IEEE Western Puerto Rico Section

Advancing Technology for Humanity


Imaging the Antikythera Mechanism

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Computer Society – Western Puerto Rico Section


Hewlett Packard Puerto Rico
Invite you to the following seminar:

Imaging the Antikythera Mechanism

Date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Place: WebEx event
Time:  6:15 PM — 8:15 PM
Fee: Free of charge

Tom Maltzbender


In 1900, a party of sponge divers chanced on the wreck of a Roman merchant vessel between Crete and mainland Greece. It was found to contain numerous ancient Greek treasures, among them a mysterious lump of clay that split open to reveal ‘mathematical gears’ as it dried out. Constructed in 150 B.C.E., this object is now known as the Antikythera Mechanism and is arguably the most important technological artifact from all of ancient history.

In 2005 Tom Maltzbender from HP Labs. travelled to the National Archeological Museum in Athens to apply HP’s Reflectance Imaging methods to the mechanism in the hopes of revealing ancient writing on the device. This simple technique involves photographing the object under varying lighting conditions, but from a fixed perspective. From these images, per-pixel estimates of surface normals can be made, which can be used to relight the object with improved reflectance characteristics.

Tom was successful. This led to an understanding that the device was a mechanical, astronomical computer capable of predicting solar and lunar eclipses along with other celestial events. This talk will overview both the imaging methods as well as what they reveal about the Antikythera Mechanism.
Tom is a senior research scientist at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and his research interest lies at the intersection of computer graphics, signal processing and computer vision. He has developed methods of Fourier volume rendering, polynomial texture mapping, reflectance imagingand opacity-weighted volume re-sampling. His work on the Antikythera Mechanism was recently described in both Scientific American and The Economist.

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