Take those gear pegs out of your nostrils and look at this. I think I just found a reason for you to visit the nearest LEGO store, purchase every gear available and spend the next month cogging up your workspace with bits and blocks. You could recreate 2,000 year old mechanism that predict the future.

That’s exactly what Andy Carol, a software engineer at Apple, does in his spare time. One of his latest creations was a challenge to build an ancient device dating back to 100 BC which predicts solar and lunar eclipses within an accuracy of 2 hours.

The Antikythera Mechanism

After being found in 1901, at the site of the Antikythera shipwreck, off the Greek island of the same name, it was named the Antikythera Mechanism. It’s age makes this ancient computer amazing, but it’s function, even by today’s standards, will make your jaw drop loosely to the floor.

Andy used 1,500 LEGO Technic parts, including 110 gears, to recreate the mechanism. John Pavlus of Small Mammal then developed the idea of using 3D stop-motion video to tell the story and show how it functions.

Adam asked me to come up with a few different ideas for the film, but my favorite concept was inspired by “exploded view” engineering diagrams — with their clean lines, isometric perspective, and clouds of floating parts. Since Andy is an engineer, and we had to explain the dizzying intricacy of his design anyway, I figured an “exploded view diagram come to life” would be the perfect visual conceit.Behind the scenes

“Dizzying intricacy” is right. The five gear boxes which pass calculations to each other is just the beginning. After that, it breaks down into a series of gear ratios that will make your head spin. If only this would make it to the shelves in time for Christmas.

To see more on the whole process and some pre-production work done in Google sketch-up, check out the website of John Pavlus: Behind the Scenes: Lego Antikythera Mechanism



Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.