Reading Once Unreadable Ancient Scrolls

This is groundbreaking news for science and most of all for future rewriting, reexamining, and changing historical “traditions” into historical facts and more compelling plausibilities. What is remarkably ironic is that this technology has been introduced by an American computer scientist named Brent Seales, who is also an evangelical Christian. I wonder if he fully realizes what he has ushered in?

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In the 1730’s Italian well-diggers hit and stumbled across an ancient Roman villa. Over the next three decades as commissioned by the King of France, two engineers headed up the excavations of the villa and its contents. They eventually uncovered over 1,800 papyri scrolls from 1st century CE Roman life prior to the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius just a few kilometers away. Like all the inhabitants of Herculaneum, items such as papyri scrolls were either vaporized or incinerated under the 300+ degree Celsius (≅ 600 Fahrenheit) heat blast. These scrolls managed to be only charred due to various storing techniques that the Villa’s owner (probably the father-in-law of Julius Caesar, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus) maintained for his large library. Nevertheless, for the next 250-years after their discovery scientists assumed their words would be impossible to ever read. They had attempted to carefully unravel some, but only turned them into fragments and dust; certainly more undecipherable.

Vesuvius-79 CE eruption

Fast forward to the computer age…

Later, while earning his doctorate, at the University of Wisconsin, [Seales] became fascinated with “computer vision,” and began writing algorithms to convert two-dimensional photographs into 3-D models—a technique that later enabled vehicles such as Mars rovers, for example, to navigate terrain on their own. Seales went to work at the University of Kentucky in 1991, and when a colleague took him along to the British Library to photograph fragile manuscripts, Seales, captivated by the idea of seeing the unseeable, found the challenge thrilling.

From there Seales continued improving upon the improvements of computed tomography (CT).

He began to experiment with a medical-grade computed tomography (or CT) scanner, which uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of an object’s internal structure. First, he tried imaging the paint on a modern rolled-up canvas. Then he scanned his first authentic object—a 15th-century bookbinding thought to contain a fragment of Ecclesiastes hidden inside. It worked.

…to read the full Smithsonian article click here

Fast forward thirteen more years. Once pulling out or highlighting the metal-laden letters within the scrolls, how does one go about unwrapping them on their proper page in correct order? Seales admitted that at the time that process was just simply beyond their algorithms.

What makes virtual unwrapping such a complex challenge is that, even if you imaged the inside of a rolled-up scroll written in ink that glowed brightly in scans, you would still only see a dizzying mess of tightly packed letters floating in space, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle—but without a final picture to use as a guide. To decipher that jumble of letters, Seales’ key innovation was to develop software to locate and model the surface layer within a wound-up scroll, which analyzes each point in as many as 12,000 cross-sections. Then he looks for density changes that correspond to the ink, and applies filters or other techniques to increase the contrast of the letters as much as possible. The final step is to figuratively “unroll” the image for reading.

multi-spectral imagingNow today with phase-contrast tomography in combination with X-ray phase-contrast tomography (for carbons), then mapping all the images the scrolls are virtually unfurled to read the full texts:

After Seales returned to Kentucky, he and his colleagues spent months mapping all of the available 2-D images onto the 3-D template produced by the Artec Space Spider. This past March, they returned to Oxford to present the results on a big screen to a packed conference room. At such a high-resolution, the charred papyrus resembled a dark-brown mountain range as seen from above, with lines of text snaking over the ridges and peaks. There was a gasp from the audience as Seales’ student Hannah Hatch rotated the image, then zoomed into creases and peeked over folds, flipping seamlessly between high-resolution photographs, infrared images and even the disegni drawings—all matched up to the 3-D template.

Now that this proven scientific method, via subatomic physics to be exact, for reading once unreadable brittle ancient scrolls has been established, it has unsurprisingly caused a frenzy in scholarly paleographical circles.

Successfully reading Herculaneum scrolls could trigger a new “renaissance of classical antiquity,” says Gregory Heyworth, a medievalist at the University of Rochester in New York. He points out that virtual unwrapping could be applied to countless other texts. In Western Europe alone, he estimates, there are tens of thousands of manuscripts dating from before A.D. 1500—from carbonized scrolls to book covers made from older, glued-together pages—that could benefit from such imaging.

“We’d change the canon,” Heyworth says. “I think the next generation is going to have a very different picture of antiquity.”

A very different picture of antiquity“? Hah! True, but an interesting way of putting it. I’d say not necessarily different, but more importantly accurate rather than on biased pseudo-traditions. This is why science works better for the benefit of humanity. It need not be feared, unless there is something(s) shameful to hide.


Live Well — Live Scientifically — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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A New Page

silver bulletsBecause it often seems a recurring topic of conversation both in person (in Texas) and on the internet-WordPress, I realized months ago I needed a sort of generic, exhaustive, refute to mainstream Christian (or religious) propaganda rampant and trifling across the internet/blogosphere with its often epic ignorance, so I would stop repeating myself. Primarily in historical arenas, but also logically, or cognitively, or philosophically, or theologically the general faulty or overly narrow-sighted history was often the same mistakes. I realized too that very brief 20-word or 50-word exchanges, or 10-15 minute exchanges with outspoken imposing Christians or religious zealots, had not been constructive or too positive. It was too frequent with the same historical content to new acquaintances and strangers, but also to some familiar names/faces weeks or months later. It became frustrating like a spinning broken record.

Therefore, similar to a silver-bullet or bullets, I have written this new page to be permanently on my Home page. A comprehensive, standing rebuttals, and an alternative verdicts page, helping re-educate or broaden(?), perhaps correct, the reasonable, moderate Conservatives of our Western Hemisphere, but particularly in the U.S. Maybe some radicals too could learn regarding what took place, or in some cases what most likely took place, in ancient Jerusalem, Judea, and the Levant and Fertile Crescent during those violent, critical first 4-5 centuries CE.

This is a colossal page because I wanted everything, all aspects of Christianity’s problems and failures to be hit in one fell swoop. But don’t freak out you busy, busy bees. For those of you who like smaller snack-size pieces due to strict time constraints, or interruptions, I’ll be posting this page in a series of multiple posts spread out over time so no brains overheat. 😉

balanced-scaleWhat was my motivation for such a massive project? At a bare minimum, I hope to encourage the excitable Christian to ask big questions, to ask lots of questions, and not just from one biased source or perspective, but all points of reference! I encourage them/you to do your own extensive legwork and homework. Then in 3-10 years genuinely re-examine your world-view. Make your own independent, highly informed choice. It took me more than 10-years to find all the most reliable unbiased sources to closely study. Why so long? You will uncover for yourself — if you honestly become a fair, progressing forensic investigator — that there is a never-ending amount of Christian-based and Seminary-sourced information available ad infinitum. In fact, it is so plentiful that accomplished and renown secular or non-Christian sources get utterly buried, suffocated, and almost silenced under the barrage. It’s uncanny really.

Nevertheless, most average Christians are unaware of these isolated, hard-to-find, Bible-challenging and refuting experts, science, and verified historical facts dismantling their religious faith-of-birth or adolescent choice for “Christ.” It is for these reasons, I have created my page Why Christianity Will Always Fail. It can be found on my Main Menu tab underneath My Library. Those valid truisms of the path of least resistence, or following the crowd should not be habitual. For anyone willing to be fair and objective regarding Christianity primarily, but Second Temple Judaism, theism and to a much lesser extent Islam, I hope this sizable wider-lens will provoke your own list of many questions to answer which for almost two millenia have not been asked and analyzed near enough in a variety of equitable ways.

Here’s to your free-thought and liberation.


Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Chiefs, Indians, Slavery & Tocqueville

Leonard R. Rogers was the subject of a 1954 article called “Boss Of Million Dollar Firm At Age Of 21 Is No Pipe Dream.” Rogers, whose company was responsible for 75 per cent of America’s business in tobacco pouches, was radically revamping the mega-corporation. When Rogers took over the company founded 50 years earlier by his grandfather he quickly realized that some of the long time company executives knew nothing about anything that was happening outside their department (bubble). Thus, he made the decision to re-organize the company by rolling heads and dissolving positions, i.e. Too many chiefs and not enough indians.

Catalan human-towers

Human towers in the traditional Catalan Festival

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” was also the phrase my father liked to use. When we were down in Brazoria County, Texas, working my paternal grandparents cattle and land during one or two of the 3-4 holidays of the year, every one of my cousins, myself, and all my uncles and one aunt of the family had/wanted to accomplish all the needed and necessary work and never-ending repairs as efficiently as possible given the usually short few days everyone had while there. With so many cousins running around wanting to play or do our own “work tasks,” that was when he’d often use the phrase on us. I have to note here, however, that with his family the chief-indian concept reflected more the later 1996 concept “It Takes A Village” by Hillary Clinton. His family had rotating or periodic leadership and supporting roles. Everyone had to do and know all positions and their functions. Dad said it many times during my school and select-league soccer games he’d attend when we’d play bad or lose.

In the exceptional 2008 animated film WALL-E, Earth has become a trashed garbage planet due to unfettered free-enterprise which led to human hyper-consumption of everything corporate manufacturers and retailers convinced and sold the poorly educated masses they HAD to have to be “truly happy.” The upper-echelon executives left Axiom starliner people_1Earth on giant starliners and charged lower-echelon humans the same type of prices they charged for all their earthly GNP goods. As a result of the never-ending, rising land-fills from impulsive, Keeping Up with The Jones consumers they ironically created, Earth was no longer inhabitable. The starliner Axiom returns to Earth to retrieve another garbage compactor EVE that is not functioning. WALL-E becomes a stow-away onboard the Axiom and when he finally sees his predecessors/creators, humans. Every single one of them are grossly obese, immobile, and totally dependent on automation to do everything for them — the consequence of widespread chief-dome and no one wanting to rotate into the support roles, the blue-collar roles, the farmer roles, the plumber and garbage roles, or janitor roles. The ‘indians‘ roles.

All the chieftain-humans on the starliners had become slaves to convenience, leisure and having anyone or everything robotic perform all the daily, humdrum labor they themselves were too lazy to do. It was below them and their pay-grade.

Slavery. Oh the irony. In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and political scientist, wrote a book about the young United States of America while examining a spreading trend of democracy and equality in Europe as well as North America. The book was Democracy in America and Tocqueville was intrigued by America’s system of governing and its nurturing of individualism. He thought the U.S. was a leading example of liberty, equality, a stable economy, and governing in action. He noted too how popular its churches were to social life. Yet, with all those “good marks,” he couldn’t help but notice how a freedom-loving nation despicably treated Native American Indians and African slaves. With all the theoretical perks of democracy, capitalism, and individualism, Tocqueville warned that too much equality would or could lead to intellectual dilution and a mediocrity of majority rule. Regarding independent, provocative thought, theory, and debate he wrote:

The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution. A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys.

alexis de tocquevilleOn the other hand, the pendulum can swing too far the other way to plutarchy and oligarchy if there is an insufficient, low-quality public education system and lack of economic opportunities/mobility to hedge against such tyrannies. If or when that occurs, some “individualized” Americans independently wealthy and above a struggling majority — what is currently the case in America today — often have the delayed pragmatic realization that looking after the welfare of others is not only good for the soul, but actually is equally good for their business and wealth. Those individualized elite who never realize this profound truth, eventually watch their empire and ivory towers crumble. Just ask the Roman Empire’s aristocracy, ask the 18th century opulent French monarchs such as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, or ask those executive heads of Leonard R. Rogers’ mega-tobacco corporation, or let’s ask a modern, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this has been something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Often, however, they learn it too late.

Tocqueville had a lot to say about the bright and dark sides of “democracy” in 1835. I think he still has a lot to say about it today, along with WALL-E, Leonard Rogers, and my Dad. Everyone deserves the right to be well-educated, helped and prepared by a team/village for their rotation as a chief and as an indian. When you stand-in and walk in someone else’s shoes, that is when understanding begins. That is when appreciation begins. That is when compassion and empathy begins. That is when true empowerment with humility begins.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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