Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Measuring the Past," by Michael Vickers. Nature, 26 April 2001, p.1030.

Vickers reviews All Done with Mirrors, a book by J. F. Neal onmetrology---the science of measurement. Neal makes the case that measures usedin Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian cultures are interrelated. He alsosays that some errors in measures made by ancient people, which are usuallyattributed to lack of accuracy, are due to the latitude at which the peoplelived (measurements based on fractional parts of a longitudinal meridian willvary because of flattening at the poles). Vickers hopes that one result ofNeal's book will be that metrology "should cease to be a pariah subject andregain its place at the centre of the study of antiquity."

--- Mike Breen