Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Making the Renaissance

I attended an excellent lecture by George Saliba on Arabic-Islamic Science at SOAS last night.

He sought to dispel three myths:

  1. Arabic Science simply "kept Ancient Greek Science alive"
  2. the Renaissance in Science was an attempt to return to Greco-Roman ideas
  3. the Arabic contribution to Western Science stopped around the 12th century

Saliba did a good job of evaporating all three of these commonly held ideas. From (for me) familiar evidence (such as arithmetic and therefore number order using 'Arabic' [actually Indic] numerals is from right to left), to more detailed revelations, such as the origin of the words 'algorithm' and 'algebra' (a Persian mathematician called al-Khwarizmi, and Arabic for 'the forcing', referring to variables 'forced' to take a value), to more obscure but ultimately compelling evidence, such as that gleaned from the Vatican library, and translations in the 18th century of 300-year old Arabic texts by a Leiden professor.

Far from just keeping the embers of Science warm, the various Arabic-seaking scholars (male and female) did a great deal to move Science forward, away from the erroneous presumtpions of the Greek tradition, and towards a more rational, observation-based discipline. Some of the core observations and theories ascribed to Copernicus in fact seem to have been published in Arabic up to three hundred years prior to Copernicus and his contemporaries. Likewise, the Pulmonary theory of blood circulation (that blood passes to the lungs to be oxygenated) was also first published in Arabic. In these, and other cases, there is substantial evidence that western scientists knew of these texts, valued them, and studied them.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Magisterial historian of Portugal

This guy was the uncle of my great great grandfather: Charles Boxer. Seems like he was an interesting character:

As Boxer discovered, the secret of Portugal's longevity as an imperial power was a singular record of repressive and obscurantist rule, aided and abetted by its historic alliance with Britain.
His range of themes, as exemplified in books such as Race Relations In The Portuguese Colonial Empire (1963) or Mary and Misogyny: Women In Iberian Expansion (1975), were early explorations of the themes of feminism and anti-racism...

I am not really one for family connections, but the an arresting person is undeniably interesting.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Lives Of Others

Saw The Lives Of Others with H on Monday. An excellent film, with some superb performances, particularly from the guy playing the Stasi agent. The power of Beethoven and Brecht, and the dangers of the UK's obsession with CCTV culture; for the surveillance present and encroaching in this country is in some respects far more sinister than that in the DDR.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No Gray In My Day

No Gray In My Day - (c) Roger MolloyRoger Molloy is an East Londoner who has just opened his own gallery after selling £1 prints of photos taken with his mobile phone. The first exhibition starts on 10 June, with further exhibitions planned - new photographic work is sought.

We in PartSuspended are thinking of performing The Outside In in the gallery space.

I walk past this guy every day on the way in to work. He has been outside his gallery space (at one point, limited to the front step, due to council regulations) pretty much every day since the beginning of this year: rain, shine, snow, frost. Dedication indeed.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The real scandal at the World Bank

Johann Hari has a rather more sober comment on the World Bank (as opposed to the hoo-haa about the President giving his girlfriend a job):

...its mission to end poverty has always been mythical. As George Monbiot explains in his book The Age of Consent, the World Bank was created in the 1940s by US economist Henry Dexter White to be a further projection of US power. The bank's head is invariably American, the bank is based in Washington, and the US has a permanent veto on policies. It does not promote a sensible mix of markets and state action - the real path to development. No: the World Bank pursues the interests of US corporations over the poor, every time.

Practical action is not revolutionary, although it is simple and effective: divestment:

The campaign to make World Bank bonds as untouchable as apartheid-era investments has already begun. The cities of San Francisco, Boulder, Oakland and Berkeley have sold theirs. Several US unions have also joined. Even this small ripple has caused anxiety within the bank about the threat to its "AAA" bond rating.

This worked for apartheid South Africa, it's working for Israel, and maybe it can work for the World Bank, at least insofar as it opens up debate and makes a few more people wake up.

RAIDing the hardware graveyard - FDD RAID

This guy got bored and made a FDD RAID system:

I have made a SONY Memory Stick RAID as well using 4 YD-8V10.
It works just fine I used 4 16MB memory stick cards, but does not have the same luster and appeal of the USB FDD RAID...

Scorching speed!