World’s First Computer From Ancient Greece Discovered In Aegean Sea

Some time ago, I first wrote about a mystery unfolding in the Aegean Sea. To be more specific an underwater area off the island of Antikythera. A mystery slowly revealing more and more of its secrets.

An extraordinary mystery that really begins in 200 BC, when a Roman ship sailed on a voyage. Where it came from and where it was going nobody knows for certain. But somewhere between Greece and Crete, it ran into a storm and sank. And for more than two thousand years the treasures it carried literally faded into history. Entombed in the sandy bottom of the ocean.

Fast forward to only 100 years ago, when a group of sponge divers make a chance discovery. They see the hand of an ancient statue protruding eerily from the silt. These sponge divers stumbled on the wreck of that ancient Roman ship. It is the largest ancient ship wreck to be discovered. Even though they could only spend a short time on the bottom, because of the depth, they still managed to collect a vast array of artefacts. It was an amazing but eclectic collection of bits and pieces: bronze and marble statues, jewellery, glass and coins. The statues were beautifully crafted and life-like despite the ravages of time and the sea. The glassware crafted to an exacting standard and brightly coloured. The treasure is the sum of many parts but not the whole. Very few items were complete. And of course that led to much speculation about what kind of ship she was. Was it a treasure ship making a delivery to a King or High Priest? Was it a plunder ship carrying the spoils and trophies of war? Or, was it just laden with an assortment of trinkets destined for sale in some distant market?

But one particular item they discovered, at first glance looked like a corroded lump of bronze cogs and wheels. Because it was bronze, it survived well in the sea but didn’t look like anything, anyone had seen before. A lot of years passed before scientists finally took a closer look to see if it could be identified.

The first job, get it X-rayed. And when they did. it looked way more complicated than first thought. There were wheels within wheels. But what exactly was it? It slowly dawned on scientists this was one of the most sophisticated devices ever discovered from ancient times. Forget about Apple and Microsoft. They were looking at the world’s first computer, an analogue computer that did calculations. As far as anyone knows, the only example of its kind anywhere in the world. But how did it work? After further examination, the scientists determined it was an ancient timepiece working as an astronomical calculator. A calculator, or mechanical device, predicting movement of stars and planets. As one astrophysicist said, the device makes mechanical what was known for centuries about astronomical cycles. These cycles predict eclipses by the moon and the sun and are used to produce workable calendars. This hand-cranked device, more than likely predicted which city would host the Olympic Games, as well as tracking movement of planets, for prophecies and religious ceremonies.

Just to put this into context. This is something built more than two thousand years ago. The kind of skill and complexity needed for manufacture would not become evident until the 14 Century. Beyond being ahead of its time, the device could well be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. Scientists think it was built for a wealthy person, for a bit of fun.

The scientific community is very excited principally because they believe they only have half the story. Another half of the device or devices, remains on the bottom of the Aegean sea, waiting to be found. So scientists have no idea how complicated this device could potentially be, or even how many there are until they discover the rest of it. One set of gears and cogs doesn’t match the rest so there is more of the device or devices to be discovered.

But as time goes on scientists are learning more and more about what is being called the Antikythera mechanism. Some of the bronze work contains inscriptions and one word stands out. The Greek word for Cosmos. Scientists believe another metal plate may actually contain an instruction manual for using the device because it details different gear settings.

In a very recent development, scientists now say the device may be much older than first thought. The latest theory it dates from around 200 BC, and not 60 BC as first thought, which ties the device to two of history’s greatest minds, Archimedes and Hipparchus, both astronomers and mathematicians.

But one of the great ironies of this discovery is that true cutting edge technology is being invented for the express purpose of discovering the rest of this ancient example of high tech wizardry and whatever else might be lurking at the site. A $1.7 million diving suit, which acts like a wearable submarine, developed so an archaeologist can use it to explore the wreck site. There are pedals at the feet of the suit to allow the wearer to literally fly through the water powered by thrusters built into the suit’s backpack. The suit’s arms allow for free movement and instead of using their hands, archaeologists recover objects using mechanical pincers. The suit has breathing and communication systems and a carbon dioxide scrubber, which means a diver can stay at depth for long periods.

The whole expedition is costing millions of dollars, partly sponsored by a Swiss watchmaker. The Swiss are people used to dealing with complicated machinery so no surprise they are curious to know more about what makes this device tick.

So far 82 fragments of the Antikythera mechanism were recovered from the wreck. If it turns out to be some rich person’s toy it will be one the most complicated toys ever devised, a genuine forerunner of today’s modern computers. Move over Apple and Microsoft. Forget California, the first Silicon Valley was Ancient Greece.

Is Tinder Playing With Fire?

I came across something called Tinder the other day.

My attention was drawn by the news that a young Australian man met an even younger New Zealand woman through Tinder. But within hours of that meeting the young woman was dead and the young man charged with her murder.

I am not going to dwell on the details of the case, which is now before the courts.

But it got me thinking. What is this thing called Tinder? How does it work? And does it actually result in young people, particularly young women, being placed in dangerous situations?

The first two questions are pretty easy to answer.

To the technically challenged, in other words old farts like me, Tinder is a mobile phone dating application. It’s pitched at the 18-30 demographic and is a location-based app. Tinder let’s you know about people living nearby and then you can anonymously like them or not. If someone you like, happens to like you back then Tinder makes an introduction and let’s you chat within the app. Seems perfectly innocent?

Apparently, it is the hottest thing to happen to dating on the Internet and the stats tell, or should that be sell, the story. One billion matches so far, around the world which translates to ten million matches per day… every day. It’s resulted in 300 marriage proposals and five percent of the Australian population of 23 million has a Tinder profile. It’s the brainchild of a couple of southern Californian entrepreneurs but it’s owned by a multi-national start up company.

Tinder is set to be bigger than Ben Hur.

The intriguing genius behind the app is that it’s designed like a game with the tagline – “like real-life, but better.”

It asks users to sign in with their Facebook profile and then make a split second decision on whether they like the physical appearance of someone, or not, by swiping left or right. Once a match is made, the rest is up to you.

The result is an app regularly used by everyone from Miss USA to Olympic gold medallists. It’s in such hot demand that the company recently announced that it would add a verification tick to celebrity profiles. There is no advertising yet but that won’t be far away.

That takes care of the first two questions. But, what about the third question I posed? Does it represent any kind of danger to young people particularly young women? That question I am a bit scared to answer. If I was to give a personal impression of Tinder it could be summed in something I read today: If a guy walks up to a girl standing in a bar and asks point-blank for sex he’ll get his face slapped. Do the same thing on Tinder and she’ll be around in 5. It’s killed chivalry, taken away the need to make any kind of real connection and replaced it with instant, image-based attraction where one click confirms your intentions almost always of the carnal kind.

Think I am overstating it? Well, check this out. Here are some of the responses from people actually using this app, Men and women. We’ll start with the guys because this app really favours men.

Guy number one: ” ALL it took was for me to answer a couple of questions for a random girl to determine I had ‘passed the serial killer test’ and it was safe for her to make a late-night house call for a one-night stand.

“It was late on a Friday night when I rolled into bed and thought I’d just do a quick check of Tinder to see any new matches.

“I had a message from a girl that I had never before spoken with asking what I was up to.

“After a little bit of back-and-forth she and her friend called me, we chatted for a few minutes, she said I didn’t sound like a serial killer and then asked for my address.

“She’d been at a party where she’d seen her ex boyfriend hook up with another girl and she was out for revenge.

“Who was I to stand in the way of a scorned woman?

“Soon after, she was dropped off by her friend, we had one drink to break the ice and then headed up to the bedroom where we had sex.

“She stayed the night but after she left in the morning we never spoke again.

“Tinder really has been the greatest dating invention for guys.

“With a simple right-swipe, I can have a random girl in my bed quicker than it would take to buy her a drink at a bar.

“No more having to spend hundreds of dollars going out to sweaty clubs, trying to strike up a conversation with a hot girl while her unattractive, larger friend acts as a ‘c**kblock.

“The social obstacles of real-life don’t exist on Tinder and we can be much more forward and cheeky straight from the outset.

“Most of it is small talk that goes nowhere though.”

Guy number two: ” The strangest moment I’ve had on Tinder is when a girl that I matched with sent me a message on a Sunday saying ‘Hey, I’m up here from Sydney and the people I’m staying with don’t finish work until 8pm and I need somewhere to leave my bags while I go out in Nobby Beach’

“I strung her along for about three hours asking what was in it for me.

“She came round and we went to Nobbys. She was a primary school teacher in Sydney.

“We ended up hooking up and she had to call the deputy principal at her school in Sydney the next morning saying she had food poisoning because she was in my bed on the Gold Coast instead of catching her flight back home.

“Mostly it is all small talk on Tinder that fizzles into nothing but some girls are pretty forward.

“I normally stay well away from girls who use a bikini or lingerie photo as their profile picture.

“Tinder use is a lot more socially acceptable than it was 12 months ago. A girl breaks up with her boyfriend and jumps on Tinder… not necessarily to hook up with a guy but for a self esteem boost.

“It is a lot simpler to date but there’s no real connection anymore. One click and you’ve said your whole intentions without saying anything.

“I use Tinder when I’m really bored but only speak with girls I want to f***.”

Girl: “It was like I was out of the loop or something – Tinder – What’s Tinder? A colleague of mine explained it to me, “It’s like the new age Hot or Not.” Fellow male colleagues had a joke about it and said, “If I was your age, I would definitely be using that app.”

“And so it began, it was like a new toy. Never have I been so addicted to using my phone.

“I even let a colleague, who is happily committed in a long-term relationship, hijack my account, play single and ‘reject’ and ‘approve’ all potential Tinder boys.

“Just for laughs, she decided to strike up a conversation with one particular match.

“Sex?”

“His response: “Yep” and it was on.

“My colleague and I were unleashing our inner wild child and took the conversation to a whole new level, things I would never in my life say to a guy. The thing is on Tinder, you can be whoever you want to be.”

One Tinder user tells the story of how her best friend left her underwear at the house of a guy she’d known for a handful of hours only for the guy to threaten to frame her panties and hang them in his bedroom. Charming. Apparently everyone on Tinder has a story of how they meet some crazy person who made an unwelcome and totally inappropriate declaration of carnal lust.

In other words Tinder is unromantic, sleazy, contrived and superficial. It is born of a generation guided by curiosity, daring, boredom and lust with results that are as squalid as they are gratifying.

Of course the defenders of Tinder say, believe it or not, that it’s wholesome. A way to get out and meet people, gain self-confidence and enjoy life. One Tinder user described it as a baptism of fire for the lonely and the broken-hearted, the shy and the nerdy and those who are out for some fun. You do it because Tinder will be whatever you want it to be.

Personally I don’t buy it. I don’t think it does anything to advance the cause of human kind. But maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy.

I am not going to be the voice of doom and say don’t use Tinder. But at the same time I would urge the app’s users to closely follow the Tinder murder trial in Australia. There is bound to be a moral to that story.