Maybe the Coolest Lego Gizmo Ever: The Antikythera Mechanism

One of the prettier things I’ve seen on the ‘net lately: a recreation of an ancient computing device called the Antikythera Mechanism.

The Antikythera Mechanism in Lego from Small Mammal on Vimeo.

The Antikythera Mechanism — just one is known — is an ancient Greek computing device discovered in a shipwreck in 1901. It took a century for scientists to figure out what it was for: The Greeks apparently used it to calculate astronomical positions.

The Wikipedia entry on this gizmo and its history is almost as captivating as this model, which was made with thousands of Lego Technic part and shot in stop-action, which took 40 days. Adam Rutherford, of Nature, had the idea; convinced gizmo-maker Andrew Carol to build it; and enlisted writer and filmmaker John Pavlus, who runs Small Mammal (and is a friendly online acquaintance of mine) to shoot the film. Nature A new website and operation called Digital Science underwrote the project, and bully for them.

For more — and who wouldn’t want more? — see

  • The Science Direct page on the project.
  • A Nature article on the Mechanism.
  • 1080p HD version of the film at the site of Pavlus’s Small Mammal site
  • A fascinating interview with designer/builder Andrew Carol on the device’s history and his own design process, including films of him tweaking it.
  • Behind the scenes post on making the film (40 days of animation).

Friday, February 25, 2011: Corrected to credit Digital Science rather than Nature; added links to reflect same.

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