Monday, June 22, 2009

Decoding the Heavens: Antikythera mechanism

Book - Decoding the Heavens: Antikythera mechanism
Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer--and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets is about the the Antikythera mechanism a mysterious and sophisticated mechanical device recovered in 1901 from an ancient Mediterranean shipwreck. It is now thought to have been built about 150 - 100 BC and represents the first known analog computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. It's an astonishing piece of ancient mechanical technology with a fascinating history.

From the Publishers Weekly
Marchant, editor of New Science, relates the century-long struggle of competing amateurs and scientists to understand the secrets of a 2000-year-old clock-like mechanism found in 1901 by Greek divers off the coast of Antikythera, a small island near Tunisia. With new research and interviews, Marchant goes behind the scenes of the National Museum in Athens, which zealously guarded the treasure while overlooking its importance; examines the significant contributions of a London Science Museum assistant curator who spent more than 30 years building models of the device; and the 2006 discoveries made by a group of modern researchers using state-of-the-art X-ray. Beneath its ancient, calcified surfaces they found "delicate cogwheels of all sizes" with perfectly formed triangular teeth, astronomical inscriptions "crammed onto every surviving surface," and a 223-tooth manually-operated turntable that guides the device. Variously described as a calendar computer, a planetarium and an eclipse predictor,Marchant gives clear explanations of the questions and topics involved, including Greek astronomy and clockwork mechanisms. For all they've learned, however, the Antikythera mechanism still retains secrets that may reveal unknown connections between modern and ancient technology; this globe-trotting, era-spanning mystery should absorb armchair scientists of all kinds.

Here is a link for more information on the book Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer--and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets

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Monday, June 09, 2008

The Harmonium: Amazing Analog Gear Computer

The Harmonium - Analog Computer
I won't pretend to understand everything this thing is capable of, but from what I can tell it is able to print out various sine functions (like a graphing calculator) but does so by a purely mechanical means.
The Harmonium - Analog Computer
I gather that you can do two things with the machine. First, the machine will produce various sine waves for you on paper after you set values for the amplitude and phase angle. Second, in a reversal of this process, you can trace a curve and use Fourier analysis to extract the phase and amplitude of the curve.

The Harmonium is the invention of 64-year-old Dutch inventor -- Tatjana van Vark -- who has been building complex gadgetry since she was 14.

Here's a link to a site about The Harmonium Analog Computer which has tons of gorgeous photographs of the device. This info comes to me by way of the Retro Thing blog.

Thanks bhaaluu!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

CNC Shark Wood Routing System Available Online

CNC Shark Routing SystemNot long ago, I posted about the CNC Shark -- the new entry in the field of more affordable of computer controlled wood carving machines. I just noticed that Rockler Woodworking Supply is has started selling them online as the exclusive dealer. They are offering live demonstrations in stores too.

Here's what Rockler has to say about the CNC Shark:

Bring the speed and precision of computer-controlled machinery to your shop with this top value CNC system! With a table measuring 15-3/4" x 31-1/2" it's ideally suited for carvings and machining operations on a large variety of signs, doors and other small projects. It boasts impressive power, speed, accuracy, and ease of use. With its robust steel and high-density poly-ethylene construction, it can take accidental impacts that would normally damage or destroy an aluminum or MDF machine. Optional Clamping Table features two hold-down slots for securing work anywhere along the length of the table. Compatible with the Bosch Colt Palm Router. Includes VCarve Pro software interface — a $500 value. You supply a computer with USB port, a Bosch Colt router, and a table top (router and table top also available sold separately). You connect the USB cable to the controller box and the other end to your computer.

Visit a store near you for a live Demo.

CNC Shark Routing System at Rockler Woodworking Supply.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Goat / Logic Gates in Paper Automata Form

Here's a really interesting combination of expertise: logic gates (the basis of all computing and therefore computers) and paper automata.

Rob Ives -- another of the masters of paper automata -- has created Logic Goats. The OR goat will nod if you press either the first button or the second. The AND goat will only nod if you press the first and the second buttons.

If we could get a NAND and NOR goats and string them all together in complex chains, we might be able to build a Goat-based computer!

Check out, buy and download the Logic Goat Automata at the Flying Pig web site.

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