2000 years ago the Greeks built a device designed to calculate the motion of celestial bodies, a computer now called the Antikythera mechanism. Lost for centuries at the bottom of the ocean, it was pulled up in 1901 and has baffled scientists until recently. This year, designer Andrew Carol built the first working copy of the computer out of Lego bricks, the New Scientist reports.
The Antikythera mechanism is ridiculously complex for what is arguably the first computer ever built. The sequence of intricate gears can accurately display eclipses of heavenly bodies, and the LEGO replica works just as the original did (as best as we can figure, since it was a wood and gears machine lying underwater for centuries). High resolution X-ray tomography (which is imaging by sectioning through the use of any kind of penetrating wave) was used in the determination of the machine’s function.
The skill and understanding of the cosmos required to build something this complex never fails to astound me. It seems a worthy tribute to that ingenuity to replicate in every detail such a wonder out of LEGO, the building blocks of awesome. It was built with LEGO Technic parts, and I’ll be honest: I don’t remember building anything as sophisticated as the bucket loader shown on their website, let alone a 2000-year-old Greek astrological computer.
Our hats are collectively off to Andrew Carol for building it, and to Adam Rutherford, the journalist who put the project under his nose.