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This article originally appeared on 07.10.21
Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!
Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.
Mansfield and his team are, understandably, incredibly proud. What they discovered is that the tablet is actually an ancient trigonometry table.
"The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet. Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius."
"The tablet not only contains the world's oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry. This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3,000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education. This is a rare example of the ancient world teaching us something new."
The tablet predates Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry. Mansfield's colleague, Norman Widberger, added:
"Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1,000 years. It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own."
"A treasure trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us."
People were understandably excited by the news.
Some mathematicians actually think studying the Babylonians back then could help us improve the way we do trigonometry today.
Babylonian tablet Plimpton 322 will make studying maths easier, mathematician says http://ab.co/2vuEzuL\u00a0 | @abcnewspic.twitter.com/U10wQ7ZA42— ABC Australia (@ABC Australia) 1503644411
"With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trig. (with) clear advantages over our own."\n@n_wildberger: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/24/mathematical-secrets-of-ancient-tablet-unlocked-after-nearly-a-century-of-study\u00a0\u2026\n#TOK— Roo Stenning (@Roo Stenning) 1503658186
Of course, there were the haters...
Find someone who loves you as much as this guy dislikes a hypothesis about Babylonian math: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/ancient-babylonian-tablet-may-contain-first-evidence-trigonometry\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/c5yO8LmjhE— Miles Brundage (@Miles Brundage) 1503605001
But all in all, Twitter users were pretty impressed with the Babylonians' skills.
And we're over here trying to figure out how to do trig with our TI-83s... man I love it when the ancients show what real intelligence is.— Kenny Hayse (@Kenny Hayse) 1503633184
Congratulations to Dr. Mansfield and his team on their incredible discovery... and for making trigonometry exciting!
It’s pretty mesmerizing to watch.
Super-rare footage of a baby moray eel (or a Leptocephalus larva, if you wanna get technical) has taken over the internet. Filmed by Barry Haythorne and Rob Rutgers of HRF U/W Productions, the video shows scuba divers coming face-to-face with the tiny creature, which is almost completely transparent.
The nearly invisible larva looks like a trail of smoke or a billowing silk ribbon as it glides through the water, with only its semiglowing face being truly discernible. Actually, let's be honest—it’s giving the ghost dog Zero from “The Nightmare Before Christmas," only much more hauntingly beautiful.
Either way, it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch.
Obviously, being transparent and all, these guys are usually next to impossible to find, making this a pretty miraculous encounter. Even luckier that with modern technology millions of other people can see the ultra-rare sighting.
Eel larvae are almost completely transparent.— Wonder of Science (@wonderofscience) October 2, 2022
Credit: HRF U/W Productionpic.twitter.com/mi9sJpEVMt
Both the Twitter and YouTube posts are filled with comments of awe, wonder and appreciation for nature’s seemingly never-ending supply of fresh surprises.
“How amazing our world is, brings a smile to my heart,” one person wrote.
“I'm feeling so happy if i look at it, such an amazing creature! It looks like a sea spirit or something,” another added.
The sea is indeed full of intriguing mystery. According to Ocean Literacy, only 5% of the world's oceans have actually been explored and charted by humans, meaning that there is so much more to be discovered. As one person wrote in the comments, “the oceans are the last unexplored frontier of our planet and lifeforms like this shows how even the wildest imaginings of alien creatures cannot even scratch the wonder and beauty of what Earth's biodiversity has to offer.”
Nature never ceases to amaze.
This article originally appeared on 08.05.21
Six years ago, a high school student named Christopher Justice eloquently explained the multiple problems with flying the Confederate flag. A video clip of Justice's truth bomb has made the viral rounds a few times since then, and here it is once again getting the attention it deserves.
Justice doesn't just explain why the flag is seen as a symbol of racism. He also explains the history of when the flag originated and why flying a Confederate flag makes no sense for people who claim to be loyal Americans.
This high school student, Christopher Justice, does a great job at explaining the Confederate flag and its problems.pic.twitter.com/CcOXHCB8GQ— \ud835\udc0b\ud835\udc1a\ud835\udc27\ud835\udc1c\ud835\udc1e \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08 (@\ud835\udc0b\ud835\udc1a\ud835\udc27\ud835\udc1c\ud835\udc1e \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08) 1628088843
But that clip, as great as it is, is a small part of the whole story. Knowing how the discussion came about and seeing the full debate in context is even more impressive.
In 2015, a student at Shawnee Mission East High School outside of Kansas City came up with the idea to have student journalists document students engaging in open discussions about various topics. In support of this idea, history teacher David Muhammad helped arrange a debate about the use of the Confederate flag in American society in his classroom.
According to the Shawnee Mission Post, Muhammad had prepared a basic outline and some basic guiding questions for the discussion, but mainly let the students debate freely. And the result was one of the most interesting debates about the Confederate flag you'll ever see—one that both reflects the perspectives in American society at large and serves as an example of how to hold a respectful conversation on a controversial topic.
The full discussion is definitely worth a watch. Justice had quite a few Confederacy defenders to contend with, and he skillfully responded to each point with facts and logic. Other students also chimed in, and the discussion is wildly familiar to anyone who has engaged in debate on this topic. For his part, Mr. Muhammad did an excellent job of guiding the students through the debate.
"I had Chris in class, so I knew he was super intelligent and that he read a lot," Muhammad told the Shawnee Mission Post in 2018. "But that really came out of left-field. He was never out there very much socially, so I didn't expect for him to want to speak in front of a crowd like that."
(In case you're wondering, according to LinkedIn, Christopher Justice is now studying political science at Wichita State University after switching his major from sports management. David Muhammad is now Dean of Students at Pembroke Middle School and also serves as a Diversity Consultant.)
Thanks, SM East, for documenting and sharing such a great discussion.