31 July, 2006

More of histories mysteries

I’ve been neglecting my blog again - lots of travel of late and just about every trip has had delays, 20 hours to get to Denver from Sacramento, a day trip to Seattle that ended up being a 25 hour day – it does not matter which airline, what day of the week or where.

Here are a few things that I’ve been following

The Antikythera Mechanism

Elias Stadiatos, a Greek sponge diver working off the island of Antikythera discovered the wreck of a cargo ship in 1900. The ship was loaded with luxury goods - statues, jewelry, pottery, fine furniture, wine and bronzes that dated to the 1st century BCE. However the most valuable find was a few lumps of a corroded green clockwork like device.

Nothing like this instrument is preserved elsewhere. Nothing comparable to it is known from any ancient scientific text or literary allusion.

Various attempts to reverse engineer and decipher the mechanism over the last 100 years have been less than successful however with the latest X-ray technology a group of academic researchers and Hewlett Packard scientists are rapidly teasing a wealth of detail that is changing all previous attempts to classify and reconstruct this fascinating artifact from the past.

Check out
The Antikythera-Mechanism

The Archimedes Palimpsest

Aside from yet another example of religion run amok The Archimedes Palimpsest is unique door to the past – check out the live webecast this Friday 1600 PDT (that’s 4pee emm for those of you who can’t deal with a 24 hour clock) for some real live science in action!


Originally a manuscript by one of the greatest mathematical minds, the hide was scraped and rebound at right angles and overwritten as a Byzantine prayerbook, it was sold at auction to a private collector on the 29th of October 1998. The unnamed owner deposited the manuscript at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland where it has been studied, imaged and even the subject of a Nova episode

Now, in collaboration with the Walters Museum, The Exploratorium is hosting the live webcast as the Palimpsest is subject to an intense scanning X-ray produced by the Stanford Linear Accelerator in an attempt to ‘see’ some of the original Greek text underneath gold foil that was applied by the previous owner in a vain attempt to increase the value of the Palimpsest.
The Archimedes Palimpsest


  1. The webcast was really fascinating. I watched the whole thing. I hope they're eventually able to seperate those layers completely.

    There were some funny moments, too. It's always fun to watch scientists on camera, because you can tell they feel uncomfortable.

    I know, I'm evil!

  2. I saw a History Channel program on each of those artifacts, and both were fascinating. More things...Horatio, etc.