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another sum exlusive

Issue 3 - July 2000

light thrown on ancient maths mystery

light thrown on ancient maths mysteryTeachings of ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are set to be revealed for the first time since the 12th century when boffins blast a ruined parchment with a laser beam.

Bungling medieval monks in Constantinople scraped over the 3rd century BC genius' words of wisdom because they couldn't find anything else to write their new prayer book on.

The parchment, known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, was originally transcribed from the Greek in the 9th century by an earlier order of monks and has had a rocky road to the year 2000.

After it was ruined, the trail went cold, but it was rediscovered in 1907 and parts were painstakingly transcribed using a magnifying glass.

The ill-fated document disappeared again during the First World War and didn't resurface until 1998, when a collector paid $2million for it.

Now 21st century technology is set to spare the monks' blushes, albeit a bit belatedly, when scientists fire lasers at it to read beneath the scratched surface.

The restoration team at Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland, have commissioned experts from nearby John Hopkins University and the Rochester Institute of Technology to transcribe the complete work.

They will use a high-resolution scanning technique more usually applied to cell structures, and the lasers will expose traces of writing at different layers to tell old from new markings.

The original transcription revolutionised the understanding of Archimedes's approach to geometry and physics. It is the only known version of his Method of Mechanical Theorems, which discusses how he derived a mathematical formula for the volume of a sphere.

The New Scientist Magazine


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Ancient Maths Mystery

Why The Rich Stay Rich

Brit Girls Lead Maths

Einstein Scandal

Maths And Football

Maths Crossword And Cartoons

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