Sunday, October 10, 2010

the song of the potter

Many years ago, I heard an April's fool story on the radio that went a bit like this:

Archaeologists have investigated the banded decorations on ancient Egyptian vases and found out that the potter had been singing during his work, and the vibrations transmitted through his arm were engraved in the vase, much like the early gramophones and the vinyl records. Building a special gramophone for Egyptian vases, the scientists managed to play back the song recorded thousands of years earlier. I think they actually played a soundclip they claimed to be a remastered version of that ancient recording. It was April 1st, though.

In an obituary of the physicist and Nobel laureate Georges Charpak published in El Pais (5.10.10) I now came across this story again, and it was no joke this time. Apparently, Charpak performed experiments to verify whether sound (in his case shouting, not singing) produced by potters could be recorded in the pottery. The paper reports that his colleagues at the institute thought he had gone potty, but sadly it doesn't relate the outcome of the experiment.

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