Sunday, January 5, 2014

5th January – We meet Archimedes (at his own museum)

Its not often I get to go to a science museum in Europe. Most of my male friends are technically oriented, engineers, scientists, analysts etc. Most of their female partners are more arty and non-technical. Julie, having studied art, is in her element in Europe, so to get her to agree to go to a science museum was something. Actually I think she had him mixed up with someone else. Also as it turns out, the Archimedes museum was just about the only one we tried to visit that was open in the winter or at least at the time we arrived to try and get in.

What people most know about Archimedes
is the Eureka moment in the bath. Not sure if that was true but as a mathematician who lived 2,200+ years ago, his work underpins just about every branch of mathematics and engineering. There was one exhibit that identified each of these branches of science. I didn’t see “small world networks” there, but I guess it is subsumed into some of the other branches. Archemedes is also associate with caclulating the valie or Pi. Here was another interesting display about Pi:

Well how else does one fill in time in the days before television...

Archemedes .... Pillars for modern science.

Sidebar - Bridging Disparate Communities

The importance of the bridge/broker is heavily reported in the social network science literature. The fact is that when we aim to build our expertise in our preferred fields of endeavour we do this by surrounding ourselves with 'like minds', often to the exclusion of those that do not share the same interests and passions. Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Outliers", popularized the view that it takes 10,000 + hour of concentrated effort to develop any level of distinguished expertise in an area. I think one could also come up with a complementary measure of the number of  'Like Minds' one might need to be connected with, to develop that level of expertise. Social Network Scientists have studied "hot spot' areas of expertise like the Technology hubs around Silicon Valley and Boston, and perhaps the art history hub around Florence and the list goes on. We have been involved on the periphery with a number of government initiatives looking to build business 'clusters', acknowledging the value of co-locating clusters of expertise.

Therefore to find individuals that are able to bridge quite disparate fields is indeed vary rare. While many of us can have diverse interests, this rarely means high levels of expertise in more than one area. There are few people I can think of that have been world leaders in two quite different fields. The standout of course is Vincent Van Gogh who was able to bridge the worlds of science and art as a leader in both fields. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin in Science and Music. Who else? I'm sure that other names will pop up, but how many in recent years. Today one has to specialise to be able to compete in an increasingly globalised world. So I suspect we will never see another Van Gogh, Franklin or the like.

Having visited my choice in the morning we decided that it was Julie’s turns. She did get to see a Caravaggio in a church that had commissioned the artist to do the painting while he was on the run to Malta. However she did want to see the Paper (papyrus) Museum. Initially we mixed ‘Pupi’ with ‘Papiro’ and ended up at the puppet museum (was closed anyway). We saw on our map that Museo Papiro was not near where we were staying in Ortigia , but on the mainland of Syracuse, near the archaeological museum and the ancient Greek Theatre. We hadn’t planned to go there but since a lot of places were closed on Ortigia and it was a cloudy and damp day, we though we might as well walk the 2 to 3 klms across there.

After a few wrong turns and a few extra klms (fooled by the Italian signs again) we arrive at where we think it is. The signs are there and have us walking in circles. We decide to go to the Archaeological museum, so I go to the ticket office to be informed that is closed. So why are there people in the ticket office? I guess it’s a way of dealing with under-employment. We visited the castle on Ortigia earlier in the day and there was a woman giving out tickets for ‘free entry’. Anyway they told us that the Museo Papiro had been moved to Ortigia (where we had just come from!). It might have helped if they had taken down the signs when they moved the museum and perhaps updated their tour maps.  I asked what else there was around and they directed us to the Greek Theatre about a kilometre away. Since we were close we decided to make the trek. Finally got there….it was closed. So we made the long trek back to our apartment. We took a slightly different route back. Walked past the newly moved Museo Papiro less that 150 metres from our apartment! It was closed!
The Elusive Museum! 

Not a particular productive day. We did however find a Chinese restaurant that served Yum Cha! What a surprise in a country that is particularly parochial about its own food. They had to disguise the menu though and call the dumplings as ravioli.
Yum Italian.

Social Network Update

New connections

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