The Antikythera Mechanism. In Lego form.
Chalk this up as another reason why Legos are the coolest toy anyone can ever have: You can build a working replica of an ancient Greek computing device, The Antikythera Mechanism.
The actual device is a 2000-year-old calculation machine that was recovered in 1901 from the Antikythera shipwreck, which went down off the northwest coast of Crete in the 2nd century. It apparently took scientists nearly a century to figure out just what the mechanism did. Astonishingly enough, turns out that somewhere around 150-100 BC, some enterprising, gizmo-curious Greek had created a machine that would calculate astronomical positions used to predict phenomena such as solar and lunar eclipses. This is one of those rare instances where the Wikipedia entry is actually a fascinating read.
Two thousand years later, we get a working replica made from thousands of Lego Technic parts. The video was shot in stop-action over the course of 40 days. This plastic-geared analog computer accurately predicts, within a span of two hours, the year, date, and time of future solar and lunar eclipses. Credit for the idea goes to Adam Rutherford, of Nature, who convinced tinker extraordinaire Andrew Carol to build it, and enlisted writer and filmmaker John Pavlus, (Small Mammal) to shoot the film.
The entire project was underwritten by a new website and operation called Digital Science. (Tip for Digital Science – more of this, please!).
I doff my cap to you, gentlemen, this is amazing. Although now I feel like a complete slacker for never doing anything more complicated than a crudely-built Deathstar with my Legos (and this was before all the “themed” playsets with specific parts came out).
Want to know more? Go here:
- The Science Direct page on the project.
- A Nature article on the Mechanism.
- 1080p HD version of the film at the site of Pavlus’s Small Mammal site
- A fascinating interview with designer/builder Andrew Carol on the device’s history and his own design process, including films of him tweaking it.
- Behind the scenes post on making the film (40 days of animation).