More than 21 centuries ago, a fabulous mechanism was created in Greece, a machine that is capable of indicating exactly the position of the moon and sun, eclipses and lunar phases. But this fascinating invention would be threw in the sea and its secret drowned for thousands of years. Then, in 1900, some sponge divers have discovered the wreck of an ancient trading ship near the small island of Antikythera where fragments of the mechanism were found. Since that period of time, scientists and researchers are trying to discover the functions and secrets of this device. After a few months since the machine was transported to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, it was opened. The artifact embodied a lump of corroded bronze, consisting of toothed bronze gear wheels, fact that was very surprising for the researchers, because before this discover no such metal gear technology existed in the classical world. After lots of examinations, the
interior structure and inscriptions in ancient Greek showed that the mechanism had an astronomical purpose. Later in 1905, a German philologist first recognized that it was an astronomical calculator. In 2005, an international big group of scientists have initiated “The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project” with the objective of discovering all the secrets and purposes of the Antikythera mechanism by using the imaging and analysis techniques.
The team started the research by creating and developing tools for obtaining clear images of the Antikythera fragments. “The researchers placed a geodesic hemisphere over each fragment that had 50 electronic flashbulbs arranged across the internal surface of the hemisphere, fired off in structure by a computer that controls a digital camera, which takes a picture for each flash.” Then, the efforts of the team lead to new discovers that permitted a better vision of the images of the Antikythera mechanism. This knowledge may be included in a big field of the computing science, called: “Computer graphic”. The computer graphic that gives us the possibility to see some objects and images from the format of 2D to 3D, involves a lot of mathematical calculations that were as well a part of the researches that the AMRP made to be able to see the fragments of the oldest first computer. Every pixel that the scientists could see in the images, usually required a lot of work. The vision of the images could be possible due to the polynomial texture maps that were used “to represent these pixels as functions of the lighting source’s direction to specify red, green and blue on surface components. A PTM fitter fits a low-order polynomial to lighted samples of the object represented in the image sequence.” In computer graphics there are numerous transformations that may be used, but the most shared ones are “translation (moving the object), rotation (spinning it) and scaling (changing its size). They come up often in graphics because they are applied not only to objects, but to things like the positions of the camera and lighting sources.” These transformations were applied as well in the researches of AM and especially when the AMRP used the CT system called: “450-keV BladeRunner”, which was built for these researches by the X-Tek Systems. “The system’s microfocus X-ray source has a small but intense beam diameter that allows much greater spatial resolution than typical CT medical scanners. The detector was a 16-inch Perkin Elmer flat panel with 2,048 × 2,048 square 400-micron pixels.”
A big field of computing science that is also involved in the researches of the international team of researchers is the “Algorithms”. The process of decoding the ancient computer required lots of algorithms created for different purposes, for example the algorithms used to write a Mathematica program, which appropriate a model with n perfectly spread out teeth. “The “goodness of fit” parameter was simply the reciprocal of the least-squares deviation between model and data, but it worked remarkably well. In most cases, a well-defined maximum in the fit parameter appeared when plotted against n and the angular center displacement using Mathematica’s Plot3D function. We could establish firm tooth counts, with just a few gears uncertain by one or two teeth. Some of the definite counts—38, 53, 127—show a deliberate
choice by the maker to include the gears necessary for astronomical ratios. For example, 38 is 2 × 19 for the 19-year cycle of the moon.” Also the mechanism itself represent a lot of algorithms, due to which the device could work. The star calendar writings overhead and beneath the central disks represented the dates of arrival and departure of the stars. The middle display was made of small circles, which purpose was to represent the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets. The distances between the planets were indicated by the spheres’ circular positions on indicator pins. The turning pointers crossed the outside graduated rings, signifying the zodiac and the months of the Egyptian calendar. This is how, the locations of the figures could be determined at precise times of the year. The whole mechanism was operated by a turning crank that was located on one of the sides of the box. This input
control the gearing system that is located inside. Built with precision, the Antikythera mechanism contained 40 gears fluctuating in thickness (from1.0 mm to 2.7 mm.) Gears were fixed in coats, with the cracks between them measuring only 1.4 mm per gear. This setting of gears executed the computations that calculated each of the outputs shown on the dials. After the mechanism had to execute all these steps that took part of the algorithm of the device, the calculations could be made, so the ancient computer was able to predict lunar and solar eclipses, phases of the moon, and the paths of planets and the sun across the zodiac.
Although the Antikythera mechanism was an invention of fabulous ingenuity, it could not perform such operations that can a modern computer perform. For the “computer” was impossible for example to store the data. It could not have a hard disk, or a CD. Also, the mechanism was not able to transmit or to propagate the information. It was calculated, but could not be transmitted to other devices. All these of course because that was something unknown to the Greeks at that time. So there we see that the invention does not involve some ICT fields, which was completely possible, considering the fact that all these fields developed after the World War II.
After reading the article written by Freeth and Edmunds, we clearly see that they are completely impressed by the extraordinarily sophisticated mechanical design of the Antikythera mechanism. One of the authors being a member of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, he was able to describe the entire process of decoding the computer with a noticed enthusiasm. The project required a lot of hard work, which included using of “a wide range of computing techniques, some of which were specialized and sophisticated, and others that were simplicity personified. The flexibility of a high-level language such as Mathematica allowed relatively rapid development of statistical analysis programs, letting us do “experimental archaeology” in an initial assessment of the device’s accuracy in use. Constructing video simulations of the gear trains and the display dials not only provided superb material for explaining our discoveries to
non-specialists, but also developed our own understanding of the mechanism’s structure. Our extensive use of so many different kinds of software might not be typical of general archaeology: our backgrounds are in astrophysics and mathematics, not classical studies or archaeology. Software use was always likely to be effective because of the artifact’s mathematical nature.” At the end of the researches, the team and also the authors concluded that the device could calculate and display the lunar and solar eclipses, phases of the moon, the paths of planets, the sun across the zodiac and also the sequence of the Pan-Hellenic games, including the Olympic Games. But besides all these, the authors concluded that the device could be more complex and could have much more purposes, thing that is still a mystery for the researchers. The participants remained fascinated by the ingenuity of the genius that managed to create this mechanism.
Studying and searching for further information, I managed to read a lot of articles about this mechanism. Trying to understand the algorithm of the device, took a little time. But basing on the article and on the researches made by the AMPR, I may conclude that the decoding of the first computer took a lot of hard work. The scientists had firstly to deal a lot with the imaging of the mechanism, where they had to develop and build different kind of tools, programs and systems, such as: X-Tek Systems, polynomial texture maps, and Newtek’s Lightwave 3D film. After that, they had to establish consistent tooth calculations for all the gears that the mechanism contained. For that they had to import numerous parallel CT slices into a CAD program, Nemetschek’s Vectorworks and then to export the data to an Excel database for a tooth-count examination. Based on the investigations made at the Excel of the gear image, they have nominated possible connecting runs of teeth and have read them from the database into a Mathematica program. Besides that, the researches required a lot of time, so as they started in 2005 and ended in 2006. After all these, I cannot disagree with the authors who say that “the invention is an extraordinarily sophisticated mechanism that is still an enigma.” The person who could develop and create the Antikythera Mechanism with all its algorithms and calculations, was truly a genius.
Analyzing the whole process, we could not forget about some ethical or social issues that could appear during the researches. One of the ethical issues that I found relevant in this article is the objectivity. You should try to avoid favoritism in somewhat feature of your research, including design, data analysis, understanding, and peer evaluation. For example, you should never recommend as a peer reviewer somebody you know, or who you have worked with, and you should try to safeguard that no groups are involuntarily excluded from your research. This also means that you need to reveal any personal or economic benefits that may affect your exploration. Reading the article, we can’t really talk about objectivity here, observing the references that the author makes to other scientists who were involved in the research process. Of course we
can’t say for sure that it represents an interest of the author, but anyway an ethical issue may be found everywhere. So thinking critically, I may say that this ethical problem could take part there. Otherwise, even trying very hard to find another issue, I am not able to find it.

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