Many of the devices, like the Etherium Astrolabe, exist to measure the twenty-three winds of Esper. This wind is considered by the Vedalken to have mystical significance, and who's to say they're wrong? They are superintelligent magicians, after all. They might be onto something.
Here are a few cards where the wind itself can be seen either having an effect or being measured:Coma Veil art by Dan Scott
Etherium Astrolabe art by Michael Bruinsma
Immortal Coil art by Dan Scott