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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic (history changing) story, well told
when I recieved this book I was disappointed by the lack of detailed photographs or illustrations of the Antikythera device. This is not so much a book about the device, but the story of its discovery and recognition.

The story is told as a series of biographies of the people who have helped to bring the device to light. I found the story increasingly...
Published on 13 Nov 2008 by M. littler

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy standards make for poor prose
Whilst this book is an interesting read, those purchasing it would do well to do some research regarding the Antikythera Mechanism, and the teams that worked on it- as there seems to be some dispute between the author and the research team as to its accuracy.

There also seems to be concern that one of the scientists written about has not been portayed in a fair...
Published on 7 April 2010 by librarygirl


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic (history changing) story, well told, 13 Nov 2008
By 
M. littler "mike62099" (Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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when I recieved this book I was disappointed by the lack of detailed photographs or illustrations of the Antikythera device. This is not so much a book about the device, but the story of its discovery and recognition.

The story is told as a series of biographies of the people who have helped to bring the device to light. I found the story increasingly compelling as each of the characters was brought to life. The story provides the rich context necessary for appreciating their contributions.

Discovery of the Antikythera device pushes "modern" technology right back into ancient history, as the sleve note says - "At heart an epic adventure story... ". (well told and true I would like to add).

I would recommend anyone to read this book, before looking for the photos, Xrays and illustrations to explain the Antikythera device. I think I may have learned a great deal about the device from this book, without noticing I was doing it. The story is so captivating the technicalities seem to be absorbed without effort.

It probably does help to have some understanding of astronomy and calendars to appreciate some of the technical stuff, but for me, the story could make a great film ! The book makes a great read.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Across the universe...., 29 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
A delightful book that you'll read from cover to cover in no time at all. I suspect however, that if you're anything like me, the memories 'Decoding the Heavens' will unlock and the wide-eyed enthusiasm it will awaken will last with you for a very long time. The narrative unfolds like a well-crafted documentary revealing the discovery of an ancient shipwreck off the coast of a small Greek island in 1901 and the complex web of personal sacrifice, competition and politics during the following 100 years which leads to a pretty thorough understanding of the world's first computer - the 'Antikythera Mechanism'.

I won't spoil the 'plot' just in case you haven't read up that closely on all of the amazing things this device could do, but suffice to say, it humbles inventions made a millennium later and demonstrates an incredible knowledge of the cosmos and miniature engineering that would have transformed our planet if this evolutionary branch-line in human ingenuity hadn't died out. Perhaps we'd be beginning our journeys to the stars today instead of just photographing them.

This book made me feel like a kid again: I want to look at the stars on a clear night; I want to build things with wheels and gears; I want to teach my first child ( due the next few days hopefully ) about the history of our species, about the interplay of myth and technology that for better or worse has always driven us on.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unravelling the mystery of the world's earliest computer., 11 Mar 2009
I purchased this book after reading a five star review in a well known astronomy magazine. The book lives up to expectation, being a very good read without too many technicalities. It provides an excellent explanation of what the Antikythera mechanism was, suggests who might have been responsible for creating it, and gives an insight into the characters who unravelled its mysteries. One very minor niggle is that one or two exploded diagrams would have helped to explain the workings better. Overall, though, it is warmly recommended.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy standards make for poor prose, 7 April 2010
This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
Whilst this book is an interesting read, those purchasing it would do well to do some research regarding the Antikythera Mechanism, and the teams that worked on it- as there seems to be some dispute between the author and the research team as to its accuracy.

There also seems to be concern that one of the scientists written about has not been portayed in a fair manner, to the extent that his widow and friends have constructed a webpage disputing the facts of the book and publishing their memories of the man. One of the most striking is the fact that the author even fails to get the date the man died right. This is, at the very least, extremely disrespectful and disappointing from a woman who describes herself as a journalist and leads me to question the value of this book as a narrative account of events.

In response, the author claims that the proofs were submitted to a member of the team for checking. This seems a poor defence- especially when it is considered that there were many people the author did not interview who could have helped- and as a freelance researcher myself, I would like to stress to her that if you are not sure of your facts, then you should not put your name to them. And it is not too hard to check basic astronometrical details such as how many degrees the sun traverses a day (just over one- which is why we have a year 365.25 days long). All in all, disappointing and had I actually bought rather than borrowed this book, I would be writing and asking for a refund from the publisher.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book about an object that changed our view of ancient astronomy and technlogy., 30 May 2010
By 
A. P. J. Jansen (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
This book tells three stories. The first is about the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism. This reads like an adventure story; not one of the most exciting ones, but it is certainly interesting. The second is about the unraveling of what it was for. It is this latter story that has radically changed our view of ancient technology and astronomy. This stories has been, and still is to some extent, surrounded by controversy. The book tells how initially the Antikythera mechanism was studied by few people, and more or less ignored by most other researchers. This did not really change when it slowly became clear how sophisticated it was. In fact, this was simply not believed. The third story is the description of the mechanism itself. The author does this in quite some detail. This story is not finished, because not all of the details of how it originally looked like are known.

Some reviewers have written that the author has been very sloppy in his research. As this book was really my first encounter with the Antikythera mechanism, I don't know if this is really true. It did increase my interest in the subject however. So I do recommend the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2000 Year Old Mystery., 7 Mar 2009
In the autumn of the year 1900 a group of sponge divers and their ship took shelter from a storm at the small island of Antikythera, which is situated in the middle of the sea passage between Cape Malea and Crete. Once the storm had subsided and doing what sponge divers do best, they dived into the clear waters near the ship to a depth of some 60 metres, what they found remained a mystery to the world for almost 200 years. Jo Marchant in her brilliant book traces the history and the people involved in unlocking the mystery up to the present day. This is an excellent read, something akin to a mechanical detective story.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you liked "Longitude", you will love this, 6 Sep 2009
By 
A. J. Kaye (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
This is a terrific book that describes the discovery of an ancient Greek artifact in a shipwreck, its dating and possible history, and the detective story of how its complex mechanism was eventually decoded over a period of 100 years, requiring the use of the most modern scanning technology. The artifact, which is known as the "Antikythera Mechanism", is an astonishing astromonical calculator whose technological sophistication is some 1000 to 1500 years before its known time.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 11 April 2010
By 
P. Howgate "Peter H" (Scarborough, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
I found this a very disappointing book, perhaps my expectations had been too high. The narrative of the human interaction of the various investigators was interesting but my frustration with trying to understand the purpose or workings of the mechanism grew with every page.
A picture (or diagram) is worth a thousand words it is said; I doubt if most people could picture the workings from (tedious) descriptions like "the little wheel with seven teeth on the same axle drove the larger wheel with 59 teeth" ..... and so on and on.......
There were some photographs after page 184 including half a dozen of the mechanism (small) - then eventually we have the only two (!) diagrams on pages 247 and 258. Far, far too little far too late I fear.
Then we get to know in the acknowledgments that the author did not have the full co-operation of the latest investigators.
A shame as the full potential was not realised.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words, 7 April 2011
This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
how come there are so very few?

The Antikythera mechanism is a fascinating piece of ancient history, and the story of its discovery, and the unravelling of its purpose is interesting, if apparently not uncontested. However, without more diagrams I found it impossible to understand how it fit together and produced the data it did. I was quite prepared to believe it was my fault and was cheered to find other reviewers with the same difficulties.

I am not sure who to blame, author or publisher, but the lack of decent pictures down-grade this potentially engrossing story from a real page turner, to a bit of an unrewarding slog.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific writing at its best., 1 Nov 2009
By 
Mr. David Edwards "gammacenturi" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer (Paperback)
This is one of the most exciting science books you are likely to read - Jo Marchant
is to be congratulated on turning what could have been a dry as dust topic into a book
that simply races along at a breathless rate. I have no wish to spoil the story except
to say it has history, science, heartbreaking moments, 'cheating' you know an everyday
tale of simple scientific folk.

I am not sure if I agree with the final premise as the evidence is a bit tenuous: well
only one such device has been found but you can draw your own conclusions...
A great read.
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