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News Picks : Ancient Babylonian astronomers may have been first to use geometry

By: Physics Today
29 January 2016
New York Times: Although 14th-century Europeans have generally been credited with being the first to use geometrical calculations to describe the motions of the planets in the solar system, it now looks as though ancient Babylonians may have beat them to it. In a study published in Science, Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin says that several ancient cuneiform tablets dating from 350 to 50 BCE depict the motion of Jupiter through the use of trapezoidal figures, where one axis represents time and another velocity. The area of the trapezoid gives the distance traveled. Whether mathematicians in the Middle Ages had access to Babylonian texts or whether they developed the same techniques independently is not known.

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