No. 25 — Copernicus and Bologna 🔭 Octopus intelligence 🐙 100 tabs of madness
There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness
My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly newsletter about computer science, childhood and culture - and there are 9685 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone you think may find it useful.
This week thoughts on the collection of essays from Carlo Rovelli. Also starring: octopus intelligence, explore/exploit problem and Zelda as a ballet. Oh, and for any Turkish speaking folks out there - the Ruby series is now translated and available in Turkish. Drop me a note if you happen to find it in bookstores, or follow the link at the bottom of this e-mail.
P.S. There’s a new section called Calendar at the end of the newsletter. As meetings, events and live trainings are slowly returning, so I too, need to stop shrinking and start expanding. Many of the (webinar) events are free of charge.
There are very few pleasures as big as finding a favorite author’s new(ish) collection.
Carlo Rovelli’s There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness is exactly the kind of book I enjoy: smart, gentle, short, singular and at the same time wide-eyed and full of vertigo.
As a physicists Rovelli often speaks about science and poetry and how they belong together. But my favorite essay in this collection was "Copernicus and Bologna" on the role of higher education. In it Rovelli attributes Copernicus’ scientific breakthrough to the time he spent in Bologna surrounded by old knowledge, but propelled by the spirit of innovation from a community of young people like Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Research into ancient texts and the rediscovery of the knowledge of the past – the obsession of humanists – was being propelled by a burning desire to innovate a new future entirely different from the present.
It’s not a new idea - understanding the past helps us understand the future is a mantra easily accepted. 15th century Bologna combined it with a youthful spirit of progress. And I think this combination is rare to find in a place or a city, especially when it comes to technology. It’s easy to find hotspots of tech innovation, that completely overlook the past. And likewise, to find places where history is more important than dreaming about the future.
What can the university offer us now? It can offer the same riches that Copernicus found: the accumulated knowledge of the past, together with the liberating idea that knowledge can be transformed and become transformative.
Further, I think it’s not only university that should be nurturing this kind of dual mandate. A kindergarten which offers the accumulated knowledge of the past with the spirit of open-ended future sounds like a great place to grow.
In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. But here it is a selection of things I’ve been reading lately.
I keep returning to this discussion between Ezra Klein and Allison Gopnik. So many things - like explore/exploit problem meets octopus intelligence meets early childhood.
Zelda is the metaverse. It’s no secret Breath of the Wild is one of my favorite games and I think I’ll never finish it for the pure joy of traversing in it (if only they had multiplay). Also, James Whiteside, The American Ballet Theater dancer, thinks the game series would make a great ballet.
I’m hoping to surface and share stories from all of you and I’d love to see your creations! Here are a few educators and parents using Ruby in creative, fun and inspiring ways.
It’s always fun to see a new translation of Ruby. The Turkish versions of all four books are now available (I think it’s language 34?)
So fun. The toothbrushing meets block-coding activity from here.
Public events, workshops and presentations.