Antikythera mechanism influenced Greek maths

Mon. November 29, 2010
Categories: antiquities, archaeology, Babylon, Greece

Antikythera mechanism
An article in Nature asserts that the 2000 year old ancient Greek mechanical wonder known as the Antikythera mechanism, which calculates astronomical and planetary motions, was built using mathematical theories that originated centuries previously by the Babylonians. This was suggested from previous studies published in 2006, but an intriguing hypothesis by astronomical historian James Evans at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, suggests how the mechanics may have influenced Greek theories of cosmic motions:

Evans argues that even the clearly epicyclic gearing of the Moon display may model Babylonian arithmetic, not Greek geometry. The amplitude of the variation encoded by the pin-and-slot mechanism is larger than that used by Hipparchus in his eccentric model, he points out, and is closer to the amplitude used in the lunar algorithms of the Babylonians. “Perhaps a mechanic tried to represent the variations in the Moon’s speed according to the Babylonian theory using gears,” he says — and hit upon an epicyclic arrangement.

In other words, epicycles were not a philosophical innovation but a mechanical one. Once Greek astronomers realized how well epicyclic gearing in devices such as the Antikythera mechanism replicated the cyclic variations of celestial bodies, they could have incorporated the concept into their own geometrical models of the cosmos.

One Response to “Antikythera mechanism influenced Greek maths”

  1. Maria Says:

    Its amazing how many false sartts man kind has had before we finally “got technological” for want of a phrase…The Greeks and Romans were more advanced in many ways than those in the Dark Ages. When we’re we finally able to build the Colosuem or Great Pyramid again after the originals?! And if you think about the Enlightenment and the Dark Ages before that, the Roman / Greek cultures that were superior to much of the Dark Ages weren’t too far away from the Industrial Revolution…hard to argue that 400 years…thanks religion (dark ages) You held back human development for 1000 years!! And to think mankind hasn’t really advanced at all in 80,000 years the cradle of civilisation could have taken off at any time if the weather etc had been a little more settled…yet even when it was we stuffed it up again and again…no doubt religion will be the death of our civilisation, and for the sake (and all sides are gulity of this) of scrapping over a small patch of desert :\I strongly believe overall that religion is a force for bad in the world, and more bad than good has come from it, and will continue to do so!