Since FC mentioned his and P’s latest foodie outing, I guess I can mention that, Friday night, my co-workers and I, in honor of co-workers who are leaving us for greener pastures, went to Negril Village (Carribbean food in the – what else? – Village). Food was pretty good – I had the Salmon-Crab burger, which was good. My co-worker had a roti that looked delicious. Appettizers were terrific; dessert – well, who resists dessert? (not me). The music was a little loud; bathroom was nice and pretty. (yeah, I notice that!).

A weird and interesting article on whether this Ancient Greek device might actually be a kind of computer. The NY Times’ John Noble Wilford reports:

The instrument, the Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the world’s first computer, has now been examined with the latest in high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography. A team of British, Greek and American researchers deciphered inscriptions and reconstructed the gear functions, revealing “an unexpected degree of technical sophistication for the period,” it said.

The researchers, led by the mathematician and filmmaker Tony Freeth and the astronomer Mike G. Edmunds, both of the University of Cardiff, Wales, are reporting their results today in the journal Nature.

They said their findings showed that the inscriptions related to lunar-solar motions, and the gears were a representation of the irregularities of the Moon’s orbital course, as theorized by the astronomer Hipparchos. They established the date of the mechanism at 150-100 B.C.

The Roman ship carrying the artifacts sank off the island of Antikythera about 65 B.C. Some evidence suggests it had sailed from Rhodes. The researchers said that Hipparchos, who lived on Rhodes, might have had a hand in designing the device.

In another Nature article, a scholar not involved in the research, François Charette of the University of Munich museum, in Germany, said the new interpretation of the mechanism “is highly seductive and convincing in all of its details.” It is not the last word, he said, “but it does provide a new standard, and a wealth of fresh data, for future research.”

Technology historians say the instrument is technically more complex than any known for at least a millennium afterward. Earlier examinations of the instrument, mainly in the 1970s by Derek J. de Solla Price, a Yale historian who died in 1983, led to similar findings, but they were generally disputed or ignored.

The hand-operated mechanism, presumably used in preparing calendars for planting and harvesting and fixing religious festivals, had at least 30, possibly 37, hand-cut bronze gear-wheels, the researchers said. A pin-and-slot device connecting two gear-wheels induced variations in the representation of lunar motions according to the Hipparchos model of the Moon’s elliptical orbit around Earth.

The numbers of teeth in the gears dictated the functions of the mechanism. The 53-tooth count of certain gears, the team said, was “powerful confirmation of our proposed model of Hipparchos’ lunar theory.” The detailed imaging revealed more than twice the inscriptions recognized earlier. Some of these appeared to relate to planetary and lunar motions. Perhaps, the team said, the mechanism also had gearings to predict the positions of known planets.

The AP article discusses the debate:

“It was a pocket calculator of the time,” said John Seiradakis, a professor of astronomy at the University of Thessaloniki who served on the international team.

Ever since its discovery a century ago, the complex mechanism has baffled scientists.

Edmunds said the 82 surviving fragments, dated to between 140-100 B.C, contain more than 30 gear wheels, and “are covered with astronomical, mathematical and mechanical inscriptions.”

“It was a calendar of the moon and sun, it predicted the possibility of eclipses, it showed the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac, the phase of the moon, and we believe also it may have shown the position of some of the planets, possibly just Venus and Mercury,” he said.

The box-shaped mechanism — the size of office paper and operated with a hand-crank — could predict an eclipse to a precise hour on a specific day.

The new study of the ancient device, with the aid of Hewlett Packard and the British X-ray equipment maker X-Tek, more than doubled the amount of the inscriptions readable on the mechanism.

“We will not yet be able to answer the question of what the mechanism was for, although now we know what the mechanism did,” Edmunds said.

His fellow team member, Xenophon Moussas, an associate professor of space physics at Athens University, speculated that the device could have been used for navigation at sea or for mapmaking.

The first comparable devices known in the West were clockwork clocks developed during the Middle Ages.

Personally, I just think that the name of the device, Antikythera Mechanism, is just plain cool. A mouthful, but cool.

As I have relatives in Canada, I can’t help but check in on what’s up in Canada. Methinks that the Liberal Party there can be as confused as the Democrats down here. In what was the most competitive party leadership election the Liberals had since the Pierre Trudeau days, the leading candidate for their party leadership, the intellectual-former Harvard professor-writer Michael Ignatieff, surprisingly lost. Stephane Dion won – the ex-environmental minister who apparently was someone with federal experience and no (apparent) corruption connection (which was apparently what got the Liberals out of office in the first place). He’s a politician from Quebec, but even people in Quebec don’t exactly love him, according to the Reuters article I linked here. Oh-kay, sounds like politics in Canada has craziness like anywhere else.

Monsoon Season on the Island

Went to dinner yesterday with P- at Noodle Pudding, a classic “hidden spot” at the northern end of the North Heights. We were there courtesy of the moot court team that I was coaching – they gave us a very nice gift certificate. Fantastic Italian food (yes, it’s Italian, not Jewish) – you might think it’s crazy to say that it brought back flavors of childhood, especially with my Chinese background, but it is true. Appertisers: Grilled octopus and Spanish white beans, fried fresh anchovy and calamari. Pasta: Tagatelli Bolognese, Gnochi al Pomodero. Mains: Osso Buco with spinich and polenta, sliced lamb with pumpkin. The grilled octopus reminded me of octopus that we used to grill over the stove, my dad’s fried fish, and the marrow filled bones that were in stew. They passed my gnocchi test with flying colors – soft, pillowy, completely cooked and flavored. Everything is actually very affordable — no credit cards, no reservations taken. Highly recommended.

Because no reservations are taken at Noodle Pudding, there is often a wait. We waited for 45 minutes, so we went down the street to The Blue Pig, which is a boutique ice cream shop. We shared a combo Pumpkin and “Pig Food” which is a dark chocloate ice cream with fudge and cookie pieces. We could only make it through half when massive winds and rains came down – it was literally a typhoon for a good 30-45 minutes. That just made the dinner that much more rewarding when we got a very nice table against the back wall, where we could see everying feasting.

Friday into Saturday

Thursday night’s Grey’s Anatomy – wow. I don’t think it was the kind of episode where the promo (“You have to see it to believe it!!”) – sorry, not that kind of gripping – but it was the emotionally strong sort that I expect from Grey’s Anatomy. None of the kooky excessive romantic relationship stuff – at least, not tonight – but more about what is friendship and family? Meredith’s mom, the ex-great surgeon Dr. Ellis Grey is succumbing more and more into the Alzheimer’s – probably as result of realizing that Chief Webber wasn’t going to visit her anymore – and the fact that she doesn’t remember Meredith – and hurts Meredith by reminding Meredith of the miserable childhood she must have had with Ellis as the workaholic-not-there mom. Dr. McDreamy and Dr. McSteamy have a moment of remembering how they were once friends. Meredith has to deal with the other Grey relatives – people she can’t emotionally accept as relatives. Cristina Yang deals with the fallout of exposing her boyfriend attending Dr. Burke; Dr. Burke – well, he’s pissed, but he has to deal with the fallout too. Maybe McSteamy isn’t a total jerk (although he has a lot to go to grow up). Oh, and George – uh, the raw emotion of his helplessly trying to help his sick dad -that made me teary eyed. Bailey’s anger over Burke and Yang – and her moment of inspiring McDreamy. Meredith’s decision that what she considers family – well, it’s what she chooses for herself.

Missed the season premiere of Scrubs. NBC certainly bolstered its comedy night on Thursdays by placing Scrubs on. But, man, to be up against Grey’s Anatomy and CSI? Tough luck, even if NBC’s sort of endorsing you to do the job (considering how NBC treats the show like crap by placing it in so many time slots over the years). I’m so glad to be able to at least kind of catch up on Scrubs by watching the syndicated reruns (but then they don’t even bother trying to show the reruns in correct order!). Funny show anyway – catch it while you can!

Time’s Perry Bacon explains how Gov. Tom Vilsack (Iowa, D.) might actually have a shot at his Presidential candidacy thing. I do confess, I found the announcement a little dubious – who outside Iowa knows who Vilsack is? But, then in reading this article, I remembered watching Charlie Rose interview Vilsack and thinking that Vilsack was impressive. He seemed to be serious about improving the country and it sounded like he’s doing well in Iowa – and, these days, apparently doing time as governor helps with the path to the presidency. Well, we’ll see; 2008 is still awhile away.