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Workings of Ancient Calculating Device Deciphered 268

Posted by timothy
from the nearly-unbelievable dept.
palegray.net writes "Scientists have discovered new meaning behind the functions of the Antikythera Mechanism, which has been referred to as the oldest known analog computing device. In addition to providing a means to calculate the dates for solar eclipses, the device apparently tracked the four-year cycles of the Olympiad. From the New York Times article: 'Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument's back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar.'"
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Workings of Ancient Calculating Device Deciphered

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  • At first glance, I read this as "Workings of Ancient Calculating Divorce Deciphered."

    Good to know that the darn things were as hard to calculate to the "Ancients" as they are today!

  • Data Sets (Score:5, Informative)

    by KGIII (973947) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:47PM (#24407293) Journal

    For those interested here are the data sets and some nifty images available to download:

    The Data [antikythera-mechanism.gr]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also, a good video of Tatjana van Vark's demonstrator.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX3dTKdxoSo [youtube.com]

      From her site,

      This model of the Antikythera Mechanism is made after schematic fig. 5 in Nature vol. 444 and includes a Hipparchos Solar Mechanism of my own design. However I see a-1 as an output to drive a hypothetical planetarium as illustrated.

      The Antikythera Mechanism cannot easily be driven from a-1 as any engineer will understand, taking into account the gear ratios. My input is the disk containing the lunar

  • by notgm (1069012) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:47PM (#24407307)

    when they found it, it was flashing 12.

  • ... what Stargate Atlantis's next McGuffin-centric episode will be about.
  • by BobTheConvict (1330575) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:48PM (#24407321)
    I've always marveled at the "how did they do that" nature of such discoveries and honestly makes me realize an incredible loss of knowledge and skill occurred somewhere in the past (Dark Ages perhaps) that set us back thousands of years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I believe a big "thank you" is in order for organized religion.

      • by Abreu (173023) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:01PM (#24407519)

        I believe a big "thank you" is in order for organized religion.

        Actually, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with it.

        The Church, if anything, managed to save some of the knowledge that would otherwise would have been lost.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_ages [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Apathist (741707)

          The Church, if anything, managed to save some of the knowledge that would otherwise would have been lost.

          Sure, if by "save" you mean "appropriate for exclusive use".

          Yes, the fall of the Roman Empire immediately preceded the Dark Ages. However, problem of the Dark Ages was not so much that there was no central empire to act as a beacon of light, but more that education and knowledge was available only to the clergy (and the wealthy, via the clergy). It is very telling that the Renaissance only began with the translation of the Bible into a common tongue, instead of being exclusively in Latin - that only pries

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Have you considered the invention of the Gutenberg press at all? Before that many books were hand-transcribed and cost a small fortune. the Cambridge library in 1424 only contained about 125 books, the total value of which was probably around the size of a king's entire estate. A single book could cost as much as a farm.

          • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:04PM (#24408449) Journal

            Points of order:

            * "exclusive use", while not perfect, is far preferable to "left to rot", which is pretty much what would've happened if there wasn't at least some entity willing to preserve what would otherwise be disposed of by various invading armies, hordes, etc).

            * Throughout Europe (save for Spain during the Islamic occupations), Latin was the common metric of literacy and fluency among anyone who had even the most rudimentary of noble titles. For most of the early portions of the Dark Ages, IIRC it was pretty much the only language of inter-kingdom commerce (which meant that import-export type merchants either knew it, or they got ripped off a lot).

            * Err, The Bible wasn't printed in any non-Latin language until the 1450's CE, during the Italian Renaissance, which began quite a bit earlier (13th century), with the arrival of Islamic mathematics and philosophies that came back with returning crusaders... and not by Latin-to-Vulgar biblical translations. You were close, though - in that one invention during the same time period made knowledge easier to access... though not for the reasons you state.

            Don't think "Bible", think "Printing Press". Scribe-time before the press was invented was hella expensive for anyone not in the Church wanting copies of something (said church was otherwise busy trying to keep copies of not only internal liturgical and dogmatic script, but to maintain legible copies of everything they could scrounge from the by-now-dead Roman and Greek empires).

            HTH a little,

            /P

            • by giorgist (1208992) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:11PM (#24411899)
              Amm ... look up Byzantium. It never saw a dark ages but continued to creat and inovate.

              The Renaissance was in part as a result of the sacking of Kostantinopole were phylosophers and scientists had to flee to Italy.

              The Bible and espcialy the new tesament was written in Greek the language of teh Byzantium as opposed to Latin.

              G
          • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:12PM (#24408565)

            It is very telling that the Renaissance only began with the translation of the Bible into a common tongue, instead of being exclusively in Latin - that only priests could read.

            Well, that would certainly be telling. If it were true.

            During the so-called Dark Ages, Latin was the language of educated Christians, just as Arabic was the language of educated Muslims - all REAL scholarship was written in Latin or Arabic (Yah, yah, Hindus used another language for scholarship, but since we're talking "Dark Ages", we're talking Europe), depending on the source. Latin (or Arabic) was not exclusive to the priesthood - it was taught everywhere literacy was taught, as PART of literacy.

            Note that a bit later, French filled a similar role - it was the Lingua Franca for any person who laid claim to education. Still later, English has taken up that role, which is perhaps why you didn't understand the relation between Latin and Education - you grew up speaking the modern equivalent of Latin.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by HighOrbit (631451)

            Sure, if by "save" you mean "appropriate for exclusive use".

            Yes, the fall of the Roman Empire immediately preceded the Dark Ages. However, problem of the Dark Ages was not so much that there was no central empire to act as a beacon of light, but more that education and knowledge was available only to the clergy (and the wealthy, via the clergy). It is very telling that the Renaissance only began with the translation of the Bible into a common tongue, instead of being exclusively in Latin - that only pries

            • by ktappe (747125) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @08:10PM (#24410651)

              It sounds like you are accusing the Church of suppressing education and civilization.

              He may not be, but I am. If you do not think the Church has suppressed education, then you need to go have a long look at texts describing the Inquisition. One single example is how the Church dictated the wholesale burning of every scrap of paper documenting the Mayan civilization because it was declared heresy. (Ref: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/maya [pbs.org]). Another very famous example is the Church excommunication of Galileo for daring to suggest the earth orbits the sun. And of course there's the modern-day refusal to accept natural selection as a concept they'll tolerate being taught in schools. Many, many other examples are out there for the learning if you care to look.

              Are you saying the collaspe of education and civilization had nothing to do with that whole burning and pillaging thing from the pagan barbarian hordes such as the Goths and Vandals?

              They were largely disorganized. The Church is far and away the longest lasting, best-funded, globally-organized suppressor of education that has ever existed. No other example even comes close.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by dlcarrol (712729)
                I can't speak to the Mayan stuff, but Galileo was an ass. He happened to be a correct ass, but his discipline was as much political as anything else.

                To put a point on it, suppose that someone showed up with solid evidence that disproved anthropogenic climate change and instead pointed conclusively to sunspots or cattle by-products. See the comparison? Two competing theories, one carrying the day (for good or ill) in contemporary considerations. So this guy shows up with evidence, but is a pompous ass and
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by mdmkolbe (944892)

                And of course there's the modern-day refusal to accept natural selection

                The official position of the Church as established in the Papal encyclical "Humani generis" is the opposite of what you claim it is.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by jstott (212041)

                Another very famous example is the Church excommunication of Galileo for daring to suggest the earth orbits the sun.

                Sigh, here we go again with the same Galileo foolishness. C'mon people, if you're going to keep invoking Galileo, at least read the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] page first, so you know what actually happened.

                First point: Copernicus was the one who suggested that the earth orbits around the sun. He was also a Catholic priest.

                Second point: Galileo provided the observational evidence to support Copernicus, but

          • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @07:01PM (#24409981) Journal

            Well, I'm an atheist (ok, more agnostic) and swift to blame religion myself. Butm to be entirely fair, I'm not sure why you blame the church there.

            1. The early Franks were pretty proud that they're warriors, not scribes. They're not the only ones.

            Charlemagne was the first monarch there who even tried to learn to write. Very late in life and, while he must be commended for his real efforts and time dedicated, it seems to have gone nowhere.

            2. Antiquity itself wasn't that much more literate. Yes, in the middle ages only the rich learned to read and write. Guess what? The Hellots of Sparta and the poor of Rome, but especially _outside_ Rome weren't much richer and nobody taught them to read and write. And even in Egypt, while for the rich it was a thing of _pride_ to be literate (and addressing a letter "to your scribe" was a form of flattery, meaning, "I know you're your own scribe"), don't think that the poor working the fields had time to go to school.

            We have a somewhat distorted view of Greece and Rome, in that basically we have a distorted tunnel view of it. We see the greatness of Athens at its peak, or Sparta... which were populated only with rich slave owners, whose only job was to be soldiers and philosophers. Athens additionally had managed to cheat the other Greek states, who had joined as _allies_ against Persia, with Athens as merely heading and organizing the army and funds, but found themselves actually turned into vassals of Athens and paying tribute as... well, more like a form of paying for protection. And not against the Persians, if you know what I mean.

            So, yeah, the Athenians of Pericle could build great statues and temples, and sit around debating politics and philosophy, on the money of the whole rest of Greece and on the work of countless slaves. They _were_ the rich guys, and yeah, they could read and write. Big improvement over the Dark Ages, where also the rich guys could read and write, eh?

            Ditto in Rome. We look mainly at what happened inside Rome itself, and the great democracy they had, but forget about the whole regions where they reduced the peasants to utter poverty by confiscating the lands and distributing the lands of a whole bloody province to half a dozen rich families. Again, we see the rich and maybe also middle classes this time, getting an education and living in nice cities. And a few slaves used as personal clerks. But forget about the 80% of the population, who was working the fields outside the cities, and who lived a heck of a lot worse and nobody educated those. Don't think that anyone educated the slaves in Sicily, which are documented to have been borderline starved and sometimes outright starved, so their masters could sell more grain to Rome. Or don't think that the slaves in the mines, which was little more than a slow death sentence, got educated first.

            Ancient times were a lot shittier than some people assume. Maybe a little better than the darkest of the Dark Ages, but for most of the poor people, not by much or not at all.

            3. Romans insisted on your learning Roman or Greek too, so...

            4. What we inherited as the idea of the Dark Ages is, well, partially (though not totally) just the eternal circle of nihilism. Each time people go disillusioned, it seems to be a common reaction to go basically "OMG, our contemporary culture is nothing, we're living in the (new) Dark Ages" and "somewhere else / somewhere in the past, now that was Teh Golden Age, and the land of milk and honey!"

            So back then, someone thought Rome was all that. Funnily enough, Rome at various points had thought Greece had been all that. And Greece had thought that their Mycaenean ancestors had been all that. And if you go forward in time instead, you find a disillusioned 19'th century England thinking that the middle ages had been such a golden age of chivalry. Some still do.

            Others look with nostalgia at the peak of the age of disease, social injustice, broken social contracts, nobles _and_ cities plundering the former common lands

        • by mangu (126918) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:33PM (#24407965)

          Actually, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with it.

          The cause of that fall is still under debate, but the least that can be said is that it was closely correlated to the rise of the Roman Church. OK, correlation is not causation, but there is no causation without correlation, causation hasn't been disproved either.

          The Church, if anything, managed to save some of the knowledge that would otherwise would have been lost.

          Yes, and the rest of that knowledge was lost when they scraped old parchment to write their own texts [wikipedia.org]

          And the Church murdering scholars and librarians [wikipedia.org] that didn't belong to the Church didn't help too much either. The Church Father known as "Pillar of Faith" [wikipedia.org] who had Hypatia killed was the same man who had Mary mother of Jesus proclaimed as an "eternal virgin".

          • by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:00PM (#24408389) Journal

            The Church Father known as "Pillar of Faith" who had Hypatia killed was the same man who had Mary mother of Jesus proclaimed as an "eternal virgin".

            Eternal virgin? If that was true, then to heck with this "saint Mary" stuff... Joseph was more of a saint than she was!

            • That's just silly. Where then did Jesus's brothers ands sisters come from? (Mark 6:3)

              Before you reply, get your minds out of the gutter. Of course Joseph "knew" his wife. I think that was the mangu's point.

              • by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:58PM (#24409931) Journal

                That's just silly. Where then did Jesus's brothers ands sisters come from?

                I agree, but for fairness' sake I'll add that some people think that "brothers and sisters" referred to his cousins (linguistically it's perhaps possible, but again, I agree with you: they were biological children of Mary and Joseph). Better evidence, IMO, is Matthew 1:25a: "But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son." If that doesn't say they "did it", I don't know what would...

                Anyway, the whole "virgin Mary" business is silly: Jesus was born of a virgin. Nothing says she had to remain a virgin after that. The idea of a "sinless Mary" is silly, too: "My soul doth magnify the Lord. / And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [wikipedia.org]" Savior from what, if she was sinless? And if she was sinless, Jesus wouldn't have had to die for sin: she could have done it.

                Of course Joseph "knew" his wife. I think that was the mangu's point.

                I know... I was responding to the quoted "Pillar of Faith". It was just too good to pass up... can't you picture Joseph? - "You mean we can't ever WHAT?!"

          • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:06PM (#24408475)

            Good, bad or ugly, it's still a fact that more knowledge was preserved with the Church than would have been without. The monks may have shown bias in which texts they copied, but it's not like anyone else was copying or distributing other works on as large a scale.

            • it's not like anyone else was copying or distributing other works on as large a scale.

              Only in Europe, and only because anyone who wrote a book without the Church approval would be burned at the stake. But what about the rest of the world? While the monks in Europe were copying their religious texts, the rest of the world was inventing Damascus steel and the number zero, among many other things.

              The monks in Europe were so blinded by their faith they couldn't see the brightest supernova [wikipedia.org] in historic times. Not

          • by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @06:50PM (#24409845) Homepage

            Actually, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire had more to do with it.

            The cause of that fall is still under debate, but the least that can be said is that it was closely correlated to the rise of the Roman Church.

            You can say it, sure. You can also say "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog".

            OK, correlation is not causation, but there is no causation without correlation, causation hasn't been disproved either.

            Translation: "I want to make it sound like I'm educated and unbiased without actually being either, especially the latter. Learning is hard."

        • by Paracelcus (151056) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:02PM (#24408413) Journal

          Wasn't it a mob of rabid Christians that finally succeeded in destroying the great library of Alexandria? It might have been the single greatest loss of knowledge/history/culture in the entire existence of mankind. Just think of one of tens of thousands of losses, the complete works of Imnhotep, the man who invented modern architecture, medicine, mathematics and who knows what else, thousands of years before anybody else.

          • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:18PM (#24408651)

            Wasn't it a mob of rabid Christians that finally succeeded in destroying the great library of Alexandria?

            We don't know. The Wikipedia page lists at least four theories about how or when the library was destroyed. Two are due to conquests by the Roman Emperor, one due to conquest by Muslims and one by Christians when the pagan temples were ordered destroyed by the Roman Emperor.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by lelitsch (31136)

            Actually, pretty much everyone pitched in on the destruction:

            -Julius Ceasar burned it down in 48BCE (pagan)
            -Emperor Aurelian destroyed the remains in 274 CE (pagan)
            -Emperor Theophilus ordered it destroyed in 391 CE (Christian)
            -Amr ibn al 'Aas burned what was left of it in 642 CE (Muslim)

            But by all accounts, most of the damage was done in 48.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sm62704 (957197)

        You're right, but not the way you think. Modern science was started by the Catholic church. The dark ages were brought about by the fall of the Roman Empire. Had it not been for the church we might well still be in the dark ages.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          I'm sure Galilei would agree.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Modern science was a direct result of Aristotelian empiricism. Just because Aquinas stumbled upon Aristotle and "rediscovered" AKA plagiarized his work doesn't mean the Catholics deserve any credit. If the Church hadn't spent centuries burning "heretics" and "pagan writings" maybe it wouldn't have needed to "rediscover" the wisdom of the previous era.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Stooshie (993666)

          ... Modern science was started by the Catholic church ...

          True, to an extent, until the results of their scientific endeavours started conflicting with "biblical truth"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdmkolbe (944892)

        I believe a big "thank you" is in order for organized religion.

        I believe you meant this sarcastically, but it shouldn't be so. The Church did both a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, just like any other organization that has been around for any period of time.

        In this case though, the Church mitigated the effects of the fragmentation that occurred after the fall of the Roman Empire simply by being a Pan-European organization that survived the fall. The very act of it continuing to function would have encouraged more contact between the fragments than woul

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          This assumes that fragmentation is intrinsically negative. Nevermind that the 'fragmented' Greek and Anatolian states were practically the definition of civilization prior to Rome. What about the 'fragmentation' of China before the Qin dynasty? Christianity effectively neutered both Rome and eventually the Vikings. Rather than implement the constructive synthesis/syncresis of Rome, Christianity by nature employed a destructive imposition of socio-cultural concepts that would pave all of Europe into somethin
      • I believe a big "thank you" is in order for organized religion.

        For Islam in particular, whose followers preserved and extended the mathematics and astronomy of the ancient world, while Christians forgot the lot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by chord.wav (599850)

      And how do you know these "Dark ages" weren't caused on purpose by aliens or humans from the future to stop us from achiving an even worse future? How do you know???

      Getting serious, imagine what our future generations will say about these days: Patriot act, Trusted computing, DRM, Intellectual copyright, HD TV bit flag, etc, etc, etc. All of them setting us back, maybe, thousands of years. And what do we do? We keep buying iPods and other closed-source stuff and software. It's all about preserving Status Qu

    • I wonder if, with the effect of television, Internet, and other things, the same thing could be gradually happening to us again.
    • The destruction of the Library of Alexandria is another probable cause for our great loss of ancient knowledge.

  • by Bob the Hamster (705714) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:48PM (#24407323) Homepage Journal
    ... also the first known example of "feature creep"
  • Need one today (Score:5, Informative)

    by whitehatlurker (867714) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:53PM (#24407381) Journal
    The article is dated tomorrow. NYT needs a device for calculating time more precisely.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Abreu (173023)

      ...or maybe the Antikythera Mechanism is actually a time machine!

    • by trongey (21550)

      The article is dated tomorrow...

      So is half of the mail in my inbox. Most of the rest is dated 2038.

      • by Sockatume (732728)
        Off topic, but just what is the deal with that? I know it gets the mail to the top of the inbox, but why 2038 specifically? *googley* OIC, it's related to the year 2038 problem. I should've realised that.
    • by game kid (805301)
      Jokes aside (your "Whoosh" keys shall faze me not), they probably meant the paper publish date (unless they publish every hour or somesuch--and given that they've reduced the size of the newspaper to save money and have complained about shrinking revenues before, that won't happen).
  • good news is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @03:53PM (#24407383) Journal

    now we, computer geeks, can claim ancient greek heritage.

    how cool is that, hmmm ?

    • by Yetihehe (971185)
      You mean like getting out of bath naked? Sometimes it's so cool you can even freeze to death (very cool death it is).
  • Isn't this the eighth or ninth time this year that they've "discovered" the inner workings of this damn thing?

  • by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:03PM (#24407555) Journal

    With your bronze gears and such tomfoolery. Back in my day we sisn't even have abacuses. We had to count everything by hand, do the math in our heads, and remember it!

    Now get off my lawn, and take your newfangled gizmo with you!

  • I think it read "Proof of license -- Certificate of Authenticity -- See License Terms -- Label not to be sold seperately".

  • by DustoneGT (969310) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:10PM (#24407655)
    Don't let the patent trolls know any of this. I am sure they each have ten patents on the operation of this device.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:23PM (#24407835)
    Okay, it computes dates. So does it also end on December 21, 2012?
  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @04:34PM (#24407983)
    This is mostly a repost of some things I wrote a few years back, but this should serve as a cautionary tale about computer models and science. This device could "scientifically" prove geo-centrism in the sense of being valid science according to the scientific method.

    Valid reproducable observations that lead to a hypothesis and valid proven predictions does not make it "true". Based upon the Article, the Greeks used this to *accurately* predict the positions of planets. This meets all four steps of our modern scientific method.

    1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena. The Greeks see the planets, moon, and sun move across the sky
    2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. The Greeks form a geo-centric hypothosis "in which each body describes a circle (the epicycle) around a point that itself moves in a circle around the earth"
    3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations. The Greeks build a mental model of the universe to predict where the the heavenly bodies will be in the sky and then build a device (computer model) that will execute their prediction.
    4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments. The Greeks can run the machine over and over and every time come up with a reasonably accurate prediction that can be verified by going back and seeing that the phenomena conforms to the prediction of the computer model

    So, does this mean that a geocentric universe was "proven" by science in the 1st century BC? We would say that was absurd because we have more information about the universe now than the Greeks had from just looking skyward. But how many other computer models and predictions do we take on faith as "science" which are based on incomplete information. Our best global warming climate models are extemely *inaccurate* compared to this relatively accurate device. Yet we accept the (modern) inaccurate models on faith and reject the (ancient) accurate model that this device "proves".

    So my point here is that "scientific" computer models should be greeted with skepticism, even when they accurately predict. They should be absolutely scorned when they fail to accurately predict. There are a whole bunch of "scientists" out there running computer similations that are far less predictive than this device that is likey based on a geocentric theory of the universe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wylfing (144940)

      Dear HighOrbit,

      Please take a history class, or read a book. There were plenty of heliocentric and round-earth hypotheses put forward during the classical Greek period. Often, the observations and measurement-taking were fantastically good. Furthermore, science doesn't seek to prove anything.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @05:01PM (#24408405) Journal
      Emphasis mine:

      So my point here is that "scientific" computer models should be greeted with skepticism, even when they accurately predict. They should be absolutely scorned when they fail to accurately predict. There are a whole bunch of "scientists" out there running computer similations that are far less predictive than this device that is likey based on a geocentric theory of the universe.

      ALL models should be greeted with skepticism. Hell, all THEORIES and all HYPOTHESES should be greeted with skepticism.

      That is the very foundation of successful application of the scientific method.

      There's a big problem with what you're saying, however... you say that a model that does not accurately predict should be scorned. That is false. Models are often revised to account for inaccurate predictions. As one famous scientist explained, it is not the Eureka! moments that drive true discovery, it is the "That's funny..." moments. In other words, the failure of a model to accuately predict will often lead to greater understanding of what is being modeled. Do you think that the General Theory of Relativity should be scorned, even though, as a modeal, it fails to accurately predict the existence of dark energy and dark matter?

      So, to sum up -- yes, skepticism is important in all science. But a model that does not predict accurately may still have value to the scientific community... at the very least, it can be the starting point for a revised model that does accurately predict.

    • by Sockatume (732728)
      It's simply a question of the right model for the job. As everybody knows, a geocentric model of planetary motion can be pretty reasonably accurate, although it's inelegant. Heliocentric models, or better yet, neutral gravitational models of the solar system provide more accurate results, and have the advantage of a certain degree of elegance. The questions are, how accurate is the fit, how efficient is the method, and how powerful are the predictions?

      These are the questions scientists have in mind when w
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ambitwistor (1041236)

      So, does this mean that a geocentric universe was "proven" by science in the 1st century BC?

      It means that geocentrism is a reasonably good theory in terms of predictive skill, although not as good as the theories of orbital mechanics which came after (heliocentrism, Keplerian ellipses, Newtonian gravity, Einsteinian gravity, ...)

      Our best global warming climate models are extemely *inaccurate* compared to this relatively accurate device.

      So?

      Yet we accept the (modern) inaccurate models on faith

      No, we don't. You ever open up the IPCC report and see the big error bars? Everyone knows that modern climate models come with substantial uncertainty. All models have uncertainty, some more and some less. The point with climate models is that, even with large error

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuoteMstr (55051)

      "All theories are wrong. Some are useful."

      Read Thomas Kuhn's influential book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [barnesandnoble.com].

  • 28 days each.

    Then there's new years day, but that's just a blur.

    YKIMS.

     

    • by treeves (963993)

      Ethiopia still uniquely uses a 13-month calendar, the last month being only 6 or 7 days, IIRC.
      "13 months of Sunshine" as their tourism posters say.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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