Think you can decipher an ancient scroll? You could win a million bucks | CBC Radio

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The Institut de France is offering a $1m prize to anyone able to accurately decipher an unopened Herculaneum scroll. The scrolls, which were found at the Herculaneum site near Pompeii in the 18th century, were fused together by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Their condition, described as resembling flaky ash, renders the texts too fragile to open. However, researchers from teams including businessman Nat Friedman’s Vesuvius Challenge have offered significant scans of the scrolls and other data to anyone taking part in the challenge. Computer scientists, such as Dr Brent Squales at the University of Kentucky, have employed machine learning and artificial intelligence to unlock previous scrolls using 3D X-ray technology. The process is complicated by the fact that the inks used on the documents are invisible to the naked eye, but their properties can be detected by machine learning models. The competition calls for the extraction of four passages from the scrolls, each consisting of at least 140 characters, with no more than 15% missing.

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