Tag Archive: cosmos



The Antikythera mechanism is a 2,100-year-old computer:

Wikipedia
Antikythera mechanism Wikipedia

116 years ago (1902), divers found a chunk of bronze off a Greek island. It has radically changed our understanding of human history.

One hundred sixteen years ago, an archaeologist was sifting through objects found in the wreck of a 2,000-year-old vessel off the Greek island Antikythera. Among the wreck’s treasures, fine vases and pots, jewellery and, fittingly enough, a bronze statue of an ancient philosopher, he found a peculiar contraption, consisting of a series of brass gears and dials mounted in a case the size of a mantel clock. Archaeologists dubbed the instrument the Antikythera mechanism. The genius — and mystery — of this piece of ancient Greek technology is that arguably it is the world’s first computer. If we gaze inside the machine, we find clear evidence of at least two dozen gears, laid neatly on top of one another, calibrated with the precision of a master-crafted Swiss watch. This was a level of technology that archaeologists would usually date to the sixteenth century AD. But a mystery remained: What was this contraption used for? 

To archaeologists, it was immediately apparent that the mechanism was some sort of clock, calendar or calculating device. But they had no idea what it was for. For decades, they debated. Was the Antikythera a toy model of the planets or was it a kind of early astrolabe, a device which calculates latitude?

IMAGE ancient

At long last, in 1959, Princeton science historian Derek J. de Solla Price provided the most convincing scientific analysis of this amazing device to date. After a meticulous study of the gears, he deduced that the mechanism was used to predict the position of the planets and stars in the sky depending on the calendar month. The single primary gear would move to represent the calendar year, and would, in turn, activate many separate smaller gears to represent the motions of the planets, sun and moon. So you could set the main gear to the calendar date and get close approximations for where those celestial objects in the sky on that date. And Price declared in the pages of Scientific American that it was a computer: “The mechanism is like a great astronomical clock ... or like a modern analogue computer which uses mechanical parts to save tedious calculation.”
 
Anticythera mechanism frontal

Antikythera mechanism original
It was a computer in the sense that you, as a user, could input a few simple variables and it would yield a flurry of complicated mathematical calculations. Today the programming of computers is written in digital code, a series of ones and zeros. This ancient analog clock had its code written into the mathematical ratios of its gears. All the user had to do was enter the main date on one gear, and through a series of subsequent gear revolutions, the mechanism could calculate variables such as the angle of the sun crossing the sky. As a point of referencdee, mechanical calculators using gear ratios to add and subtract, didn’t surface in Europe until the 1600s. 

Since Price’s assessment, modern X-ray and 3D mapping technology have allowed scientists to peer deeper into the remains of the mechanism to learn even more of its secrets. In the early 2000s, researchers discovered text in the guise of an instruction manual that had never been seen before, inscribed on parts of the mechanism. The text, written in tiny typeface but legible ancient Greek, helped them bring closure to complete the puzzle of what the machine did and how it was operated.
 
The mechanism had several dials and clock faces, each which served a different function for measuring movements of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, but they were all operated by just one main crank. Small stone or glass orbs moved across the machine’s face to show the motion of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter in the night sky and the position of the sun and moon relative to the 12 constellations of the zodiac. Another dial would forecast solar and lunar eclipses and even, amazingly enough, predictions about their colour. Today, researchers surmise that different coloured eclipses were considered omens of the future. After all, the ancient Greeks, like all ancients, were a little superstitious. 

The mechanism consisted of:
- a solar calendar, charting the 365 days of the year 
- a lunar calendar, counting a 19 year lunar cycle 
- a tiny pearl-size ball that rotated to illustrate the phase of the moon, and another dial that counted down the days to regularly scheduled sporting events around the Greek isles, like the Olympics.  The mechanics of this device are absurdly complicated. A 2006, in the journal Nature, a paper plotted out a highly complex schematic of the mechanics that connect all the gears. 

Researchers are still not sure who exactly used it. Did philosophers, scientists and even mariners build it to assist them in their calculations? Or was it a type of a teaching tool, to show students the math that held the cosmos together? Was it unique? Or are there more similar devices yet to be discovered? To date, none others have been found.

Its assembly remains another mystery. How the ancient Greeks accomplished this astonishing feat is unknown to this day. Whatever it was used for and however it was built, we know this: its discovery has forever changed our understanding of human history, and reminds us that flashes of genius are possible in every human era. Nothing like this instrument is preserved elsewhere. Nothing comparable to it is known from any ancient scientific text or literary allusion,” Price wrote in 1959. “It is a bit frightening, to know that just before the fall of their great civilization the ancient Greeks had come so close to our age, not only in their thought, but also in their scientific technology.”

There are amazing fully operational modern versions of the Antikythera Mechanism, such as these:

3d-reconstruction-ancient-antikythera-mechanism-770x437

another modern version of the Antikythera mechanism

Antikythera_model_front_panel_Mogi_Vicentini_2007


Earth-shattering linguistic data from the Movie, Arrival (2016)

arrival-final-trailer-and-new-poster-arrival

Not too long ago, I had the distinct pleasure of watching what is undoubtedly the most intellectually challenging movie of my lifetime. The movie is unique. Nothing even remotely like it has ever before been screened. It chronicles the Arrival of 12 apparent UFOs, but they are actually much more than just that. They are, as I just said, a unique phenomenon. Or more to the point, they were, are always will be just that. What on earth can this mean? 

The ships, if that is what we want to call them, appear out of thin air, like clouds unfolding into substantial material objects ... or so it would appear. They are approximately the shape of a saucer (as in cup and saucer) but with a top on it. They hang vertically in the atmosphere. But there is no motion in them or around them. They leave no footprint. The air is undisturbed around them. There is no radioactivity. There is no activity. There are 12 ships altogether dispersed around the globe, but in no logical pattern.

A famous female linguist, Dr. Louise Banks  (played by Amy Adams), is enlisted by the U.S. military to endeavour to unravel the bizarre signals emanating from within. Every 18 hours on the mark  the ship opens up at the bottom (or is it on its right side, given that it is perpendicular?) and allows people inside. Artificial gravity and breathable air are created for the humans. A team of about 6 enter the ship and are transported up an immense long black hallway to a dark chamber with a dazzlingly bright screen. There, out of the mist, appear 2 heptapods, octopus-like creatures, but with 7 and not eight tentacles. They stand upright on their 7 tentacles and they walk on them. At first, the humans cannot communicate with them at all. But the ink-like substance the heptapods squirt onto the thick window between them and the humans always resolves itself into circles with distinct patterns, as we see in this composite:

Eventually, the humans figure out what the language means, if you can call it that, because the meanings of the circles do not relate in any way to the actions of the heptapods.  Our heroine finally discovers what their mission is, to save humankind along with themselves. They tell us... There is no time. And we are to take this literally.

circular language from the movie Arrival 2016

I extracted all of the linguistic data I could (which was almost all of it) from the film, and it runs as follows, with phrases and passages I consider of great import italicized.   

1. Language is the foundation of which the glue holds civilization together. It is the first weapon that draws people into conflict – vs. - The cornerstone of civilization is not language. It is science.
2. Kangaroo... means “I don't understand.” (Watch the movie to figure this one out!)
3. Apart from being able to see them and hear them, the heptapods leave absolutely no footprint.
4. There is no correlation between what the heptapods say and what they write.
5. Unlike all written languages, the writing is semiseriographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn't represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity.  
6. How heptapods write: ... because unlike speech,  a logogram is free of time. Like their ship, their written language has forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, is this how they think? Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using 2 hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use as well as much space it would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in 2 seconds effortlessly.
7. There is no time.
8. You approach language like a mathematician.
9. When you immerse yourself in a foreign language, you can actually rewire your brain. It is the language you speak that determines how you think.
10. He (the Chinese general) is saying that they are offering us advanced technology. God, are they using a game to converse with... (us). You see the problem. If all I ever gave you was a hammer, everything is a nail. That doesn't say, “Offer weapon”, (It says, “offer tool”). We don't know whether they understand the difference. It (their language) is a weapon and a tool.  A culture is messy sometimes. It can be both (Cf. Sanskrit).
11. They  (masses 10Ks of circles) cannot be random. 
12. We (ourselves and the heptapods) make a tool and we both get something out of it. It's a compromise. Both sides are happy... like a win-win. (zero-sum game). 
13. It (their language) seems to be talking about time... everywhere... there are too many gaps; nothing's complete. Then it dawned on me. Stop focusing on the 1s and focus on the 0s. How much of this is data, and how much is negative space?... massive data... 0.08333 recurring. 0.91666667 = 1 of 12. What they're saying here is that this is (a huge paradigm). 10Ks = 1 of 12. Part of a layer adds up to a whole. It (their languages) says that each of the pieces fit together. Many become THERE IS NO TIME. It is a zero-sum-game. Everyone wins.
NOTE: there are 12 ships, and the heptapods have 7 tentacles. 7X12 = 84. 8 +4 =12. 
14. When our heroine is taken up into the ship in the capsule, these are the messages she reads: 1. Abbott (1 of the 2 heptapods) is death process. 2. Louise has a weapon. 3. Use weapon. 4. We need humanity help. Q. from our heroine, How can you know the future? 5. Louise sees future. 6. Weapon opens time.
15. (her daughter asks in her dream). Why is my name Hannah? Your name is very special. It is a palindrome. It reads the same forward and backward. (Cf. Silver Pin, Ayios Nikolaos Museum and Linear A tablet pendant, Troullous).
16. Our heroine says, * I can read it. I know what it is. It is not a weapon. It is a gift. The weapon (= gift) IS their language. They gave it all to us. * If you learn it, when your REALLY learn it, you begin to perceive the way that they do. SO you can see what’'s to come (in time). It is the same for them. It is non-linear. WAKE UP, MOMMY!

Then the heptapods disappear, dissolving into mere clouds, the same way they appeared out of nowhere in clouds, only in the opposite fashion. There is no time. They do not exist in time.

The implications of this movie for the further decipherment of Linear A and Linear B (or for any unknown language) are profound, as I shall explain in greater detail in upcoming posts.

  

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