Saturday, May 21, 2005
The First Use Of The Eraser?
According to recent reports, a 12th century parchment that was used as a prayerbook by a Christian monk may have more value than the $2 million it cost an anonymous private collector back in 1998. It seems that the dried animal skins that it was written on was actually originally used in the 10th century to copy some long-lost writings of Archimedes. Much of this was discovered at The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center which used highly focused x-rays to make the iron in the previous author's ink writings to glow. Why is this important? Archimedes (who lived from about 287 B.C. to 212 B.C.) is considered one of the 3 greatest mathematicians of all time -- inventing integral calculus, creating Archimedes' Principle (which states that a body immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the displaced fluid -- explaining the buoyancy of ships) and being the closest at his time to approximate pi. They have uncovered 80% of the text already but it would be interesting to see what else he may have had on his mind. But, something about the whole thing has me slightly rattled. Even if Archimedes' theories and works weren't popular until much later, why were the writings being "erased" and reused for something else? Was it just so hard to find writing material that this monk cleaned up a 200 year-old text or have a lot more writings been innocently "lost"?