Babylonians used geometry to follow Jupiter

Jan

30

2016

Analysis of Babylonian clay tablets revealed that Babylonians geometry used to calculate the position of Jupiter. The clay tablets are the earliest known examples of the use of geometry to calculate positions of celestial bodies.

The Dutch astronomer Mathieu Ossendrijver discovered the calculations on clay tablets from Iraq who are currently in the storage rooms of the British Museum. The Babylonians described the tablets between 350 and 50 BC. Scientists had previously thought that the technique that the Babylonians used for the first time in the English Oxford was developed, but 1400 years later.

The clay tablets are almost completely intact. The tablets are two intervals with which Jupiter appears on the horizon. The position of the planet is calculated sixty and one hundred twenty days. The text contains geometric calculations based on the surface of a trapezium with the long and short sides. Previously, it was thought that did not Bablyoniërs to geometry, but only counted to keep track of, for example, food stocks. The astronomers also calculated the time when Jupiter half the distance had passed within 60 days by dividing the trapezoid into two smaller, equal parts.

The ancient Greeks also used geometric shapes to define forms in the physical space. These clay tablets show the Babylonians geometry in an abstract way to determine time and speed, Ossendrijver said in his article in Science. The discovery shows that the Babylonian influence probably went further than previously thought.

Babylonians used instead of a decimal-system a sexagesimal system or the sexagesimal system. The protractor with its 360 degree is an example of the sexagesimal system. The Babylonians used the protractor to divide the sky into pieces. They also used a clock with twelve and sixty minutes per hour.

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