Posts Tagged ‘Rosetta Stone’
How to Count to Infinity (or “Yes, Virginia, some infinities are bigger than others…”)
As we check in to Hilbert’s Hotel, we might spare a thought for Joesph Fourier; the French mathematician, physicist, Egyptologist and administrator who died on this date in 1830. Fourier introduced Jean-Francois Champollion to the Rosetta Stone, which Champollion subsequently decoded/translated. And after calculating that a body the size of earth, at earth’s distance form the sun, should be cooler than our world is, discovered what we now call “the greenhouse effect.” But Fourier is best remembered for his contributions to mathematical physics through his Théorie analytique de la chaleur (1822; The Analytical Theory of Heat), which introduced an infinite mathematical series to aid in solving conduction equations. (The technique allowed the function of any variable to be expanded into a series of sines of multiples of the variable– now known as “the fourier series.”)
True greatness is when your name is like ampere, watt, and fourier—when it’s spelled with a lower case letter.
- Richard Hamming (in a 1986 Bell Labs Colloquium)
From a press release issued by Cyclone Power Technologies and Robotic Technology:
In response to rumors circulating the internet on sites such as FoxNews.com, FastCompany.com and CNET News about a “flesh eating” robot project [ c.f., e.g., EATR: The Robot That Can Survive on Corpses], Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. (Pink Sheets: CYPW) and Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) would like to set the record straight: This robot is strictly vegetarian.
On July 7, Cyclone announced that it had completed the first stage of development for a beta biomass engine system used to power RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™), a Phase II SBIR project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office. RTI’s EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.
RTI’s patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.
“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”
As we contemplate off-label uses, we might also celebrate the happier fall-out of military maneuvers, as it was on this date in 1799 (or close; scholars agree that it was “mid-July” but disagree on the precise day) that a French soldier in Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign discovered a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria.
The stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts inscribed by priests of Ptolemy V in the second century B.C.– Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Egyptian demotic. The Greek passage proclaimed that the three scripts were all of identical meaning– so allowed French Egyptologist Jean Francois Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphics… and opened the language of ancient Egypt, a written language that had been “dead” for nearly two millennia.