way possible - democracy, arts, science. All that time they spent on improving their civilization in every way got me thinking of all the time we lose today in meaningless stuff like social media, or looking selfishly at the world and other people.

jrockway4 hours ago

I think an interesting exercise is to go back through newspaper archives and just take a peek at some random front pages. The theme is that everything is terrible and the sky is falling. That continues today. What was missed at the time was that the sky wasn't falling and that everything wasn't actually that terrible.

Humanity will endure Tik Tok, wars, pandemics, climate change, and pretty much whatever else the big random number generator in the sky throws at us. Find something that's meaningful to you and spend your time there. We're all going to be OK!

marcodiego4 hours ago

> pretty much whatever else the big random number generator in the sky throws at us.

It didn't work that well with dinosaurs.

jazzyjackson2 hours ago

> all the time we lose

Who's we? I imagine ancient greece had its share of diversions and time-wasting while a small minority went hard on improving the state of the arts.

rs_rs_rs_rs_rs5 hours ago

> these people were not thinking about simple things like sustenance or other basic needs.

Of course not, they had slaves for that.

aurizon5 hours ago

There was no patent protection back in these days. A smart craftsman could not draw on recorded repositories of past work and if he came up with a new design, anyone could copy it and sell in competition. Some worked there way into general use, but as far as I know there was never a 'next generation' in most cases. The innovator kept it totally secret. So a machine that, say, pitted olives, could make a man rich as bought olives and pitted them with his machine and sold the pitted olives. Other people had to pit them with sharp sticks or whatever. Some Roman nobles killed craftsmen who made them a good work to ensure no-one else could have one. Things stumbled along until the 1500's when Kings would grant Crown Patents so only you could make them. This gradually expanded to the modern patent system in the 1700-1800's??

Back in Greek times smart people guarded their secrets - and these were all hand made, holes drilled, bearings made, plates scribed with the workman's notes often in his head. Logically a mechanism would be made, improved, improved again etc. There may have been a dozen preceding Antikythera mechanisms on an improvement path, as well as successor machines - none of which survived to the present.

The precious nature of brass bronze meant that anyone who found would melt it to sell for weapons etc. There may be dozens more hidden under water in collapsed caves etc.??

fatbird2 hours ago

A common sentiment when viewing something like this is "wow, they were far more sophisticated then we imagined," but it's taken me a while to think instead "we're not much more sophisticated than them.

The Clickspring guy isn't just making this replica, he's doing so using materials and tools available at the time. Several videos show him just making tools: taking simple iron and fashioning a tool like a chisel, then case hardening it and using it to make a file out of the same iron, then case hardening that so he can make drill bits. He comments several times that the quality of the basic tools, simply made, is so good that he'll continue using them sometimes in preference to buying more expensive versions.

The real point of reflection shouldn't be "we thought they were so dumb," it's "we think we're so smart."

smitty1e6 hours ago

We systematically underestimate the wisdom of the ancients.

The sophistication of that 19-year lunar cycle bespeaks centuries of noodling on the problem, to say nothing of the skill on display executing the construction.

fortran7744 minutes ago

Jews around the world today still use a very similar lunar-solar calendar.

IncRnd5 hours ago

Who underestimates the wisdom of the ancients?

smitty1e5 hours ago

People, generally.

velcrovan6 hours ago