Archimedes on Calculus

When I taught 8th grade science, we spent a considerable amount of time on Archimedes (machines, etc) and eventually Newton and the discovery of the calculus.

This news makes my heart swell as we continue to realize that we 20-21st century westerners weren’t the first to achieve such grand inventions as calculus or even a notion of grasping at the infinite…

Two of the texts hiding in the prayer book have not appeared in any other copy of Archimedes’s work, so no one but Heiberg had studied them until now. One of them, titled The Method, has special historical significance. It could be considered the earliest known work on calculus.

Archimedes wrote The Method almost two thousand years before Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz developed calculus in the 1700s. Reviel Netz, an historian of mathematics at Stanford University who transcribed the text, says that the examination of Archimedes’ work has revealed “a new twist on the entire trajectory of Western mathematics.”

In The Method, Archimedes was working out a way to compute the areas and volumes of objects with curved surfaces, which was also one of the problems that motivated Newton and Leibniz. Ancient mathematicians had long struggled to “square the circle” by calculating its exact area. That problem turned out to be impossible using only a straightedge and compass, the only tools the ancient Greeks allowed themselves. Nevertheless, Archimedes worked out ways of computing the areas of many other curved regions.

I hope my former 8th graders will here the name Archimedes again sometime in their life or career and think back to our class and how we were also grasping at infinity.

Math Trek: A Prayer for Archimedes, Science News Online, Oct. 6, 2007

Wu-Tang Clan Beatles Mashup

I love the Beatles. They literally changed my life when I was a punk kid in Mullins, SC.

On the new Wu-Tang Clan album due out later this fall, there’s an interesting track that samples the famous (and lovely) Beatles song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" which appeared on The White Album.

I’ve been hearing a good deal about all of the negotiations that went into making this possible and supposedly the Wu Tang album was delayed for this first ever Beatles sample.

Here’s the song in streaming format… I’ve had it on repeat the whole day.  Good stuff:

Wu-Tang Clan – The Heart Gently Weeps

Wu-Tang Clan – The Heart Gently Weeps / The Hype Machine

Cloth Diaper Dad

I just purchased the domain name “” since Anna and I are going the cloth diaper route.

I’m not sure how I’ll use it, but thought it would be fun as a place to share learning moments and the inevitable mistakes (blowouts?!?) that will come with the use of cloth diapers.

BTW, we’re using BumGenius brand… they work great so far (of course we don’t have a baby just yet… should be soon!):



I recently found a replica of one of my favorite pieces of art and history, the statue of Ashurnasirpal II in the round from the Temple of Ishtar.

Ashurnasirpal was the ruler of Assyria in the 9th Century BCE and a very interesting historical figure. My little book published by Yale University Press last year (Asia Has Claims Upon New England) was about the artwork in his palace in Nineveh as well as the journey it took from ancient Assyria to modern day New England.

And here is the description of the original (including pictures) from the British Museum site (the original is in London now):

A rare example of an Assyrian statue in the round

Neo-Assyrian, 883-859 BC
From Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq

This statue of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) was placed in the Temple of Ishtar Sharrat-niphi. It was designed to remind the goddess Ishtar of the king’s piety. It is made of magnesite, and stands on a pedestal of a reddish stone. These unusual stones were probably brought back from a foreign campaign. Kings often boasted of the exotic things they acquired from abroad, not only raw materials and finished goods but also plants and animals.

The king’s hair and beard are shown worn long in the fashion of the Assyrian court at this time. It has been suggested that the Assyrians used false hair and beards, as the Egyptians sometimes did, but there is no evidence for this.

Ashurnasirpal holds a sickle in his right hand, of a kind which gods are sometimes depicted using to fight monsters. The mace in his left hand shows his authority as vice-regent of the supreme god Ashur. The carved cuneiform inscription across his chest proclaims the king’s titles and genealogy, and mentions his expedition westward to the Mediterranean Sea.

The statue was found in the nineteenth century by Henry Layard, the excavator of the temple.

I am a complete dork.

British Museum – Statue of Ashurnasirpal II

Full and Partial Feeds

For some reason, is publishing partial feeds. I hate partial feeds, so I’m working on a fix. 

I’ve set everything to full feeds in both WordPress and Feedburner (which powers the feed here), but still no luck.

I’ll figure it out, so bear with me.

Imagining Jesus

I came across this almost startling image of Jesus on the Roman Army Talk forum…

What is so fascinating about this image is Jesus’ representation in full Roman soldier garb.  I haven’t come across many of these types of representations of full Jesus as soldier in my studies.

However, this isn’t an ancient phenomenon.  We have always imagined Jesus in our own image:

How To Cook Chicken Bog

Last Fall, I made a post with detailed instructions on how to make “chicken bog” in the Mullins, SC fashion.

Here’s my Flickr set from my latest batch of chicken bog this week.

Try it out and enjoy!

Brewgrass 2007

Brewgrass is a fantastic annual festival held here in Asheville, NC. As you can tell from the name, the main focus of the festival is combining great micro-brews from across the US with bluegrass music. I highly recommend if you’re into either of those noble pursuits.

Here’s a quick vid I took at the festival yesterday:

Won’t My Moleskine Please Come Home?

I realized too late that I had left my latest Moleksine notebook on a flight from Charlotte, NC to Dallas, TX.

I’m praying some kind soul finds the notebook and sends it home or calls me (via the info I put on the first page).

That would restore my faith in humanity.  Please work. 


Visiting Dura Europos

I look forward to visiting Dura Europos myself one day.  Here’s a fun travel-logue by a traveler: 

Dura Europos was certainly the most attractive archaeological site I visited in Syria. A ruined citadel sits atop a ridge overlooking the river and a large city wall that is still defined in several places bounds the entire site. Numerous temple remains dot the site but virtually nothing remains of any of them, with the notable exception of the Christian church, which I was able to find. This is rather exciting because it is the oldest church of certain date in the world. Overall, the site is really quite impressive, and aesthetically, it was my favourite ancient site in Syria.

nathanaels: The Desert, the Euphrates, and Mesopotamia

Reasons to Love Asheville

Sidewalk existentialism (or nihilism? or optimism?) from the great Ashevegas blog.

Socrates would be in Asheville if he were still around.

Ashvegas – Journal – Good question