New Antikythera video

21. August 2010 21:04

The Getty Villa in Los Angeles. c. spikebrenner

Back in March, I travelled to Los Angeles to participate in an event dedicated to the Antikythera mechanism, held at the beautiful Getty Villa (pictured). I spoke along with Jim Evans of the University of Puget Sound in Washington. He is an expert in the history of astronomy, and author of The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy, which came in very useful when I was writing Decoding the Heavens.

It turned out to be a fun evening. We discussed the history of research on the mechanism, as well as the latest ideas on what it was, who might have made it and why. Evans also summarised some new research he and his colleagues had just published on the mechanism in the Journal for the History of Astronomy. Very briefly, the device has (among other things) a zodiac dial on the front, on which pointers moving at varying speeds were thought to show the varying movements of the sun, moon and five known planets through the sky. Evans' measurements of the 360 divisions on this dial show that they were unevenly spaced, in quite a deliberate way. He concludes that the movement of the sun was represented not with a pointer moving at varying speed as previously thought, but with a pointer moving at constant speed around an unequally divided dial. Although this might sound quite geeky, this finding was completely unexpected and has some fascinating implications, which I'll be writing about very soon.

Anyway, I'm telling you all this now because the lovely people at the Getty Villa have just posted a video of the March event, which was called Tracking the Cosmos: The Technology of the Antikythera Mechanism. You can watch it here.



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