Lego machine predicts future eclipses

Hidden behind the white face plates of this machine are racks of gears that make up a replica of one of the oldest known mechanical computers. This is a working model of the Antikythera mechanism made from Lego pieces. In the video, which you absolutely can’t miss after the break, The machine is disassembled into its various components. Each mechanical unit takes advantage of gear ratio combinations to perform numerous levels of mathematical functions in order to display the date and time that future celestial events will occur.

The background information on the original device reads like the script for a sequel to The Goonies. Believed to date back to 100-150 BC, the stone bronze mechanism was recovered from a shipwreck around the turn of the twentieth century. The use of x-ray analysis helped to unlock the functions and confirm the theories of its operation.

Part of what makes this so interesting is the historical connection. But the production quality of the video (which to be fair, seems to be an advertisement) really brings home how complicated this process is. Now it’s time for us to watch the video a few more times, sketching out the gearing to see that this works as they say it does.

Want more of the Antikythera mechanism? Check out the model built by [Tatyana van Vark].

[via Reddit]

Comments

  1. cde says:

    They just need the movie voice guy. Good editing.

  2. Eggman says:

    excellent video. definitely watch in 720p

  3. alan turing's dog says:

    Uhm, this was made of brass/bronze and not stone. Celestial navigation tech has been around for a long time, but apart from the odd Indiana Jones movie, few mechanisms are made of rock.

  4. ZakTheLegoManiac says:

    How I love mechanical computers made from legos.

  5. JC says:

    Wow. Pretty amazing they could do all of that with Legos. I wonder if they used any superglue to keep it together.

  6. Mike Szczys says:

    @Alan turing’s dog: Thanks, fixed.

  7. octel says:

    anyone know how to get that “disassembling” effect in the video? i think it’s slow-motion because they goofed at 1:29

  8. Lushfun says:

    Pretty soon we will be making robo girlfriends out of microwaves and silly putty.

  9. Ryan says:

    The video was very impressive, but the mechanism itself not so much.

    The entire mechanism needs only a few gears but since lego only has 4 sizes of gears (and the differential drive) they smooshed together a pile of gears to “fake” more complicated gear ratios.

    There are so many insane lego builds that use parts creatively but this one falls completely flat.

    Nothing mechanically clever whatsoever. Most of the official technic sets are more impressive IMO.

  10. Ryan says:

    And just to back up my pointless rant here is a difference engine built out of lego.

    Absolutely insane:

    http://acarol.woz.org/difference_engine.html

  11. vonskippy says:

    Yeah but isn’t there an “app” for that?

  12. strider_mt2k says:

    Isn’t there a pointless non sequitur for that?

    It’s COOL and all, but it’s not as inspiring as some of the projects I’ve seen.

    That Difference Engine, for instance!
    8)

  13. CumQuaT says:

    This is the single greatest achievement of mankind…

    The lego one, not the original…

  14. Fail says:

    - Except a gear ratio 5/19 does not turn into -5/19 when reversed
    – Spelling
    – Are you shure this qualifies as replica?
    – Too “loud”

    Nice animation though!

  15. Fail says:

    I meant “sure” :-)

  16. Hackius says:

    Ryan: it’s the same guy

  17. Daedalus says:

    @octel Probably with fishing lines or something like that, then animated in stop-motion. The goof at 1:29 is when inbetween frames, they separated the top part from the bottom and just kinda put it in the right position.

  18. Mike Szczys says:

    @Octel and @Daedalus: If you’re wondering how the video was filmed go to the Reddit link at the bottom and read the comments from the builder.

  19. Daedalus says:

    Ah thanks Mike.

  20. Bill says:

    Amazing i love lego , but read more about Antikythera mechanism

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism

  21. nateL says:

    Quote: “The entire mechanism needs only a few gears but since lego only has 4 sizes of gears (and the differential drive) they smooshed together a pile of gears to “fake” more complicated gear ratios”

    Isn’t that the true essence of a hack? I find it more impressive, not less, that he was able to create those ratios within said constraints. He didn’t set out to create the mechanism with as few parts as possible, he set out to create it using Lego Tecknics. And it’s impressive.

    Haters be hatin’.

  22. Hirudinea says:

    The best of Denmark and Greece come togehter for a great hack, but the original was still better.

  23. English Zoidberg says:

    armchair haters be hatin’ !

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