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LARMOR LECTURE - The Antikythera Mechanism and the Mechanical Universe

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One of the most extraordinary surviving relics from the ancient Greek world is a device containing over thirty gear wheels dating from the 1st century B.C., and now known as the Antikythera Mechanism. This device is an order of magnitude more complicated than any surviving mechanism from the following millennium, and it is clear from its structure and inscriptions that its purpose was to represent the cyclic behaviour of the known Universe. I will outline the results from an international research team which has been using modern imaging methods to probe the device, its inscriptions and its astronomical functions. Our results show the remarkable sophistication of the Mechanism’s design. There are fundamental implications for the development of Greek astronomy, philosophy and technology. The subsequent history of mathematics, computation and cosmology may explain why the idea of a “Mechanical Universe”

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