WEBCAST: Reading the Subtext

Science  21 Jul 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5785, pp. 277
DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5785.277e

Sometimes it takes a magnifying glass to decipher an ancient text, and sometimes it takes a linear accelerator. During a live Webcast* from the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, scholars will fire up an atom smasher to expose concealed writings by the Greek mathematician Archimedes (287-212 B.C.E.).

Known as the Archimedes Palimpsest, the manuscript in question contains the only known copy of one of the great thinker's treatises. But it has taken a beating. Medieval monks reused the pages, and a collector further defaced the work by adding paintings. Applying techniques such as multispectral imaging, researchers have uncovered much of the original text, but some remains unreadable. For the Webcast, experts will train a powerful x-ray beam from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center on a previously hidden section of the manuscript, causing the underlying ink to fluoresce. A Greek scholar and other Archimedeans will decipher the glowing writing and discuss its significance. The event begins at 7 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on 4 August. To learn more about the palimpsest, hop over to this site from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

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