Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2011 - (Page 29)

WHAT’S OLD IS NEWS Today, scholars and scientists are using increasingly sophisticated technology to make new discoveries about ancient history. They’re deciphering ancient texts, uncovering ancient towns, using algorithms to solve ancient puzzles, and more. by Amy Entwisle The Archimedes Project Imagine that you are a classical scholar whose expertise is in the history of mechanics. You have access to ancient texts containing lost formulas and other important developments in the history of mechanics, but you can’t read them. That was the problem for a group of Harvard scholars, who, in 2000, began a project to facilitate the study of the ancient history of mechanics and engineering. They called it the Archimedes Project after a particularly tantalizing puzzle: In one document, first century CE scientist Heron of Alexandria alludes to Archimedes’ definition of the center of gravity. If the document can be fully understood, scholars might be able to reconstruct an actual argument from a lost work of Archimedes, considered the greatest mathematician of antiquity. The interdisciplinary Harvard team developed dozens of tools to analyze texts in a variety of ways. One software program links words to their root forms to help identify texts’ original language and age. Another program characterizes and identifies texts by analyzing the structure and meaning of words as well as their frequency and context of use. Researchers hope the tools will help them identify anonymous authors, distinguish translations from originals, and reverse translations—significant because often the only surviving copies of Greek texts are Arabic translations, possibly altered by the Arabic culture they absorbed during translation. See the Archimedes Project at http://archimedes�fas�harvard�edu DomeniCo Fetti, 1620 sh Ut te rst oC k imagine 29 VeCtorstoCk

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2011

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2011
Big Questions
In My Own Words
Latin Geek
Latin in Rome
Made in Greece ... or Was It?
Classics for All
Pillaging the Past
The Aqueduct Hunters
What’s Old is News
Selected Opportunities & Resources
Girls on Ice
Nurturing a Passion for Science at the National Youth Science Camp
Off the Shelf
Word Wise
Exploring Career Options
One Step Ahead
Planning Ahead for College
Students Review
Mark Your Calendar
Knossos Game

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - November/December 2011