Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Friday, July 29, 2011

Help scientists decipher 'lost' gospel

Scientists are recruiting thousands of armchair archaeologists to help them decipher a "lost" gospel and other fragments of texts from ancient Egypt.

The Ancient Lives project draws upon the same type of people power that drives citizen-science projects such as Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, Foldit and EteRNA. In all these cases, legions of human eyes and brains can do a better job of sifting through massive databases than supercomputers. For this particular project, however, the monster database that needs to be tamed does not consist of sky-survey data or molecular combinations — rather, they're ink letters, scrawled in Greek on centuries-old bits of papyrus.

Oxford University launched Ancient Lives just a couple of days ago, but project leader Chris Lintott told me that more than 400,000 papyrus images have already been served up as of today. "It's been a crazy few days," he said in an email. (more)