Sidelights  updated Nov. 10, 2011  ©D. Carrigan  carrigan@fnal.gov (subject line must be sensible)

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The Tufts Perseus site transliterates this as “gêraskô d' aiei polla didaskomenos” so there is an additional word (maybe “many”). Gerasko has something to do with geriatric and didasko sounds likes didactic so that it is like learning. Menos is person. One translation gives “but I grow old ever learning many things”. (This may come from Theodor Bergk’s reference article in Harry Thurston Peck, “Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities” -1898). Is this "older but wiser?"

Apparently every modern Greek child learns this quotation. I have heard attributions to Plato, Socrates, Solon, and others. Rapidis below notes that Greek high school texts have been somewhat simplified and expurgated. He has found many instances where Plato (in particular) has had somewhat risque or erotic passages removed.

Parenthetically, this has relevance to the question of potential SETI message content. Here is something from 2000 years ago where we have a message in an archaic form, probably not meant to be ageless. Unlike some ancient texts (linear A?) we can translate it. But can we understand nuance, etc? Do we understand the context of the phrase and the context of Greek life enough to be sure we have a fairly clear picture of what this means? Unlike SETI, where we worry about a Trojan horse, we do not anticipate a hidden motivation and hidden embedded messages (Steganography).

My sources are Petros Rapidis (rapidis@fnal.gov), Adrian Melissinos (meliss@pas.rochester.edu), Vasilly Papavassiliou (pvs@nmsu.edu), and Ralph Bohn (ralphbohn@connectnc.net).

Decimal Time

Herbert Glarner's working digital decimal clock


" La Convention, pour rendre complet le syst
ème de numération décimale, a décrete, en conséquence, que le jour serait divisé en dix parties, chaque partie en dix autres, et ainsi de suite, jusqu'à la plus petite portion commensurable de la durée…” (from J. Guillaume, ed. 1890-1907.  Proces-verbaux du Comite d'Instruction Publique de la Convention Nationale 2:882.)

These words at the height of the French Revolution 200 years ago highlight the decision to adopt decimal time. For a tumultuous period of eighteen months, the new French Republic moved toward decimal time, along with the introduction of a decimal calendar and the metric system. Only the metric system survives in wide use. However astronomers do use a completely decimal time system, the Julian date, which counts days and decimal fractions of days from 4713 BC with the day beginning at noon UT.

Excellent examples of Revolutionary decimal watches and clocks exist at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (Paris). The Seth Atwood time museum collection also has examples.

 (See Decimal Time R. Carrigan, American Scientist, V66, pp. 305-313, 1978)

Interesting decimal time sites:

John Hynes' site with iPad version. On Hynes' links header note Dr. Winstead's percentage metric clock and particularly the  downloadable clock at Michael Jenkins' analog centesimal clock.
Decimal time in Wikipedia
Some interesting dials