Artificial intelligence helps read a charred Roman manuscript from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD Artificial intelligence helps read a charred Roman manuscript from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

Artificial intelligence helps read a charred Roman manuscript from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

Artificial intelligence helps read a charred Roman manuscript from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

A team of scientists was able to decipher a charred manuscript that was buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, relying on artificial intelligence.
The feat was achieved by students in the “Vesuvius Challenge” competition in which algorithms were used to erase an artifact that would have been destroyed if dismantled by human hands.

X-ray analysis of the bones of Pompeii victims solves a 2,000-year-old mystery
Hundreds of papyrus scrolls located in the library of a luxurious Roman villa in Herculaneum burned when the city of Pompeii was destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

Excavations in the 18th century found more than 1,000 complete or partial manuscripts from the villa, believed to have belonged to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, but the black ink was not readable on the charred papyrus papers, and the manuscripts crumbled into pieces when scholars tried to open them and discover them.

On Monday, Nat Friedman, the US technology investor and founding sponsor of the $1 million Vesuvius Challenge (a competition launched in 2023 by Brent Sales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky, and a Silicon Valley backer), announced that A team of three computer-savvy students - Youssef Nader from Germany, Luke Varitor from the United States, and Julian Schleger from Switzerland - won $700,000 in the grand prize, after reading more than 2,000 Greek letters from the manuscript.

Papyrologists who studied the text recovered from the Black Scroll were amazed by this feat.

In October, Varitor won the $40,000 Initials Prize when he identified the ancient Greek word for "purple" in the manuscript. He collaborated with Nader in November, and with Schleger, who developed an algorithm to automatically decode CT scan images, and joined them days before the competition's deadline, on December 31. Together they read more than 2,000 letters from the manuscript, giving scholars their first real idea of ​​its contents.

The general theme of the text revolves around sources of pleasure. The author of the ancient Greek text is believed to be Philodemus, a philosopher who lived in the villa where the manuscript was found.

In two consecutive column excerpts from the manuscript, the author expresses concern about whether and how the availability of goods, such as food, can affect the pleasure he provides.

“I think it begs the question: What is the source of pleasure? Is it the dominant element, is it the rare element, or is it the mixture itself?” said Robert Fowler, emeritus professor of Greek at the University of Bristol and president of the Herculaneum Society.

In the concluding section of the text, the author offers scathing and critical remarks on his philosophical opponents before departing, because “they have nothing to say about pleasure, either in general or in particular, when it comes to the question of definition.”

Sales and his research team spent years developing algorithms to digitally decipher the manuscripts.

Aside from the hundreds of Herculaneum manuscripts waiting to be read, there may be many buried in the villa until now, which requires new excavations.

Fowler said the next phase of the competition will attempt to read 85% of the manuscript and lay the foundations for reading everything that has already been excavated.

 He added that the same technique can be applied to papyrus in ancient Egypt, ranging from letters and property deeds to tax receipts, which sheds light on the lives of ordinary ancient Egyptians.

In an increasingly warm world, climate scientists propose a new classification of hurricanes

A recent study found that hurricanes have become so powerful due to the climate crisis that their classification needs to be expanded to include “Category 6” hurricanes, adding to the scale from level 1 to 5.
Over the past decade, there have been five storms that can be classified according to the new scale, Category 6 which will include all hurricanes with sustained winds of 192 mph or greater, the researchers said.

Studies have found that the occurrence of such huge hurricanes has become more likely due to global warming, as a result of the rising temperature of the oceans and atmosphere.

"192 miles per hour is probably faster than most Ferraris, and it's hard to even imagine," said Michael Weiner, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States. "Getting into this type of tornado would be very bad."

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, proposes an expansion of the widely used “Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale,” which was developed in the early 1970s by Herbert Saffir, a civil engineer, and Robert Simpson, a meteorologist who... Director of the US National Hurricane Center.

The scale classifies any hurricane with maximum wind speeds of 74 miles per hour to 95 miles per hour as a Category 1 hurricane, with the scale rising as wind speeds increase, so that wind speeds between 158 miles per hour or more are classified as Category 5 hurricanes.

But as rising ocean temperatures contribute to more intense and destructive hurricanes, researchers wondered whether Category 5 was sufficient to describe the risk of hurricane damage in a warming climate. So they investigated and came up with a hypothetical Category 6 wind scale category, which includes storms with Wind speeds greater than 192 mph.

While the total number of hurricanes is not rising because of the climate crisis, researchers have found that the intensity of major storms has increased significantly over the four-decade hurricane record.

A superheated ocean provides additional energy to quickly intensify hurricanes, fueled by a warmer, more humid atmosphere.

Weiner noted that the Saffir-Simpson Scale was not a complete measure of the risks to people from a hurricane, which comes mostly through heavy rainfall and coastal flooding rather than the strong winds themselves, but a Category 6 would highlight the increased risks a hurricane brings. Adding: “Our main goal is to raise awareness that climate change affects the most severe storms.”

However, there is no indication that the hurricanes will be officially classified as Category 6 soon. 
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