New Contest

First person to tell us the name of this item and it’s purpose will win a nice prize.  Good luck!

Update:  The winner is Lowry.  It is called the Antikythera mecahnism.  It was found on the site of a Roman shipwreck dating back to 65 BC.  It was rebuilt after many years of hard work by using x-rays and hi-resolution surface scans(see the original Antikythera  after the jump).  “It is a very accurate device for measuring the movement of astronomical bodies, such as the sun and moon through the phases of the zodiac. The device also allows for the precise prediction of eclipses and accounts for the first lunar anomaly, which is an irregularity in the orbit of the moon.”   More info after the jump…

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The inclusion of the data about the Olympic Games on what is now called the Olympiad Dial of the clock-like mechanism was a surprise to the researchers because the dates of the ancient Olympics, held every fourth summer from 776 BC to AD 393, would have been well known to the populace, just as the time of the modern Olympics is now.

“The inclusion of the Olympiad Dial says more about the cultural importance of the Games than about their advanced technology,” said Tony Freeth of Images First Ltd. in London, who was a member of the research team that reported the results in the journal Nature.

The Antikythera mechanism, so named because it was found in 1901 in a Roman shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, is thought to have been made about 100 BC.

Its purpose was a mystery for more than 100 years, but in 2006, researchers used a massive X-ray tomography machine, similar to that used to perform CT scans on humans, to examine the heavily encrusted fragments.

They concluded that the device originally contained 37 gears that formed an astronomical computer.

Two dials on the front show the zodiac and a calendar of the days of the year that can be adjusted for leap years. Metal pointers show the positions in the zodiac of the sun, moon and five planets known in antiquity. Two spiral dials on the back show the cycles of the moon and predict eclipses.

Using more powerful computers to analyze the CT data, Freeth and his colleagues, all affiliated with the in Cardiff, Wales, were able to decipher the names of all 12 months, as well as names identifying several Greek games.

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