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The Antikythera Mechanism: Decoding an astonishing 2nd century BCE astronomical computer

Talk by Prof. John Seiradakis on Tuesday, May 02, 2017 in the Deutsches Museum Bonn, Germany

March 06, 2017

The Antikythera Mechanism was found by chance, in a shipwreck, close to the small Greek island of Antikythera, in April 1900, by sponge divers. The shipwreck was dated between 86 and 67 BCE (coins from Pergamon). Later the Mechanism was stylistically dated, around the second half of the 2nd century B.C. (200 – 100 BCE).
Announcement card for the talk by John Seiradakis on Tuesday, May 02, 2017, in the Deutsches Museum Bonn Zoom Image
Announcement card for the talk by John Seiradakis on Tuesday, May 02, 2017, in the Deutsches Museum Bonn

The Antikythera Mechanism was a portable (laptop-size), geared mechanism which calculated and displayed, with good precision, the movement of the Sun and the Moon on the sky and the phase of the Moon for a given epoch. It could also calculate the dates of the four-year cycle of the Olympic Games and predict eclipses!

Its 30, precisely cut, gears were driven by a manifold, with which the user could select, with the help of a pointer, any particular epoch. While doing so, several pointers were synchronously driven by the gears, to show the above mentioned celestial phenomena on several accurately marked annuli. It contained an extensive user’s manual.

The exact function of the gears has finally been decoded and a large portion of the manual has been read after 2000 years by a major new investigation, using state of the art equipment.

New results concerning the construction of the spirals and the pointers will be presented and the ability of ancient Greeks to use hard metals and cutting tools will be examined.

The talk is jointly organized by Deutsches Museums Bonn and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

When: Tuesday, May 02, 2017, 7:00pm

Where: Deutsches Museum Bonn, Ahrstraße 45 (in the "Wissenschaftszentrum" building)

Title: The Antikythera Mechanism: Decoding an astonishing 2nd century BCE astronomical computer

Speaker: Prof. Dr. John H. Seiradakis, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece

There will be no entrance fee. The talk will be presented in English language.

Biographical Notes:

John Seiradakis was born in Chania, Crete. He obtained his degree in Physics (1971) from the University of Athens and his M.Sc. (1973) and Ph.D. (1975) from the Victoria University of Manchester. From 1975 to 1985 he worked as a Post Doc researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn, at the University of Hamburg and at the University of California, San Diego. In 1985 he was appointed Associate Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and in 1996 full Professor. In 2011 he was elected Director of the Laboratory of Astronomy of the Aristotle University, a position that he held until his retirement in August 2015. In December 2015, he was appointed Professor Emeritus.

His major scientific interests in Astronomy focus on neutron stars, neutral hydrogen in nearby galaxies, the galactic centre, flare stars, the Sun, the Moon and Archaeoastronomy. He has written 3 course books and has published more than 100 articles in refereed (mainly) and other scientific journals, volumes or conference proceedings. He has also written popular astronomy books and published several tens of articles in newspapers or popular magazines. He has represented Greece in large European networks (OPTICON, ILIAS, CRAF, etc) and in international resolutions. In December 2005, the highest EU prize “Descartes” was awarded to the neutron stars research network, PULSE, in which he is a founding member. He is a member of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Group. Since 2007, he has given more than 180 lectures, public or scientific, in Greece and around the world for the Antikythera Mechanism.

Finally, he has served as Member, Chairman or Director in several national or international scientific Committees or Organizations, including the Greek National Committee for Astronomy and the Hellenic Astronomical Society.

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