Links for May 14, 2023

What to Read and Listen to

🖥️ How Aristotle Created the Computer — The Atlantic

Chris Dixon's fascinating 2017 essay on the philosophers and logicians who created the intellectual foundation for modern computers is just as relevant today.

I'll let his introduction speak for itself:

The history of computers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle.
How Aristotle Created the Computer
The philosophers he influenced set the stage for the technological revolution that remade our world.

👂 Listen to Images from the James Webb Space Telescope — Scientific American

When the James Webb telescope "sang" its first observations back to us last year, we recieved its communication waves and turned that information into photos — beautiful, stunning representations of the ancient cosmos.

But many people can't see those photos due to visual impairments. Instead, they rely on the alt text added to those photos when they're published online. It's a common practice for making websites accessible, but how do you describe the majesty, beauty, and science of such brilliant images?

Listen to (or read the transcript of) two science writers from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland wrestle with the challenge of making science accessible.

Both Blome and Carruthers say that ALT text represents a merging of science and art. But it’s also critical work, because no one should be left out of the experience of taking in our universe in a new way.
Listen to Images from the James Webb Space Telescope
It turns out that making new views of the universe accessible to those with vision impairment has required some deep thought—and carefully chosen words.

🎻 Yo-Yo Ma — Prelude, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major — Song Exploder

Yo-Yo Ma needs no introduction, and his episode on Song Exploder is a must-listen for any music lover, even if classical music isn't typically what you listen to.

Ma has recorded Bach's first cello suite three times over the course of his career, and he talks with host Hrishikesh Hirway about how his interpretation of the piece has changed over time. It's remarkable to hear his evolution.

‎Song Exploder: Yo-Yo Ma - Prelude, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major on Apple Podcasts
‎Show Song Exploder, Ep Yo-Yo Ma - Prelude, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major - Dec 20, 2018

Tweet of the Week

I'm not alone in advocating for the importance of the humanities for folks in STEM disciplines. But the value of that cross-pollination also works in the other direction 😉

And your regular reminder that "art is whatever you can get away with."


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