Scientists analyze Archimedes text at accelerator center

Keay Davidson in the San Francisco Chronicle:

A super-X-ray beam in Menlo Park is literally shedding new light on the achievements of an ancient titan of math and engineering who lived almost 23 centuries ago.

Just as today’s scientists learn the latest developments from journals such as Science and Nature, scholars circa A.D. 1000 consulted scientific writings etched in ink on goatskin parchments. A millennium later, time has seriously eroded these inky ruminations of scholars who perhaps scribbled within earshot of chanting monks, feudal lords, suffering serfs and armor- clanking knights.

Those old writings are being recovered thanks to scientists at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. With excruciating slowness and care, they have begun using a beam of X-ray radiation no thicker than a human hair to scan a goatskin parchment known as the Archimedes Palimpsest. It’s of unusual interest because it shows how advanced mathematics — the so-called Queen of the Sciences — was in ancient times, at least in the mind of a legendary mathematician.

More here.