Monday, March 13, 2006

Live recordings from ancient Pompeii - April Fool's

This is so great as to border on the magical. A Belgian archeologist recently realized that the spiral patterns on certain Pompeiian pottery were effectively, very low-resolution recordings of the sounds in the pottery workshop at the instant each pot was being made. Picture it: a thin stylus was held and drawn steadily downwards on the rotating pot, drawing a single line into the soft clay. The stylus vibrated according to the ambient sounds and effectively traced out the local sounds. You can play it back.

The archeologist has indeed played back the recording, and there are sounds of speech and recognizable laughter. The link is to a 3-minute QuickTime video, all in French, with a regrettably short playback of the Pompeiian speech.

I am inexpressibly happy to hear this news. Conceivably, this story is an elaboration of wishful thinking: perhaps the playback process was so complex that the sound is merely an artifact.

For the moment, though, I'm clapping my hands, and I believe.

Update: And dang, Tinkerbell choked on a hairball just a few hours later. Now the little pixie is dead. The video is an April fool's joke. If I had a cat, he'd be hiding under the couch about now. Notice above how I did consider that this wasn't real, but I never considered that it was fake.

Feh. I am embarrassed and annoyed. In the hierarchy of practical jokes, I'm much more in favor of jokes that have people perplexed or alarmed, instead of jokes that initially delight people. Also, as it happens, I'm significantly in favor of practical jokes that I don't fall for.

Sigh. Here's some famous hacks at MIT. However, it looks like they've removed all record of the one where they turned building 10, the large, rounded building, into a giant breast by adding an appropriately sized nipple and a latin phrase on it saying "the great tit of knowledge." I wasn't there, of course, but I don't think I'm imagining this.


Anonymous Alan said...

Soory Trav, but the two top websites on this google search (pottery+stylus+recording+belgian) say it's an admitted fake (the admission is in French too...) :(

A great idea, that has been used in at least one sci-fi story as well as an X-Files (I've heard of the X-files but have never seen it. The story I've read.)

On one of the links from google, someone pointed out that the potter's hand that held a wire to clay would damp out most vibrations. But I think under some circumstances, future scientists could really do it.

Monday, 13 March, 2006  
Blogger Ed Park said...

What the hell's with all these hoaxes? First the new video iPod now this. I was stoked on the news too...

Monday, 13 March, 2006  

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