Posts Tagged ‘history’

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A history of laughter – from Cicero to The Simpsons

June 27, 2014

One of Enoch Powell’s most famous quips was prompted by an encounter with the resident House of Commons barber: a notoriously chatty character, who enjoyed treating captive clients to his views on politics and the state of the world. When Powell went in for a trim, the barber asked the standard question: “How should I cut your hair, Sir?” “In silence,” was Powell’s instant riposte.

Even Powell’s political enemies have usually admitted, a bit grudgingly, that this was a rather good joke. But what they haven’t realised is that it has a history going back more than 2,000 years. Almost exactly the same gag features in a surviving Roman joke book: the Philogelos (or Laughter Lover), a collection of wisecracks probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD. As with most such collections, some of the jokes included were already decidedly old by the time they were anthologised. In fact, we can trace the “chatty barber” gag back to Archelaus, a fifth-century BC king of Macedon. The “how should I cut your hair?” question was standard even then. And Archelaus is supposed to have replied to his own garrulous barber, “In silence.”

Presumably part of the fun for Powell (who was a better classicist than politician) was that he knew exactly how ancient the joke was. Whereas others admired what they believed to be his spontaneous quip, he must have been taking pleasure in the secret knowledge that he was merely repeating the age-old gag of an ancient Macedonian king, and one that may already have been prompting more groans than giggles when it was featured in the Roman Philogelos.

Read full article at The Guardian

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A Visual History of Satellites: The ‘extended urbanization’ of space.

May 23, 2014

Right now, there about 1,100 satellites whizzing above our heads performing various functions like observation, communication, and spying. There are roughly another 2,600 doing nothing, as they died or were turned off a long time ago.

How did each of these satellites get up there? And what nations are responsible for sending up the bulk of them?

The answers come in the form of this bewitching visualization of satellite launches from 1957 – the year Russia debuted Sputnik 1 – to the present day. (The animation starts at 2:10; be sure to watch in HD.) Launch sites pop up as yellow circles as the years roll by, sending rockets, represented as individual lines, flying into space with one or more satellites aboard.

Read Full article at CityLab

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How the brain creates visions of God

May 13, 2014

For most of recorded history, human beings situated the mind — and by extension the soul — not within the brain but within the heart. When preparing mummies for the afterlife, for instance, ancient Egyptian priests removed the heart in one piece and preserved it in a ceremonial jar; in contrast, they scraped out the brain through the nostrils with iron hooks, tossed it aside for animals, and filled the empty skull with sawdust or resin. (This wasn’t a snarky commentary on their politicians, either—they considered everyone’s brain useless.) Most Greek thinkers also elevated the heart to the body’s summa. Aristotle pointed out that the heart had thick vessels to shunt messages around, whereas the brain had wispy, effete wires. The heart furthermore sat in the body’s center, appropriate for a commander, while the brain sat in exile up top. The heart developed first in embryos, and it responded in sync with our emotions, pounding faster or slower, while the brain just sort of sat there. Ergo, the heart must house our highest faculties.

Meanwhile, though, some physicians had always had a different perspective on where the mind came from. They’d simply seen too many patients get beaned in the head and lose some higher faculty to think it all a coincidence. Doctors therefore began to promote a brain-centric view of human nature. And despite some heated debates over the centuries—especially about whether the brain had specialized regions or not—by the 1600s most learned men had enthroned the mind within the brain. A few brave scientists even began to search for that anatomical El Dorado: the exact seat of the soul within the brain.

Read full article written by Sam Kean at SALON.
Image above: Eugene Thirion’s “Jeanne d’Arc” (1876)

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The Illustrated History of Projection Mapping

October 22, 2013

While projection mapping has recently exploded into the conciousness of artists and advertisers everywhere, the history of projection mapping dates back longer than you may imagine.

If you try Googling for “Projection Mapping” you won’t find anything older than 3 years. That is because projection mapping’s older, academic name is “Spatial Augmented Reality”. The field is also known as “video mapping”, but projection mapping seems to be winning out in the United States.

For the purposes of this history, I’m only including work that considered projection onto an arbitrarily complex surfaces. Projection onto flat and cylindrical/spherical surfaces has a much older history and goes back to the invention of cinema.

Via Projection Mapping Central. See it HERE

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Does Europe Exist?

July 24, 2013

The Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller, in a chapter she contributed to a book published in 1992, stated with some confidence her view that there was no such thing as European culture. There was certainly, she wrote, Italian and German music, and Florentine and Venetian painting, “but there is no European music and no European painting”.

It is true that the history of art and culture was not really Heller’s field, but it would seem that those who, in the same year as she wrote her essay, framed the Maastricht Treaty, signalling the transition from European Community to European Union, at least partially agreed with her. The treaty was the first time the community had taken for itself significant powers in the cultural field. European cultures (note the plural), the relevant article stated, were to be understood as requiring “respect” – by which one understands freedom from too much supranational interference (“The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity …”). At the same time however, the Community was to be entrusted with the task of “[b]ringing the common cultural heritage to the fore”.

Excerpt from an essay written by Enda O’Doherty at DBR. Continue THERE

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THE FUTURE OF LIBERAL EDUCATION

June 8, 2013

Upon his retirement from Yale, Donald Kagan considers the future of liberal education in this farewell speech.

Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal (2002), retired in May. In forty-four years at the University, Professor Kagan has served in such varied capacities as Dean of Yale College, Master of Timothy Dwight College, and Director of Athletics. He has been a prolific author as well as a celebrated teacher; his four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War is widely considered to be among the twentieth century’s greatest works of classical scholarship. The following essay on liberal education is a revised version of the valedictory lecture he delivered on April 25 to a capacity audience in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, New Haven, Connecticut.

Donald Kagan: My subject is liberal education, and today more than ever the term requires definition, especially as to the questions: What is a liberal education and what it is for? From Cicero’s artes liberales, to the attempts at common curricula in more recent times, to the chaotic cafeteria that passes for a curriculum in most American universities today, the concept has suffered from vagueness, confusion, and contradiction. From the beginning, the champions of a liberal education have thought of it as seeking at least four kinds of goals. One was as an end in itself, or at least as a way of achieving that contemplative life that Aristotle thought was the greatest happiness. Knowledge and the acts of acquiring and considering it were the ends of this education and good in themselves. A second was as a means of shaping the character, the style, the taste of a person—to make him good and better able to fit in well with and take his place in the society of others like him. A third was to prepare him for a useful career in the world, one appropriate to his status as a free man. For Cicero and Quintilian, this meant a career as an orator that would allow a man to protect the private interests of himself and his friends in the law courts and to advance the public interest in the assemblies, senate, and magistracies. The fourth was to contribute to the individual citizen’s freedom in ancient society. Servants were ignorant and parochial, so free men must be learned and cosmopolitan; servants were ruled by others, so free men must take part in their own government; servants specialized to become competent at some specific and limited task, so free men must know something of everything and understand general principles without yielding to the narrowness of expertise. The Romans’ recommended course of study was literature, history, philosophy, and rhetoric.

Continue at the New Criterion

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The Empire Pudding: A geo-economics lesson

April 15, 2013

From the BBC programme Hairy Bikers’ Best of British, food historian Ivan Day recreates the famous pudding from the 1920s.