Sunday, August 28, 2005


This is what happens when I am too busy. I lose the track of time and suddenly notice that the whatever event I had thought about as being in the vague future hits me in the face. *thud*

Luckily no irreparable damage this time. I had simply forgotten that my cousin is supposed to come and stay with me for a couple of days starting today, because she hasn't got the keys to her new apartment yet. I had made plans of going to Nousiainen to stay over, so I wouldn't have to spend yet another 4,60 euros for a busride to work tomorrow, but I guess I'm abandoning those plans now. I certainly hope I haven't forgotten anything else...

Just watched a fascinating document on tv. It was the second part of a document in which two groups of scientists were reconstructing Leonardo da Vinci's inventions. One group was building a huge crossbow for shooting cannonballs and the other team was hoping to build a glider according to da Vinci's plans.

The crossbow was one mean piece of work. Unfortunately the team failed to get the thing to work properly. Instead of hurtling the cannonball to a distance of some 150 metres, the ball fell to the ground after flying only about 25 metres at most. Understandably the modern engineers were bitterly disappointed, because they realised they themselves were to blame. They had made alterations to Leonardo's drawings, according to more modern knowledge of engineering, and they proved to be too radical. It seemed that the kind of skill the builders had in Leonardo's time was lost to the modern engineers and woodworkers.

On the other hand, the team that was building the glider was very successfull. They were able to follow Leonardo's plans more accurately and were able to put together a functional glider. They actually broke the first flying records of the Wright brothers with the thing. In other words, if Leonardo would've been a man to finish his projects and build the machines he visualized, he probably would've been the first man to fly. A staggering 400 years before the first flight was eventually a reality. Very impressive.

My heart just breaks when I think how much of Leonardo's (and other great minds') works have been lost forever. Today it's estimated that only about a quarter of Leonardo's papers have survived the centuries. And since it's most likely that at least some of the destroyed materials included the more radical ideas Leonardo had, it's even more heartbreaking. Did he really have extensive plans on making a mechanical man? There is some surviving evidence of it, for sure. But those plans, for the most part, must've been the ones to awaken the wrath of the church, especially during the purification period of Milan. What else might those papers reveal to modern researchers, were they to be found somewhere? Oh, what I'd give sometimes to have a time machine...

I love these kinds of documents where modern men try to figure out how the earlier generations did things. It never fails to amaze me how clever human beings have been throughout history. How wrong it is for us to point out to an older culture and label it primitive, when it's obvious that we might be able to learn quite a lot from the intellectual victories of previous bright minds of which ever period in history.

Keeping that in mind, I must say I can't understand the politics of some countries. A couple of weeks ago I was watching a document about the great seafarers, the Phoenicians. In the document they also interviewed a marine archeologist who had found the remains of I think a couple of Phoenician ships. The ships were situated close to the coastline of Israel. However, when he returned to the site of the wrecks a year or so later to begin his research, he was told to leave immediately. Turned out that the site had become a part of Egyptian local waters, after some rearranging of the marine borders of the two countries. The Egyptian government stated that the research of this archeologist was "a threat to the national security of Egypt".

Excuse me? Can someone explain to me how the discovery of two Phoenician ships and the following historical research is a threat to any nation's security? I felt so bad for the archeologist who had to turn his ship around and go back to scanning the seabed around the Mediterranean sea routes between Malta and Carthage used by the Phoenicians. To scan thousands of miles of seabed, when he knew exactly where there'd be magnificent remains to research. I can only imagine the bitterness, when he finally had to give up and sail back to the States without finding any significant Phoenician remains. Poor guy.

But honestly, to be so suspicious that the excavations of a few ships a couple of milennia old would look like a threat to national security... My mind boggles. I wasn't made to understand the reasons behind such statements. I would understand if they'd posted some kind of restrictions on the time the archeologist could spend doing his research in their local waters or something of the sort, but to completely forbid the whole project? I just don't get it.

I suppose I'm going to be left wondering in my extremely naive way why we all can't just appreciate history and live in peace... :)

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