Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Archimedes Codex: how a medieval prayer book is revealing the true genius of antiquity's greatest scientist

by Reviel Netz and William Noel

Seems like a total nerd book, and I've never denied being a nerd, but I'd really like to believe that non-nerds would enjoy this book too. It's surprisingly well-written, considering neither author has a (non-academic) writing background. Even though I'm a nerd, I'm not particularly interested in antique books, cutting-edge imaging technology or maths, but the two writers did a good job of conveying the excitement and importance of both discovering and decoding an unknown manuscript and of revealing the breadth and extent of previously unrecognized ancient knowledge.

It's amazing that these treatises could be recovered (partially, at least) after so many years and mistreatment, and it's equally flabbergasting to realize that way back in B.C. days Archimedes was on the verge of inventing calculus, which, after his demise and the loss of much of his work, didn't come to fruition for almost two millennia. Especially astounding in light of the fact that virtually all modern science and technology wouldn't be possible without calculus. What could the world be like if we'd had that 2,000 year head start?

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