In 1900, a group of sponge divers blown off course in the Mediterranean discovered an Ancient Greek shipwreck dating from around 70 BC. Lying unnoticed for months amongst their hard-won haul was what appeared to be a formless lump of corroded rock, which turned out to be the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity. For more than a century this 'Antikythera mechanism' puzzled academics, but now, more than 2000 years after the device was lost at sea, scientists have pieced together its intricate workings. In "Decoding the Heavens", Jo Marchant tells for the first time the story of the 100-year quest to understand this ancient computer. Along the way she unearths a diverse cast of remarkable characters - ranging from Archimedes to Jacques Cousteau - and explores the deep roots of modern technology not only in Ancient Greece, the Islamic world and medieval Europe.
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Jo Marchant is Opinion Editor at New Scientist magazine. She has a PhD in medical microbiology and has been a science journalist for nine years. She spent three years of that as an editor at the journal Nature, and her articles have also appeared in the Guardian and The Economist. She lives with her boyfriend in Brixton, London.Review:
"Though it is more than 2,000 years old, the Antikythera Mechanism represents a level that our technology did not match until the 18th century, and must therefore rank as one of the greatest basic mechanical inventions of all time. I hope [this] book will rekindle interest in this artefact, which still remains under-rated" -- Arthur C. Clarke "Sunken treasure. A mysterious artefact. Scrambled inscriptions. Warring academic egos. Technology 1,000 years before its time. [This] tale of a wondrous relic ... sounds like pulp fiction. But it's all true ... Puts ancient Greece in a whole new light" The Independent "A fabulous piece of storytelling, thick with plot, intrigue, science, historical colour and metaphysical speculation. The mechanism is fascinating - but the larger question of why its knowledge was lost, and what else with it, is mind-blowing" Metro "An informative and thoroughly researched book" -- Andrew Crumey Scotland on Sunday "A dizzyingly brilliant thing ... the Antikythera mechanism bears a chilling message for our technological age" Telegraph
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