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On Aug. 24, 79 A.D., Italy's Mount Vesuvius exploded, burying the Roman towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii under tons of super-heated ash, rock and debris in one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in history.
Thousands died. But somehow, hundreds of papyrus scrolls survived — sort of — in a villa at Herculaneum thought to have been owned at one time by Julius Caesar's father-in-law.
The scrolls contained ancient philosophical and learned writings. But they were so badly damaged — literally turned to carbon by the volcanic heat — that they crumbled when scholars first tried to open them centuries later.
The remaining scrolls, stored away in Italy and France, haven't been read — or even unrolled — since 79 AD.
Now, a computer scientist from the University of Kentucky hopes that modern digital technology will allow him to peer inside two of the fragile scrolls — without physically opening them — and unlock secrets they have held for almost 2,000 years.
Brent Seales, the Gill professor of engineering in UK's computer science department, will use an X-Ray CT scanning system to collect interior images of the scrolls' rolled-up pages. Then, he and his colleagues hope to digitally "unroll" the scrolls on a computer screen so scholars can read them.
"It will be a challenge because today these things look more like charcoal briquets than scrolls," Seales said last week. "But we're using a non-invasive scanning system, based on medical technology, that lets you slice through an object and develop a three-dimensional data set without having to open it, just as you would do a CT scan on a human body."
A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.
The new results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50% were pro-choice and 44% pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46%, in both August 2001 and May 2002.
Madonna and her boy toy Jesus have no plans to get married, a spokesperson for the singer tells In Touch magazine.
“This is completely and totally not true,” her spokesperson says.