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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

High Tech is not always the Right Tech

As modernism has advanced over the centuries there has been, or at least prior to the early 20th C this strange idea of mankind's triumph over nature. This was brought about by advances in technology and there was a sense of unwavering optimism and pride in the pace of change in the Western world, especially as the Industrial Revolution steamed ahead. That idea has however faded with time. It is not that we have lost hope for what advancements can be made technologically and how in turn that may impact on our lives and quality (and perhaps longevity) of life. Rather, with events such as the sinking of the Titanic (the "unsinkable" ship) and other disasters- both natural and man made, we have begun to realise that we can't put ALLour faith blindly into technology and perpetual "progress." Furthermore the horrors of modern industrial warfare especially in the two World Wars and the atrocities in the 20th C compounded this. With the advent of nuclear weapons, mankind has built and continued to develop weapons that - for the first time in history - we could actually end up wiping ourselves out. As if this wasn't bad enough, we have come to realise the extent to which we have been recklessly damaging our own environments, our own biosphere, the earth our only home. There is nowhere else to go. And we need to start making some large and systematic changes NOW although exactly what and how is still being determined by world leaders.

In the relatively recent past the answer would always have been based around dramatic change, what singular event, revolution or breakthrough technology could we use to save ourselves?


What ancient people seem to have understood, and we today seem to have forgotten, is that sometimes one answer does not fit all, sometimes technology alone is not the answer to all our problems, and where possible we should work with nature - then we all win! That does not - nor ever has - meant to give up on technological innovation or on civilization itself. Just, to think carefully about the best ways forward...and in some cases, the high-tech soloution might not always be the right tech soloution.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The link between the Space Shuttle and the Roman Chariot

There is a well known argument that has circulated the internet that claims that the measurement for the width of the Roman chariot and the solid rocket boosters on the back of NASA's space shuttles are the same unusual measurement of 8 feet 4 1/2 inches (around 1.4 metres). What an intrigueing idea. It goes a little something like this:
  • 8 feet 4 1/2 inches is the standardised (internal) railway gauge in the USA

  • this is because the early railway tracks in the US were built and designed (at least in a substantial part) by British ex-pats, and, because that was the gauge the trains ran on

  • because that was the railway gauge in Britain where the early trains were built.

  • The trains in Britain were built to run on track this guage because railway lines followed old trolley cart/tram rail lines

  • The tram lines were this gauge because they were built along pathways horse darawn carriages and carts went along

  • The carriages and carts were the same measurement (from wheel to wheel) bcause they ran along ruts used by old wagons

  • The medieval wagons wore ruts this size because they were standardised so they could run along the old roads between main towns

  • Those old roads were mostly old Roman roads still in use

  • The Roman roads were standardised to that size to accomodate Roman war chariots

  • Roman chariots were standardised to this size because....

  • that was the size of two (Roman?) horses's rear ends!
The twist in the tale follows, that the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle are assembled in Utah (I heard Canada in the first version I came across) and need to be the same size to fit onto a railway carriage and be transported by rail, onclueding through a few rail tunnels, to Florida. Hence the need for an unusal size. Dah daaah! Thus one of mankind's most advanced machines owes part of its design deminsions to an ancient machine, linking the Romans to space flight!

The story spread virally around the net, and s still readily in circulation, although I have not come across who first wrote it. It is often taken prima facie as fact. There are also a number of "counter articles" out there attacking the story, although the critiques vary a lot, and are sometimes, well simply not very interesting, effective and in the worst cases - not factual either.

Contrary to the story, it is true that railway gauge, not to mention carriage, cart and wagon widths have varied over time. Another obvious critiscism is that Roman chariots were not used for warfare, and surely if anything more carts carrying upplies, pack animals and infantry would have been on those Roman roads in Britain, with few if any Roman chariots, and certainly not war chariots. Horses too vary in size and larger and larger horse breeds than the Roman had have been developed through the Middle Ages and into the early Modern draft horse breeds, which are considerably larger than the more pony-like breeds from antiquity.

The NASA Technical Standards Program has produced a good critique in response to the widespread story, here:

 Another thing not given much consideration is actual Roman roads. Sure, there are many in Britain but these have often had some changes over time. There are 4 main kinds of Roman roads:
Roman roads could be of four types:
i. "viae publicae" - public roads built at public expense (taxpayer's money or war booty)
ii. "viae militares" - military roads, built by the army at their own expense but would eventually fall into the first category of public roads.
iii. "actus" - minor roads, built and maintained by local councils
iv. "privatae" - yep, private roads built by private individuals at their own expense within their private property.
Most Roman roads were consierably wider than 8 feet 4 1/2 inches to allow two horse drawn carts to cross past each other in different directions, although this wasn't always possible in some kinds of terrain. About 9 f/3m was the most common road width.
It is interesting to note:
'The width of the road would be planned to allow horses and cariages along it or where it was too narrow such as on a mountain pass, regular side-stops would be planned to allow transit.The width of roads varied with the importance of the road: A width of 3m or over (9ft) was normal for roman roads to allow to carts to drive past each other in opposite directions although road widths as great as 7m (21ft) have been found. The edges of the road would be closed off by stones placed lengthways, which in city centres would act as the step for pavements. In cities such as Pompeii and Osita the roads have been found to be a relatively consistent 4m (12ft) in width for major roads, with a further 4 meters worth of pavements ie 2m either side). Minor roads in the city were anywhere between 2 and 4m (6-12ft).
It is interesting to note the ruts worn into Roman roads by the regular passage of carriages which were evidently built to standard width in the region of 1.3m (4 ft). It also seems that the ruts were not always worn by use but at times actually applied in instances such as steep or very tortuous mountain roads, rather like laying tram lines to render the roads more secure for the carts which might otherwise slip over the edge.'
Of course, like many stories, myths or legends, there is sometimes a bit of truth to the basis of them. A very good break down of what is truth, what is fiction, and what could be a bit of either or niether can be found here by Cecil Adams:
He also notes:
'I have heard tell of certain wheel ruts having a gauge of you-know-what at the gate to an old Roman fort called Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall in the north of England. Legend has it that George Stephenson based the gauge he used for his locomotives on the width of these ruts. Here's what Housesteads by James Crow (Batsford, London, 1995, pp. 33-34) has to say on the subject:
"The gauge between the ruts is very similar to that adopted by George Stephenson for the Stockton to Darlington railway in 1837 and a 'Wall myth' developed that he took this gauge from the newly excavated east gate. There is a common link, but it is more prosaic and the 'coincidence' is explained by the fact that the dimension common to both was that of a cart axle pulled by two horses in harness (about 1.4m or 4ft 8in). This determined both the Roman gauge and Stephenson's, which derived from the horsedrawn wagon ways of south Northumberland and County Durham coalfields."
So then, while there may not be a direct unbroken chain, nor will it have been the same in all cases, but there is a link there that seems to be far more than a quirk of history. Admitedly there are some errors in the original story, some facts that are simply wrong or misleading, and while railway track guage, not to mention wagons and carts have varied somewhat over time...there is nonetheless a link, not so much to the Roman chariot per se but a link between Roman horse drawn veichles, railways and the space shuttle.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ancient Vs Modern

An interesting discussion based on travel experiences to London and Edinburgh. It revolves around the seventeenth and eighteenth century debate in various fields such as art an architecture. The ancient vs. modern debate is still being waged to this day. It calls to mind to me, important questions that we should all consider about the nature and content of education, educational approaches.

Perhaps the answers society seeks, lay in a balanced that remains to be adequately explored and applied.

Have a read of this article, and let me know what you think.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Word Maps of Europe

I love etymology, a branch of linguistics concerned with word origins. It can be both informative and fun to track the origins of a word and its cognates in other languages, either to research something with a purpose in mind, or just out of curiosity. Here are some interesting map showing a few common words in different languages across Europe.

How Ancient Philosophy Saved My Life

I think this is a very positive and useful article by Jules Evans, that was published in The Times (details at bottom of the article) giving a powerful, persuasive and very personal perspective on how ancient philosophy can offer psychological tools for recovering or maintaining a state of good mental health and sense of well-being.

How Ancient Philosophy Saved My Life

It was around this time of year, just over a decade ago, that I had a breakdown. During my three years at university, my mental health had got worse and worse. It started with panic attacks, that arose out of nowhere like tornadoes. Then came the mood swings, depression, and a general feeling that I was no longer in control of myself.

What terrified me was the prospect I’d permanently upset up my neuro-chemical balance with drugs. My friends and I had messed around with LSD and Ecstasy, and had some good times, but I’d seen friends get badly hurt and sent to mental homes. If my own depression and panic attacks were neuro-chemically determined, then perhaps there was nothing I could do about it, other than take different drugs for the rest of my life.

My literature degree couldn’t help me get a handle on what was going on inside me. It meant I could analyse the feelings of Hamlet or Madame Bovary, but my own emotions were beyond my comprehension or control. Hamlet may have been another youth ‘blasted with ecstasy’, but I think Shakespeare had something else in mind.

I didn’t discuss my problems with my friends or parents, out of a masochistic sense of shame. But finally I was forced to ask for help. The therapist I saw after graduation wasn’t much use, so I did my own research on a new invention dubbed ‘the internet’, and discovered that depression and anxiety were treatable either with anti-depressants, or with a talking therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I still clung to the old-fashioned idea that I might be able to reason my way out of my problems, so one evening, I went along to a CBT support group that met in the Royal Festival Hall in London every Thursday. There was no therapist present, just a group of people coming together to help each other. We followed a CBT audio course someone had bootlegged from the Net, practiced its exercises, and encouraged each other on.

It worked. After a few weeks, I stopped having panic attacks, and haven’t had one since. My depression also cleared up, although more slowly. The road back to mental health took many years and I’m still on it (we all are). Others, of course, find anti-depressants more helpful, but in my case I’d say CBT saved my life.

By that time, I was a trainee journalist, so, while reporting on the German mortgage-bond market (as thrilling as it sounds), I quietly started to research CBT. One day, I got on a plane to New York to interview the pioneer of CBT, Albert Ellis, on his death-bed. I did the last ever interview with him before he died, and got the chance to thank him for his work.

Ellis told me he had been directly inspired by ancient Greek philosophy. He’d trained as a psychoanalyst, but hadn’t seen much progress in his patients, despite seeing them sometimes every day for years. Then, in the early 1950s, he’d read a line from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus: ‘Men are disturbed not by events but by their opinions about them’

That inspired his new cognitive approach to emotional problems, which is based on the Greeks’ theory that our emotions follow our beliefs about the world. ‘The soul’, as the philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts’. If you change your thoughts, you change your whole experience of the world.

Almost all the philosophers of ancient Greece shared this cognitive approach to the emotions. Socrates, the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Sceptics, the Cynics and even the great Plato and Aristotle, all believed that philosophy is a form of therapy that can make people happier and more fulfilled, by teaching them how to examine and change their beliefs.

First of all, we need to become conscious of our habitual thoughts, and how they create our reality. We can do this by engaging in a Socratic dialogue with a therapist or friend, or by tracking our beliefs in a journal.

For example, I realised my emotional problems came in part from my values. I put too much emphasis on winning others’ approval, and this made me alienated (which comes from the Latin alienus, meaning ‘to make a slave of yourself’). Socrates and his followers taught that we can take back possession of ourselves, by choosing intrinsic values like wisdom rather than extrinsic ones like status or power.

Once you’ve examined your beliefs and tried to make them more wise, you need to turn your new insights into new habits. The word ‘ethics’ actually comes from the Greek word for habit.
The Greeks had many techniques for creating new habits. They made maxims, for example, catchphrases to be repeated over and over until they stick in our memories, like Marcus Aurelius’ phrase: ‘life itself is but what you deem it’. They’d also carry little handbooks around with them, so that the teachings were always with them. CBT uses these same techniques.

And the Greeks understood, perhaps better than CBT, that it also helps if you find a group or community that shares your new way of thinking, so that your ideas become a shared culture. The Epicureans, for example, left Athens to live in a philosophical commune called the Garden. Their commune was like a lifeboat of wisdom bobbing on the sea of a toxic culture.

The best modern self-help groups understand the importance of group dynamics to self-transformation – think of Alcoholics Anonymous, or Weight Watchers, or the support group I went to in London.

There was also a political aspect to ancient philosophy. Some philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, believed that, to heal ourselves, it is not sufficient to change our own individual beliefs. We also need to change our whole society, and infuse its culture with wiser values. Though of course this can be risky – our society might not want to be changed. Ancient philosophers were often getting exiled, or even executed, for criticising the ruling powers.

CBT is very careful to drop any mention of politics or culture, because such matters are controversial and hard to prove scientifically (you can’t do a randomised controlled trial for an entire society).
But today, governments are coming round to Aristotle’s idea that citizens should be taught the art of living well. Politicians’ new willingness to teach well-being to the masses partly comes from CBT, which has provided an evidence base for the ancient Greeks’ insistence that some ways of living are better, wiser and healthier than others.

Governments have started to use public policy to disseminate CBT and its younger sister, Positive Psychology, in schools, in the NHS, in job-centres, armies and beyond. Many countries, including the UK, have also started to measure ‘national well-being’. The welfare state is turning into the ‘well-being state’, with governments aiming to raise our well-being from a 7 to a 10.

This is exciting, but also risky. The well-being state could conceivably turn into an illiberal monster, where citizens must wear forced smiles or risk being diagnosed as sick. There is this dangerous idea that empirical science can ‘prove’ one model of well-being, and because it’s proven, governments can impose it on their citizens without their consent.

In fact, there’s not one path to the good life, but several. The ‘science of happiness’ is still quite crude, and its evidence mainly consists of simplistic questionnaires. And Socrates insisted that thinking about the good life for ourselves is is an important part of the good life. We shouldn’t give too much authority to scientific experts, but rather decide for ourselves what the good life, alone or in philosophy groups.

Despite these concerns, I’m excited by the new fusion of ancient philosophy and modern psychology. If I hadn’t come across it, I’d still be stuck in misery. Socrates showed us that we all have the power to heal ourselves and change our characters, at any stage of our lives. We might not become perfect sages like him, but I believe we can all become a little wiser and happier.

Focus on what you can control, accept what you can’t
Rhonda Cornum was a US Army medic when her helicopter was shot down in the first Gulf War. She was captured, assaulted, and held as a POW. She came through that situation without being traumatised, she says, because she focused on what she could control – her thoughts and beliefs – without freaking out over what she couldn’t control. That attitude is at the heart of Stoic philosophy. Cornum went on to teach resilience to the entire US Army.

Choose your role models wisely
Louis Ferrante grew up in a bad neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and imitated its leading role models, who happened to be gangsters. He joined the Mob, and was in prison by the age of 22. In prison, he came across Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, and was inspired by Plutarch’s idea that we can choose better role models by reading the biographies of great figures from history. Louis turned his life around, and became a campaigner for prison literacy programmes.

Keep track of yourself
The Greeks warned that we often sleepwalk through life, blindly assuming our intuitions are correct. So they urged their students to keep an account of themselves, by tracking their thoughts and behaviour in a journal, like Marcus Aurelius used to do. His Meditations, one of the most famous works of western philosophy, is really his personal thought journal. We can keep track of ourselves today by using self-tracking apps on our smart-phones, to track our moods, diet, exercise, spending and so on.

Jules Evans is the author of Philosophy for Life, and Other Dangerous Situations (2012).
This article was published in The Times on 8/5/12, and on Jules' blog at

Neil Oliver in Melbourne

On Wednesday night I went to see Neil Oliver's "History in the Making" presentation at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. I have enjoyed this renowned TV presenter, historian and archaeologist's documentary series for years - grown up alongside them you could say, since Two Men in a Trench in 2002. I have also enjoyed A History of Scotland, A History of Ancient Britain, Celtic Britain, Vikings and Coast (UK). On the the first of December Coast Australia will premiere on the History Channel.Being a bit of a fan I was glad to have the opportunity to see him present in person.

I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, a sort of coffee chat like interview, backed with big screen video links to parts of the series, with a an artificial starlight back drop and some stage prop rocks and a little wooden boat on the stage. Neil read a portion of the poem Call of the Wild before coming out on stage. And those things sort of give you an indication of what the talk was like and how Neil came across: a mixture of romanticism, passion for the past, realism when dealing with complex issues (especially those where we may never have a single solid complete answer), and a very casual and down to earth attitude. His style has a self-confessed reporting quality, perhaps because he was a journalist for many years, so whether something happened 10 years ago or 10,000 years ago, he feels that he is reporting that information to the audience as news. Not merely a bulletin, or a set of facts, but a human interest story, one that reflects something about people's lives and in turn, is part of a much bigger human story.

This quote has been floating around on a number of websites in publicity for the event:

"For me - the characters and events of the past are every bit as exciting as breaking news today. I want everyone to feel the same excitement about these stories as I do - even a sense of personal connection to them - so I am very much looking forward to presenting History in the Making live on stage in Sydney and Melbourne," said Neil Oliver. "We'll be evoking some of the most exciting periods of history and bringing them to life. If you'll excuse the pun this will be a ground breaking experience!"

Neil expressed the same sentiment in different stories, experiences and anecdotes throughout the night. I am not sure whether it is nurture via Neil's indirect influence through those documentaries over the years, or by my own education, or simply just my own natural disposition.But I certainly found myself reflecting with similar sentiments.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Kumeyaay Indians - a foot in both worlds

The Kumeyaay people's traditional land straddles the border between Mexico and California in the US. It is believed that their ancestors have inhabited this area for at least 1,300 years. Many ended up on Spanish missions or reservations, but many others have lead a semi-nomadic existence down to the present day. Until only a generation or two ago many of the unsettled Kumeyaay moved back and fourth across the border. Here 'Ancient ways remained not only relevant but necessary to get by.' Sadly today their language and traditional crafts are in danger of being lost forever.

Just as the traditional Kumenyaay lands straddled the border, so too do the descendants of the Kumenyaay people have a foot in both a traditional way of life and a modern one. In many ways, to outside observers it seems that these two worlds are set on an inevitable collision course. That may not necessarily be the case, because 'not a simple snapshot of the past, but a complex amalgam of old and new' as indicated in this interesting article.

Ishtar is NOT Easter!

Around Easter time this year the following image went viral across social media:

Disappointingly this misinformation began popping up all over the Internet, I first came across it in my news feed from a friend's comments as it was shared by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason page.

I actually wrote a number of detailed responses at the time, tailored to suit the needs and detail required of whichever friend or page I encountered this picture simply shared and past along as a (false) fact without a second thought. Fortunately many other people started doing the same, and as quickly as the fad appeared, it disappeared. Hopefully this doesn't become a perennial Easter nuisance. The gist of what I said went something like this (remember this is from a social media context, so it was hardly intended to be an essay):

The Old High German month (and festival within it) of Ostara and the deity Eostre are cognate. Easter comes from the Old English word Eostre to mark the festival and an associated month according the Venerable Bede [Edit: He is the only primary source to record this]. They come from a root meaning east and dawn. Eggs and hares (not rabbits which are indigenous to Spain) were associated with her and she is a goddess of abundance and fertility in nature and agriculture.
Ishtar has no direct connection to Easter festival or Eostre. Ishtar is pronounced Ish-tar not easter and its etymology is unknown, but probably derives from a title. There is no linguistic link between Ishtar and Easter. She is goddess of lust, sex, war, battle, passion etc not as is often mistranslated love (our modern concept of romantic love is absent from known Mesopotamian texts), and possibly human fertility (indirectly, because of sex, but she would be better identified with sexual pleasure rather than procreation, birth etc) but definitely not of agriculture! or nature. Her animal is the lion.
Synchronicity and over cross-identifying things is largely a modern idea, although it was used by the Romans and Hellenistic Greeks as a tool for political control (interpratatio). It is ALWAYS better to treat cultures and deities as distinct unless there is very good evidence to show otherwise, especially 2 cultures living on 2 different continents in 2 different Milena!
How do I know all this? Well after 5 years of studying archaeology and ancient languages at uni, including Old English and Akkadian, I might have noticed a thing or two about this. So I can assure there is no serious scholarly school of thought today that would link Easter and Ishtar.

This is a modern depiction of the Anglo-Saxon deity Eostre

The image at the top of the page is a well known representation of Ishtar from the British Museum known as "the Queen of the Night."

It is still not understood for sure if this relief plaque was part of a small (personal?) shrine, part of a public building, or even a sign above a brothel. One earlier theory held that it was a depiction of the biblical Lilith, or the (related) Assyrian myth of a kind of succubus, both associated with wasteland and screech owls. The general view today is that this plaque does depict Ishtar because:

  1. She is standing on lions - the animal associated with Ishtar. In Near Eastern iconography deities feet usually aren't shown to touch the ground, they are usually shown standing on their sacred animal or riding in a chariot, or other celestial vehicle.
  2. She wears a horned headdress, in this case covered in horns. Horned helmets were a common Near Eastern motif for deities, mere demons, genii and mortals were not depicted with these symbols of otherworldly power. She has many horns here denoting a prominent goddess.
  3. The imagery reflects the story of Ishtar's descent into the underworld, as she descends deeper and deeper into the underworld, she passes through various gates and is striped of various pieces of celestial clothing and jewelry. The talons, wings and owls are connected to the underworld in Mesopotamian mythology.
  4. The things she is holding is a stylised form of symbol for the reed - the plant sacred to Ishtar.

So, while the picture at the start of this post does indeed show a well known depiction of Mesopotamian Ishtar, this has no connection or correlation to the Easter festival which derives it's name from the Germanic deity Eostre/Ostara!

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Romans Have Been Hailed as Pioneers of Nanotechnology

A lot of the monuments of Classical civilisation stand as testament to the ingenuity and sophistication of ancient people, which still captivates us with a sense of awe to this day. Just think of the Colosseum in Rome or the Parthenon in Athens. Either of which would be sensational if built today, let alone being constructed centuries ago. Sometimes though, it is not the largest monuments, but small artifacts that can astound us - and in this case the sophisticated design goes all the way to a nanoscopic level!

This  Roman glass cup dates back to the fourth century A. D. and today resides in the British Museum. It is known as the Lycurgus Cup, depicting King Lycurgus of Thrace being ensnared in the grasp of tangling grapevines  for incurring the wrath of Dionysus, the god of revelry and wine. It is a detailed work of art in its own right and would have been a valuable prestige gift between or from Roman elites. My seriously, it appears jade green when lit from the front, but when illuminated from behind it appears crimson.

When a some tiny broken chips were found and sent away to researchers they could not believe what they found. When viewed through a microscope it was realised that the glass was embedded with a fine peppering of metal grains. The glass contained particles of gold and silver around 50 nanometres in diameter spread evenly through the glass. To put that size into perspective, that is less than one thousandth the size of a grain of ordinary table salt that you might have in the saltshaker on your kitchen table! The change in colour is caused by electrons in the metal grains vibrating when hit by light, and the angle on which the observer sees this.

The chalice was far too valuable to be experimented on, so to further research it's properties a plastic plate was embedded with tiny wells containing glass embedded with a nanomixture of gold and silver grains of a comparable size to those found in the Lycurgus Cup. The researchers found that these wells changed colour depending on the different solutions contained, turning green when containing water and red when containing oil. It also produced a range of colour changes indicating whether a solution was sugar or salt based. Amazingly this prototype based off an ancient wine cup was more than a 100 times more sensitive to saline levels in solution than current commercial techniques!

I wonder if, it may also have been used originally to detect poison in drinks. Many early poisons were either relatively local plant extracts that tended to colour water (but may not have been as easily seen in wine) or were salt-based and easily added to an unguarded cup at say a feast. There is a well known set of special porcelain  in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which reportedly was specially acquired by the Ottoman Sultans because of its ability to change colour in reaction to poisons contained in food or drink. Whether the Lycurgus Cup was intended to actually detect poisons...or even sold on this as a false pretence I cannot say, although it is a tantalising thought.

Remarkably this 1600 year old cup has shown that the Romans were effectively pioneering nanotechnology by deliberately employing techniques that would produce this glass. This (re-)discovery may pave the way for future highly sensitive kits or sensors that could detect drugs or pathogens in bodily fluids, or detect dangerous liquids at checkpoints, borders or airports. Interesting isn't it, how the investigation of an ancient artifact can reveal unexpectedly modern applications.

To read more about the Lycurgus Cup, see: 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Back to the Future


Welcome to my blog. This is my first attempt at blogging, so this is not only an introduction to you, gentle reader, but also my first blog post on my first blog. The wonders of technology in our modern times.
Since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, there has been a tendency to view the past as something alien and backward. Paradoxically, people have always been fascinated by the past, especially the distant past, an often hallowed antiquity. It is true that the past is another country, so to speak, and it is precisely because of this that we are fascinated by it. It is both exotic and yet in many ways strangely familiar to us today.  

The motivation behind this blog is ongoing intersection between the past and the future in the present. With advances in technology, archaeology, history and a gradually more refined understanding of ancient languages we can catch tantalising glimpses through the mists of time and get a better understanding of lost worlds. However, just because the ancient world lies behind us in time, it does not mean that it has nothing to offer us today. I would say that knowledge is, in and of itself, intrinsically valuable. And of course there is the old adage, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

With the rise of the internet, and greater access to resources, materials and ideas than ever before, we have a new choice. People all over the world can experiment, entertain themselves and explore ancient knowledge, philosophy, arts, crafts, skills, games, languages and customs. They can choose to preserve them, or rediscover them in our modern world – when sadly many things that have been discovered  are becoming obscure and forgotten – and furthermore, to find ways of keeping them alive and relevant today. This blog seeks to look at how we can be inspired by ancient ways to enrich our modern lives!