Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mechanical Math

We're living in a world where electronic calculators are everywhere. You can buy simple ones for under $10, fancy ones that can calculate differentials and integrals in seconds, and tiny ones that are no bigger than a business card.

It's easy to forget that in years past, calculators didn't have batteries or wires, but levers and cams. I've never tried to analyze one of these old machines (I've only seen 2 of them) but apparently the art of mechanical computation isn't entirely lost



This impressive conglomeration of legos is actually a re-vamped version of the a Babbage Difference Engine. Basically, it evaluates polynomials at multiple points, making it possible, to generate plenty of data that can be used in the tables which used to be a part of every mathematician or engineer's life. It's not very advanced mathematically, but mechanically these machines are real wonders.

Makes a digital calculator seem a bit boring doesn't it

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