A long, long time ago (100 BCE) in a civilization far, far away (Ancient Greece), someone built a mechanism that could “predict celestial events and eclipses with unprecedented accuracy” (Engadget). The machine — or, at least one of them — was lost in a shipwreck and lay on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea until divers discovered the object off of the island of Antikythera in 1901. It wasn’t until 2006 that researchers using x-ray analysis learned the purpose of the device.
Researchers working on The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project write:
For decades, scientific investigation failed to yield much light and relied more on imagination than the facts. However research over the last half century has begun to reveal its secrets. The machine dates from around the end of the 2nd century B.C. and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world. Nothing as complex is known for the next thousand years. The Antikythera Mechanism is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical “computer” which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.
…the Mechanism has now been recreated by an Apple software engineer by the name of Andrew Carol, who has lovingly pieced 1,500 Lego Technic blocks together, creating 110 gears and four gearboxes in total. Each box is responsible for performing one piece of arithmetic, and when the resulting machine is fed with appropriate calendar data, it spits out a (hopefully accurate) prediction for the next time a solar eclipse should occur.
The video below of the Lego Antikythera Mechanism is amazing and fun to watch.
Data taming isn’t always binary — whether it is the past or the present.