Emma McCaughan notified me that topic of the 2012 Larmor Lecture organised by the Cambridge Philosophical Society is the Antikythera mechanism. It takes place at 5:30 pm today (Monday 8th October) in the Bristol-Myers Squibb lecture theatre, located on Lensfield Road (south of Downing College, Cambridge). It’s open to everyone and I’ll almost definitely be there.
Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that my demonstration is now online for you to mess around with. You can set the date and time to observe certain astronomical events. For example, you can enter the date of the 1999 solar eclipse (the only eclipse I’ve observed, as far as I can remember) and press the ominous ‘go to date’ button:
It’s pretty accurate, in that the Sun, Moon and Earth are collinear as expected. You can use this to see into the future as well. It’s based on Ancient Greek approximations to astronomical cycles, so loses accuracy when you start to go too far away from the present.
If/when I understand completely the Freeth-Jones model (hopefully today’s lecture will shed some light), I’ll make an updated version of this demonstration to indicate planetary motions. The model has a similar pin-and-groove system to the lunar display to emulate the elliptical orbits of each planet, but I don’t yet know the exact tooth counts.
If you lived somewhere other than Britain, you may have been one of the lucky people to observe the recent Transit of Venus. Otherwise, you’ll have to either wait for the updated demonstration or view it in Stellarium. Still, nothing can compare to watching the real thing; I hope Ray Kurzweil can extend my life so I can observe the next one (2117).
See you in 2.5 hours!