This is a book that contains just about everything: adventure, exploration, archaeology, ancient technology, detective work, science, astronomy, ancient history and modern technology pushed to its limits. The author has done an excellent job of recounting the history and ongoing saga of the Antikythera mechanism by weaving all of the above ingredients together, along with plenty of excitement, intrigue, frustration and some deception. The important roles of the key people who have been involved with this device since its discovery at the turn of the twentieth century are all very prominently described.
Unfortunately, a few errors have crept in. On page 30, reference is made to "0 AD". This must surely be a misprint since there was never a year 0 (let alone 0 AD). On page 99, some statements about Rutherford and Einstein are incorrect. Rutherford never split the atom nor did he use accelerators (he used alpha emitting radionuclides to probe the structure of the atom). And Einstein did not rely on experimental results to develop his famous mass-energy equivalence formula; he developed it on purely theoretical grounds as part of his Special Theory of Relativity published in 1905. On page 134, ten lines from the bottom, thulium-170 has one more neutron than thulium-169, not an extra proton as stated here. On page 227, near the middle, a description of X-ray production is given. However, what is described is the production of fluorescence X-rays. These are not energetic enough for X-Tek's purposes. The much more energetic X-rays that were used are bremsstrahlung X-rays; these are produced directly from the high energy electrons in the initial beam and are thus much more energetic and penetrating.
Despite the fact that these errors may be misleading and occasionally annoying, they do not detract from the main essence of this fascinating story. For that reason, I still gave the book five stars. The writing style is clear, friendly, accessible and very engaging. This book can be enjoyed by anyone, but ancient history/technology/astronomy buffs will likely relish it the most.
on June 7, 2013
This is an important book because it sheds some new light on the civilization from which the current western world evolved from and on the likely path knowledge took throughout the centuries. Very well documented, this book could (should?) be reading material for a course on the history of technology or science. But even better, it also reads like a mystery novel : fascinating details are revealed as we follow an investigation full of twists. You read it because you want to, not because you have to. The only thing is that more sketches or pictures throughout the text would have helped to better visualize the objects that are described.