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Tuesday, May 25, 2010
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Astronomical Computers in Antiquity?
The Antikythera Mechanism

Antikythera Mechanism Lecture

In 1900, a shipwreck (dated between 86 and 67 B.C.) was found near the island of Antikythera, between Crete and mainland Greece. It contained numerous ancient Greek treasures, including a mysterious lump of calcified bronze, which experts determined to be the earliest known manufactured gears. Known since as the Antikythera Mechanism, it is one of the most enigmatic artifacts ever discovered and reveals the surprisingly advanced state of ancient Greek science and technology of that era.

John Hugh Seiradakis is Professor of Astronomy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he has taught since 1985. He obtained a degree in Physics from the University of Athens and his PhD at the Victoria University of Manchester. He has performed research at the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy, the University of Hamburg, and the University of California, San Diego.

His major scientific interests in astronomy focus on neutron stars (pulsars), neutral hydrogen modeling in nearby galaxies, the center of our galaxy, flare stars, the moon, and archaeoastronomy. In addition to three textbooks and more than 100 scientific articles, he has also published popular books and articles on astronomy. He has participated in several international conferences and evaluation committees for research projects or programs, and he has represented Greece in large European networks (OPTICON, ILIAS, CRAF, etc.). He was a founding member of PULSE, the neutron stars research network, which was awarded the highest EU prize, Descartes, in December 2005. He has also served as a member and officer of several national and international scientific organizations, including the Greek National Committee for Astronomy and the Hellenic Astronomical Society.

Tom Malzbender is a Senior Research Scientist at Hewlett- Packard (HP) Laboratories. He works at the intersection of computer graphics, computer vision, and signal processing and developed the techniques of Reflectance Transformation, Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM), and Fourier Volume Rendering. He also developed the capacitive sensing technology that allowed HP to penetrate the consumer graphics tablet market. His PTM methods are used by the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery in London and in the fields of criminal forensics, paleontology, and archaeology.

His recent work on imaging the Antikythera Mechanism helped to decipher this ancient astronomical computer and is described in the December 2009 issue of Scientific American. Mr. Malzbender is on the program committee for several 3D graphics and vision conferences.

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