Laputan Logic
Saturday, November 02, 2002
  If English was written like Chinese
The English spelling system is such a pain, we'd might as well switch to hanzi-- Chinese characters. How should we go about it? Japanese style One way would be to use hanzi directly, asthe Japanese do. For instance, we'd write "work" as , and "ruler" as . Chinese and Japanese borrowings could be written using the original hanzi, e.g. "gung-ho" would be , and "tycoon" as . You can already see that this is going to be tricky. We've just given two readings, for instance-- /wrk/ and /gûng/-- and two as well-- /rulr/ and /kun/. Proper names will be a problem as well. Again, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean names already have hanzi forms-- e.g. for the name of the bodaciously cute singer Faye Wong-- but for English names we'd have no better recourse than to spell things out using the nearest Chinese syllables. For instance, Winston Churchill would be represented by hanzi that would be transliterated Wensuteng Chuerqilu. Chinese style Maybe there's a better approach. Instead of using hanzi directly, let's invent a new system-- we'll call it yingzi, "English characters"-- that would work for English exactly as hanzi works for Chinese. The basic principle will be, one yingzi for a syllable with a particular meaning. So two, to, and too will each have their own yingzi. (If we were creating a syllabary, by contrast, we'd write all three with the same symbol, the one for /tu/.) Does that mean we need a completely separate symbol for each of the thousands of possible English syllables? Not at all. We can simplify the task enormously with one more principle: syllables that rhyme can have yingzi that are variations on a theme. Little pictures You've been reading for half a page and are probably wondering why I haven't yet talked about pictograms. When do we get to draw little pictures? Well, now's the time. Let's draw pictures. For instance:









When the pictures are abstract we can call them "ideograms", but they still represent particular English morphemes:



Some of our pictures will be kind of clever. For instance, woods repeats the yingzi for tree, while east is a little picture of the sun rising through the trees. guilt is a picture of a man inside an enclosure. Let's not go crazy, however. We only need a thousand or so, and we'll restrict ourselves to fairly simple, one-syllable words. We'll derive the vast majority of our yingzi from this basic stock of pictures. more...
  Ossuary Update: Casket Linked to Jesus Damaged on Way to Toronto
One of the cracks runs through the latter part of the inscription "James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus,". The ossuary is valued at about $2 million, [the owner] was described as being upset about the damage...
As you would. 
  Peru Finds Pre-Inca Ruins Beneath Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca, a sweeping expanse of brilliant blue water high in the Andes at an altitude of 12,540 feet, is shared by Peru and Bolivia. The world's highest navigable lake, it attracts flocks of visitors a year to see its floating reed islands, Aymara-speaking Indians and Inca ruins. According to tradition, the Inca sun god, Manco Capac and his sister, Mama Ocllo, sprang from Lake Titicaca to found the city of Cusco and the Inca dynasty that held sway over a swathe of Latin America from Colombia to Chile for more than three centuries until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. But Villavicencio said the discoveries -- made in the past two weeks by a team of navy divers and oceanographic experts -- were not the vestiges of a lost underwater world. "There are studies that show that the lake used to be ... around 66 to 98 feet lower, and that was where ancient Peruvians built," he said. As well as the algae-covered pre-Inca ruins, the divers also found a stone platform on which fragments of ceramics and bits of llama bones were recovered. "Everything suggests it was a place where offerings were made, a sacred site," Villavicencio said. Archeologists consulted by the expedition said they could be remains of the Tiahuanaco culture, which flourished in the ninth and tenth centuries, and was known for its stone work. Poking 10 feet out of the middle of the lake, the team also found what they dubbed the "mystery rock" that measures 66 feet across. A stone statue in the shape of a llama was found on the rock, which divers nicknamed after seeing how lightning always struck it during storms, Villavicencio said.
Friday, November 01, 2002
  Here's another use for all that anti-hydrogen: Antimatter Power: Reaching for Deep Space
The other method involves allowing positrons and antiprotons (the mirror twins of normal electrons and protons) to clump together into antiatoms of antihydrogen. It might sound anti-rational, but that would make them easier to store. "(There's a device called an) Ioffe trap which supposedly should be able to build and hold the antihydrogen," says Howe. Either way, Howe expects the stored material would most likely take the form of tiny crystals, or "nanosnowflakes" of antihydrogen.
Plus another backgrounder on matter vs anti-matter: Antimatter Not As Tough As Matter -- Thus We Exist And, finally, a diagram of a Penning trap, the device that is used to store and cool charged anti-matter particles such as anti-protons. 
Thursday, October 31, 2002
  First Glimpse Inside Cold Antimatter Atoms
positrons enter here 
positron trap
rotating electrode
Cold anti-hydrogen formed here
anti-proton trap
anti-protons enter here 
For the first time scientists have been able to peer inside an atom made entirely of antimatter, to get a glimpse of its internal structure. The ATRAP Collaboration of scientists (from Harvard University, the Forschungszentrum Jülich, CERN, the Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik in Garching and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, and York University) work at CERN. This collaboration includes scientists who first observed high velocity antihydrogen atoms, who developed the techniques for accumulating cold antiprotons, and who have made the most accurate studies of hydrogen atoms. ATRAP uses antiprotons from CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator, and positrons from a radioactive source, to produce cold antihydrogen. The antiprotons are dramatically slowed and cooled, then accumulated using techniques developed by ATRAP and its predecessor. The positrons are slowed, cooled and accumulated using techniques developed by ATRAP members. The antihydrogen forms in a nested Penning trap, a device developed by ATRAP scientists to allow the gentle collisions of antiprotons and positrons needed to form cold antihydrogen. The new method used by ATRAP to detect the antihydrogen atoms provides a signal only in response to an antihydrogen atom – there is never a background of false signals. ATRAP is now able to detect more antihydrogen atoms in an hour than the sum of all antimatter atoms ever reported. The paper refers to actual observations of a sample of more than 1400 cold antihydrogen atoms. With substantial numbers of antihydrogen atoms there is hope that eventually enough atoms will be created to allow lasers to probe for any tiny differences between antihydrogen and hydrogen atoms. Such measurements would test fundamental theories of physics, and might even provide some information about the mystery of why our universe is made of matter rather than antimatter. With cold antihydrogen atoms, whose temperatures are within a few degrees of absolute zero, the scientists hope to eventually be able to use special magnets to capture the precious atoms for the precise studies. The detected atoms are nearly cold enough to be captured, though no trapping of antimatter atoms has yet been attempted. Antihydrogen atoms are the simplest of antimatter atoms. Hydrogen, the simplest matter atom, has an electron in orbit about a proton. Replacing the proton with its antimatter counterpart, the antiproton, and the electron with its antimatter counterpart, the positron, would change hydrogen to antihydrogen. The particles and the antiparticles have the same mass, and the same amount of charge, but opposite sign of charge. When a particle and its antiparticle collide they “annihilate” – both disappear and release energy. Current physics theories predict that the antihydrogen and hydrogen atom would have the same properties. If an antihydrogen atom is put near a battery, the positive charge of its positron is attracted towards the negative terminal of the battery, while the negative charge of its antiproton is attracted to the positive terminal of the battery. If the battery has a high enough voltage, the strain on the atom will pull the atom apart. If the positron and antiproton are far apart in the atom, then a very small voltage will pull the atom apart. If they are closer together, more voltage will be required to disassemble the antimatter atom. This is the basic idea used by ATRAP scientists to probe the antihydrogen atom. They are able to get a first glimpse of the atom’s states, that is, about how closely the antiproton and positron are spaced, by seeing which voltages applied within their apparatus cause the antihydrogen to come apart. The ATRAP scientists avoid any false signals of antihydrogen because when they take apart an antihydrogen atom, they capture the antiproton in a device called a Penning trap. They then hold the antiprotons as long as they wish, until after all the noise associated with the collisions that form antihydrogen has died away. These antiprotons are then allowed to collide with matter, whereupon their annihilation causes flashes of light in surrounding detectors that can be easily and reliably be counted. In other experiments, there are often false noise signals generated that cannot be distinguished from real signals. Even if the average number of false signals can be estimated for such experiments, one never knows for sure which individual signal is real. The ATRAP scientists are quite sure that the antihydrogen atoms are created when two positrons collide with one antiproton in a process called “three body recombination”, in part because they had predicted that this process would produce antihydrogen atoms at a high rate. They believe that the rate is likely increased because they use the lowest temperature and best vacuum ever used for such experiments. In a second paper (submitted to Physical Review letters and now being considered for publication), ATRAP reports an even more efficient method for producing antihydrogen, in which antiprotons are driven into repeated collisions with cold positrons. The production rate is high enough that for the first time a distribution of antihydrogen states is measured. ATRAP, and its neighboring experiment, ATHENA, both use antiprotons from CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator to produce cold antihydrogen. ATHENA uses more positrons, and deduces the existence of cold antihydrogen atoms from observations of the simultaneous annihilations of antiprotons and positrons when antihydrogen atoms annihilate upon hitting matter. ATRAP provides the first glimpse inside antimatter atoms, observes cold antihydrogen atoms with no noise background at all, and observes more antihydrogen atoms than ever before. Both teams accumulate extremely cold antiprotons using techniques that were developed by ATRAP and its predecessor. Both also use a nested Penning trap, a device developed by ATRAP scientists to allow the gentle collisions of antiprotons and positrons needed to form cold antihydrogen. Given the strong start, the future for precise studies of antihydrogen now seems bright at CERN. ATRAP scientists caution that they still have many experiments to do, much apparatus to design, many techniques to invent, many students to train, and many night shifts to work before there is a precise comparison of antihydrogen and hydrogen. Encouraged by the success they are eager to move forward.
  Cold Anti-Hydrogen Only a month after scientists working at CERN had announced that they had produced cold antimatter hydrogen, another group also working at CERN have reported that they have been able to study the internal states of the new atom. Hydrogen is the simplest atom in nature consisting of a single proton accompanied by a single electron. Similarly an anti-hydrogen atom consists of an single anti-proton (a particle like a proton but with a negative charge) accompanied by a single positron (the positively charged counterpart to the electron). The two types of atoms have the same mass and the same amount of charge but with the opposite sign. The earlier experiment which had produced anti-hydrogen could only detect the presence of the atom at the moment when it annihilated itself by coming in contact with ordinary matter. When matter and antimatter come in contact they combine and convert themselves into a flash of pure energy which can be detected by sensors. The disadvantage with this method of detection is that it is indirect and a number of factors can contribute to producing false results. The new experiment in contrast can unambiguously identify the presence of anti-hydrogen in a process called field ionization which works as follows:
Having formed in the center of the enclosure, neutral anti-atoms are free to drift in any direction. Some of them annihilate but others move into an "ionization well," a region where strong electric fields tear the H-bar [anti-hydrogen] apart. Negatively charged antiprotons not in the company of a positively charged positron cannot reach the well.

Once there, though, the field sunders the atom, and the antiprotons are trapped in place, leaving the positron to move off and annihilate elsewhere. By counting the number of antiprotons one knows how many anti-atoms had arrived at the well. Every event represents an anti-atom. Moreover, one can now make a statistical study of the electric field needed to ionize the positron and deduce from this, in a rudimentary way, some information about the internal energy states of the H-bar. Thus the internal properties of an anti-atom have been studied for the first time.

So why make anti-hydrogen in the first place? Well, it's all about testing the CPT invariance theorem
The equivalence of hydrogen and antihydrogen rests on an assumption called CPT invariance. This states that if one were to take any piece of matter and simultaneously reverse all the charges of its elementary particles, the direction of time's flow, and another property of particles called parity, the substance would obey exactly the same laws of physics. Just as, if one reversed the threads of all the nuts and bolts in a steel bridge, the bridge would hold together just as well, but if one switched only some of the threads, the parts would no longer fit together. If CPT invariance holds, antihydrogen will behave just like hydrogen. In particular, it will absorb and emit light at identical frequencies. If this spectrum is different, the theory of CPT invariance will crumble. If antihydrogen does have quirks, it will be immensely exciting. The differences might help to explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the Universe, even though the Big Bang should, in theory, have produced equal amounts of both.
and a bit more (although they call it PCT invariance here it's the same thing)
Comparisons of the orbital cyclotron frequencies of antiprotons and protons test the PCT invariance theorem, as do comparisons of the structure of antihydrogen and hydrogen. Historically, P, which stands for parity, was examined first. To understand the concept, imagine conducting an experiment in which the outcome is watched in a mirror. Now suppose a second experiment is constructed that is the mirror image of the first. If parity is conserved, the outcome of the second experiment should be identical to the outcome observed as the mirror image of the first experiment performed. Until 1956, it was believed that reality was invariant under such a parity transformation. Early that year, however, Lee and Yang, then at Columbia University and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., respectively, realized that the invariance of parity in weak interactions, which are responsible for radioactive decay, had not yet been tested. Later that year Wu and her colleagues at Columbia showed that mirror-image experiments did not produce mirror-image results when weak interactions were involved. The widespread belief in parity conservation was shattered. Faith in a new invariance, PC, rapidly replaced the discredited notion. C stands for charge conjugation, a "thought experiment" process that turns particles into their corresponding antiparticles. To test whether PC is conserved, a mirror-image experiment is constructed, and all the particles in the experiment are replaced with their corresponding antiparticles. In 1964 Cronin and Fitch, then at Princeton University, used particles called kaons to demonstrate, explicitly and unexpectedly, that PC is not conserved. Today most physicists believe that PCT is invariant (the T stands for time reversal). Thus far theorists have yet to construct a reasonable theory in which PCT is not conserved. To test the invariance of PCT, imagine making a movie of an experiment's mirror image in which all the particles have been replaced by their corresponding antiparticles. Then a second experiment is performed to mimic what one sees in the film when it is run backward - when "time is reversed". One consequence of PCT invariance is that the circular cyclotron frequencies of the antiproton and proton in a magnetic field should be identical. TRAP looked for differences in the measured cyclotron frequencies and found no evidence of violations of CPT invariance at the level of 9 parts in 1011. The TRAP experiment is currently one of the most accurate tests of PCT invariance, certainly the most stringent test carried out with baryons and antibaryons. Another consequence of PCT invariance is that the structure of antihydrogen and hydrogen should be identical. This is the prediction that ATRAP intends to test at even higher accuracy. We shall see whether this invariance under PCT continues to hold.
  'Mum, were you a virgin when I was born too?'

James, brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55), while well known to ancient writers has for most of the last two millenia been a rather neglected figure. He's not anywhere near as famous as his Mum certainly or even his Dad nor as famous as 'first pope' Pete or that shonky salesman Paul, nope, James sure doesn't get much airplay. At least that was until an ossuary purported to bear his inscription showed up recently. If proven authentic, this would be the first ever archaeological evidence ever found for the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Suddenly James is in the news so who exactly was this dude?
As leader of the mother church in Jerusalem, James was the key proponent of a brand of Christianity that retained strong ties to Judaism and was suspicious of growing gentile influences within the movement. These "Jerusalem Christians" continued to worship in the temple and carefully observed the law of Moses, practicing a form of the religion, says James D. G. Dunn, professor of divinity at the University of Durham, England, that "we today would scarcely recognize–Jewish Christianity, or perhaps more precisely, a form of Jewish messianism." But the keeping of Jewish traditions became an increasingly contentious issue as Christian missionaries began winning more and more gentile converts. According to the New Testament book of Acts, some Jerusalem Christians insisted that gentile converts be circumcised and compelled to observe Jewish laws–requiring, in effect, that to become a Christian one needed to first become a Jew. The issue became so divisive that leaders of the pre-eminent gentile church in Antioch (modern Antakya, in Turkey) sent Paul and another missionary to Jerusalem to meet with James and Peter. Ultimately, the Jerusalem leaders agreed that non-Jews had no obligation to obey Jewish laws, removing a major obstacle to conversion. "The weight of history." Turbulence in Jerusalem would soon make the issue moot. The Jewish historian Josephus records James's execution as a heretic, at the instigation of the temple's high priest in A.D. 62. Eight years later, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its temple, in response to a Jewish revolt. Any Christians still in the city were dispersed into Syria and beyond. Meanwhile, the thriving gentile church continued to spread throughout the Roman Empire. James, says Painter, had "struggled to maintain the messianic faith in Jesus as a viable faith for Jews," but "the weight of history crushed him and his tradition." The fate of that tradition and the legacy of James, says Painter, were "bound up with Christian Judaism, and with its demise his fate was sealed."
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
  The Case Against Micropayments This post began originally as a response to a question posted by Jaquandor over at the Collaboratory. Despite being touted as the Next Big Thing for nearly a decade, micropayments as a way for paying for online content has stubbornly refused to materialize. Many companies have tried but systems like FirstVirtual, Cybercoin, Millicent, Digicash, Internet Dollar, Pay2See, MicroMint and Cybercent have all failed to catch on. The reason, according to Clay Shirky, is because people will always prefer simple pricing models (such as flat-rate subscriptions) over pay-as-you go models. This becomes even more so when the value of the item being purchased is very low as is the case with micropayments. It's not that a viable system for paying content authors is impossible, it's just that micropayments ain't it. Deep down nobody really likes being Nickeled-and-Dimed to death.
Who could haggle over a penny's worth of content? After all, people routinely leave extra pennies in a jar by the cashier. Surely amounts this small makes valuing a micropayment transaction effortless? Here again micropayments create a double-standard. One cannot tell users that they need to place a monetary value on something while also suggesting that the fee charged is functionally zero. This creates confusion - if the message to the user is that paying a penny for something makes it effectively free, then why isn't it actually free? Alternatively, if the user is being forced to assent to a debit, how can they behave as if they are not spending money? Beneath a certain price, goods or services become harder to value, not easier, because the X for Y comparison becomes more confusing, not less. Users have no trouble deciding whether a $1 newspaper is worthwhile - did it interest you, did it keep you from getting bored, did reading it let you sound up to date - but how could you decide whether each part of the newspaper is worth a penny? Was each of 100 individual stories in the newspaper worth a penny, even though you didn't read all of them? Was each of the 25 stories you read worth 4 cents apiece? If you read a story halfway through, was it worth half what a full story was worth? And so on. When you disaggregate a newspaper, it becomes harder to value, not easier. By accepting that different people will find different things interesting, and by rolling all of those things together, a newspaper achieves what micropayments cannot: clarity in pricing. The very micro-ness of micropayments makes them confusing. At the very least, users will be persistently puzzled over the conflicting messages of "This is worth so much you have to decide whether to buy it or not" and "This is worth so little that it has virtually no cost to you." More...
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
  An Empire Goes Underground
In 665, the forces of Duncanthrax vanquished the Antharian Armada at the famous battle of Fort Griffspotter. The island-nation of Antharia was, at the time, the world’s premier sea power, and this victory gave Duncanthrax undisputed control of the Great Sea and put the superb ship-building facilities of Antharia at his disposal. (The conquest of Antharia also gave Duncanthrax possession of Antharia’s famed granola mines. Unfortunately, no one in Quendor liked granola.) Within months, Quendor’s navy was returning from voyages with tales of a magical land on the distant eastern shore of the Great Sea. Duncanthrax was incensed that this vast land existed outside his dominion, and spent many nights storming the halls of his castle bellowing at his servants and advisors. Then, one day, he had a sudden inspiration: assemble a huge fleet, cross the Great Sea and conquer the lands on the eastern shore. Not only would he extend his empire, but he’d finally have a market for all that useless granola. As Duncanthrax’s invasion swept across the new lands, he made a startling discovery: huge caverns and tunnels, populated by gnomes, trolls and other magical races, all of whom loved granola. Even as Duncanthrax conquered this region, his imagination was inspired by this natural underground formation. If these caverns and tunnels were possible in nature, so might they be formed by humans! Duncanthrax realized that by burrowing into the ground he could increase the size of his empire fivefold or even tenfold! The Frobozz Magic Construction Company (the forerunner of the modern industrial giant FrobozzCo International) was formed to undertake this project in 668. For the remaining 20 years of Duncanthrax’s reign, cavern-building continued at a breakneck pace. The natural caverns in the eastern lands were expanded tremendously, and new caverns and passages were dug in the western lands, chiefly in the vicinity of Duncanthrax’s castle, Egreth. By the time of his death in 688, Duncanthrax ruled virtually all territory in the known world, above and below ground.
from the The Great Underground Empire: A History by Froboz Mumbar and here's a map. Okay, got that? Good. Time to play Zork. and of course if you get really stuck you can always cheat... 
Monday, October 28, 2002
From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) [web1913]

Sardonic \Sar*don"ic\, a. [F. sardonique, L. sardonius, Gr. ?,
   ?, perhaps fr. ? to grin like a dog, or from a certain plant
   of Sardinia, Gr. ?, which was said to screw up the face of
   the eater.]

   Forced; unnatural; insincere; hence, derisive, mocking,
   malignant, or bitterly sarcastic; -- applied only to a laugh,
   smile, or some facial semblance of gayety.

         Where strained, sardonic smiles are glozing still, And
         grief is forced to laugh against her will. --Sir H. Wotton.

         The scornful, ferocious, sardonic grin of a bloody
         ruffian.                                 --Burke.

   {Sardonic grin} or {laugh}, an old medical term for a
      spasmodic affection of the muscles of the face, giving it
      an appearance of laughter.
Hmmm, or maybe we could turn to the classical sources...
from The Phoenicians and the West - Politics, Colonies and Trade - Maria Eugenia Aubet, Cambridge University Press The classical sources attribute frequent holocausts of children to the Carthaginians in order to emphasize the harsh and cruel nature of these people and their Phoenician forefathers. 'The Phoenicians, and more especially the Carthaginians, when they want some important project to succeed, promise to sacrifice a child to Cronos if their wish is fulfilled'. Clitarch and Diodorus also tell us that the sacrifice took place in front of a bronze statue of the god, with arms outstretched over a blazing hearth; the child slid down over the arms and fell. It seems that the victims were covered with a grinning mask and that is why, according to Clitarch, they died laughing and hence the term 'sardonic' (Sardinian) for a sarcastic smile.
...or then again maybe we wished that we hadn't... X-Q  
  Víteliú Before the rise of Rome, the Italian peninsula was a patchwork of languages and nations. Most famously, perhaps, were the Etruscans a people who developed the largest and most powerful pre-Empire civilization and who spoke a non-Indo-European language that is today only partially understood. To the mountainous North were encroaching Celtic tribes and to the South, coastal enclaves of Greek colonists. The rest of the peoples that inhabited Italy spoke numerous tongues that included Messapic, Rhaetic, Venetic, Picene, Umbrian and Oscan. Latin began as a minor Indo-European language and was restricted to only a small area of coastal Central Italy under the control of the Etruscans but it soon broke free to become the language of the Roman Empire and later provide much of the vocabulary of Western Europe's languages.
Víteliú was the Oscan term for the Italian peninsula. This name is probably connected with the word for "calf" (seen in Latin vitulus and Umbrian vitlu ), and was originally applied to the Greek colonies in Italy. Gradually, the word came to refer to the entire peninsula, and was adopted by allied Sabellian tribes to foster a sense of nationalism during the Italic revolt against Rome. A form of the ancient word survives in the modern name Italia.
  How are languages related?
A language family is a group of languages that have been proven to have descended from a common ancestral language. Branches of families likewise represent groups of languages with a more recent common ancestor. For example, English, Dutch, and German have a common ancestor which we label Proto-West-Germanic, and thus belong to the West Germanic branch of Germanic. Icelandic and Norwegian are descended from Proto-North Germanic, a separate branch of Germanic. All the Germanic languages have a common ancestor, Proto-Germanic; farther back, this ancestor was descended from Proto-Indo-European, as were the ancestors of the Italic, Slavic, and other branches. Not all languages are known to be related to each other. It is possible that they are related but the evidence of relationship has been lost; it's also possible they arose separately. It is likely that some of the families listed here will eventually turn out to be related to one another. The Indo-European Family Non-Indo-European Families There are many New Guinean language families; some linguists group them all together as "Papuan" but this too is controversial. There are 26 families of Australian languages; the largest is Pama-Nyungan.
  Sim Ur

For decades, people have used computers to model present-day realities and fantasies. Engineers and scientists design cars and predict the weather with them, while video gamers have propelled the game The Sims, which allows the design of simulated human lives to play out on a screen, to become the best-selling computer game of the 21st century. Now Tony Wilkinson, Research Associate and Associate Professor in the Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, along with colleagues spanning the sciences and humanities, wants to apply this technology to ancient Mesopotamia. If the simulations work as desired, his team will be able to test how and why the first civilizations were born, lived and died. Wilkinson is a Briton whose soft-spoken manner is belied by the ambition of his project. “It will be a bit like Sim City, but real,” he said. The difference between the Oriental Institute project and a computer game lies not just in the sophistication of the model, but the fact that the database is history itself, and the results will be a new window into its causes. “We’ll run the model to see if we can grow Mesopotamian cities and test the results against archaeological data,” Wilkinson noted. Read on...
Fanciful. Preposterous. Absurd.

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