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Archaeologist May Have Found the First Protractor 78

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-the-compass? dept.
If physicist Amelia Sparavigna is correct, in addition to frogs, lice, and locusts, Egyptian schoolchildren were also plagued with useless geometry instruments in their new notebooks at the beginning of every school year. A mysterious object was found in the architect Kha's tomb in 1906 and its function has remained the subject of debate ever since. Sparavigna is certain the object is actually the world's first protractor. From the article: "The key, she says, lies in the numbers encoded in the object's ornate decoration,(Pdf) which resembles a compass rose with 16 evenly spaced petals surrounded by a circular zigzag with 36 corners."
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Archaeologist May Have Found the First Protractor

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  • Not useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday August 01, 2011 @11:00AM (#36948472) Homepage
    Seriously, this is supposed to be news for nerds and the summary gets a gratuitous attack on protractors? They aren't useless now and they certainly weren't useless in the past. Before electronic systems, protractors were needed for all sorts of applications in architecture and engineering. In other areas, the way stars were carefully charted used protractor-like instruments. This last was particularly important in many ancient cultures because they relied on the stars to figure out just when to plant. Later, in the age of navigation, the sextant (again a protractor variant) was used to help accurately estimate latitude, a critical ability for sailors allowing the exploration and trade which eventually gave us the modern world. Moreover, aside from these applications, having children work with protractors helps them improve their ability to estimate things at a glance and improve their geometric intuition something that is important in daily life as well as all sorts of jobs, whether as things like carpenters or more academic jobs like engineers and physicists.
  • by Lord Grey (463613) on Monday August 01, 2011 @12:15PM (#36949404)

    I thought the archaeologist found Phssthpok [wikipedia.org], a Pak Protector. That would have been news.

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