Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

Infinite Secrets

Program Overview

PDF

Drawing of old book NOVA explores the ongoing efforts of scientists to restore the 1,000-year-old Archimedes Palimpsest.

The program:

  • defines a palimpsest: a manuscript in which the original text has been erased and the pages written on again.

  • describes the discovery of the Palimpsest and its importance as a text that contains Archimedes' previously unknown mathematical treatises and illustrates Archimedes' process of discovery.

  • explores Archimedes' life and some of his inventions, including his weapons of war.

  • relates how Archimedes has become famous as the man who shouted "Eureka!" in the bath when he determined how to measure volume through water displacement.

  • documents Archimedes' prowess as a mathematician by providing examples of some of his key ideas, such as his methods for determining the volume of an object and estimating the value of pi, his discoveries of complex mathematical shapes and the concept of buoyancy, and his work with infinity.

  • chronicles the history of the manuscript from Archimedes' time to the present and details how the Palimpsest was created—12th-century monks in possession of the book erased the earlier recordings of Archimedes' work and reused the pages for a prayer book.

  • illustrates how scientists are revealing the manuscript's concealed treasures.

  • concludes with speculation about how much further the study of mathematics might be if the manuscript had not been lost for a millennium.

Teacher's Guide
Infinite Secrets
BUY THE VIDEO PROGRAM OVERVIEW VIEWING IDEAS CLASSROOM ACTIVITY RELATED NOVA RESOURCES INTERACTIVE FOR STUDENTS