Inside a Genius Mind: Leonardo’s Notebooks

Amazing web app here (bottom link to direct Google Experiment) focused on major themes in Leonardo’s notebooks and connecting them with machine learning. I’m a huge fan of notebooks, and I use the example of Leonardo keeping his thoughts in them all the time with my own students.

If you’re like me and really into Leonardo’s “notebooking” practices and history, I highly suggest you check out the videos Adam Savage has done on his Tested YouTube channel. Wonderful and inspiring videos. May we all find something that moves us in such a way!

Leonardo da Vinci: Inside a genius mind post:

From the stages of his life to dispelling myths, and examining his masterpieces up close, everyone can delve into Leonardo’s mind as we’ve brought together for the first time 1,300 pages from his collections of volumes and notebooks. The codices, brimming sketches, ideas, and observations, offer a window into the boundless imagination of one of history’s greatest polymaths. With the aid of Machine Learning and the curatorial expertise of Professor Martin Kemp, the accompanying experiment also called “Inside a Genius Mind” unravels these intriguing and sometimes mysterious materials.

Full experiment here!

Hauntology and Valhalla

Like many who went through college and then grad-school in the religion / literature / philosophy circles, I’ve read and pondered my share of Derrida and the consequences of ontology on our “demon-haunted world” … another reason I’ve absolutely loved playing AC Valhalla (about 125 hours in at this point since picking it up over the Holidays).

A pun coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the early ’90s, hauntology refers to the study of nonexistence and unreality (so the opposite of ontology). Contemporary philosopher Mark Fisher makes extensive use of this concept, describing hauntology in his book The Weird and Eerie as “the agency of the virtual … that which acts without (physically) existing.”

For me, there’s no greater example of this than in Valhalla’s ruins. While open-world games are often dominated by landscape, mirroring the history of art where scenic oil paintings—once considered inferior—grew into a position of relative dominance, the ruin has seen a similar ascendency. Just as Romantic poets mulled over the allure of rivers and mountains, a passion for ancient ruins bloomed too, with painters like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable touring Britain in search of architectural wreckage among the rolling hills.

— Read on

Where is the Salvator Mundi?

The painting has been described as a devotional counterpart to the Mona Lisa, Leonardo’s most famous work, and is said to have an “extraordinary, communicative presence”. But Lewis, the author of the acclaimed book The Last Leonardo, explains why questions remain about its origin. Last year the painting did not appear in the Louvre’s blockbuster Leonardo exhibition, prompting widespread speculation and the question: where is Salvator Mundi?

Source: Leonardo da Vinci and the mystery of the world’s most expensive painting | News | The Guardian

Chalk Apocalypse

So, when Hagoromo announced that it was going out of business in 2014, it caused a rupture in the math community.”

I referred to it as a chalk apocalypse,” Conrad said. In a panic, mathematicians across America began stockpiling resources in preparation.”

I calculated how many boxes I would need to last 10 to 15 years and I bought that many boxes,” says Lieblich.Dave Bayer took things even further. “I single-handedly bought the rest of the Amazon supply in the middle of the night,” he said.

Source: How a brand of chalk achieved cult status among mathematicians – CNN

I was gifted with an old sliding blackboard in my 2nd year of teaching (and my first year of teaching Physical Science). I loved that board and was sad to leave it later in my career when I went to a new school.

There’s something special about chalk covered hands and the feel of writing on a blackboard to make a point about F=MA or the structure of an atom.

Now I want to go stock up on some Hagoromo and find a good blackboard for my children.

Chernobyl on the Seine

In 1933 nuclear physicist Marie Curie had outgrown her lab in the Latin Quarter in central Paris. To give her the space needed for the messy task of extracting radioactive elements such as radium from truckloads of ore, the University of Paris built a research center in Arcueil, a village south of the city. Today it’s grown into a crowded ­working-class suburb. And the dilapidated lab, set in an overgrown garden near a 17th century aqueduct, is sometimes called Chernobyl on the Seine.

Source: France Is Still Cleaning Up Marie Curie’s Nuclear Waste – Bloomberg

Don’t think that we can’t remember

When undergraduate students at Peking University, which was at the center of the incident, were shown copies of the iconic photograph 16 years afterwards, they were “genuinely mystified”. One of the students said that the image was “artwork”. It is noted in the documentary Frontline: The Tank Man that he whispered to the student next to him “89”, which led the interviewer to surmise that the student may have concealed his knowledge of the event.

via Tank Man – Wikipedia

Roman Earthquake Cloaking

I tend to agree with the physicist from UNCC here that the Colosseum and other buildings that exhibit these “metamaterial” designs were probably self-selecting (in that they didn’t fall down during earthquakes), but we definitely don’t give the ancients enough credit with their engineering and scientific prowess…

Scientists are hard at work developing real-world “invisibility cloaks” thanks to a special class of exotic manmade “metamaterials.” Now a team of French scientists has suggested in a recent preprint on the physics arXiv that certain ancient Roman structures, like the famous Roman Colosseum, have very similar structural patterns, which may have protected them from damage from earthquakes over the millennia.

via Ars Technica

New Reading of the Mesha Stele

Potentially huge (I appreciate Thomas Römer‘s scholarship a great deal):

A name in Line 31 of the stele, previously thought to read ‘House of David’, could instead read ‘Balak’, a king of Moab mentioned in the biblical  of Balaam (Numbers 22-24), say archaeologist Prof. Israel Finkelstein and historians and biblical scholars Prof. Nadav Na’aman and Prof. Thomas Römer, in an article published in Tel Aviv: The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

New reading of Mesha Stele could have far-reaching consequences for biblical history –