Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?

"What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?" is the intriguing title of a collection of papers from by the modern library of Alexandria. These were edited by Mostafa El-Abbadi and Omnia Mounir Fathallah , with an introduction by Ismail Serageldin. In brief they suggest the library was not bur down in on confligration, but siffered a gradual decline.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Australian Science Media Centre

Had a call from the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) with a query from a journalist. This is an interesting looking independent, non-profit service for connecting the media to the scientific community. They are sponsored by several Australian governments and media organisations.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Islamic Science and Technology Museum

Islamic Science and Technology MuseumThe Islamic Science and Technology Museum gets a mention in "Fathers of Invention: What the Muslims Gave the Scientific World" by Jennifer Hattam (Wired magazine, of June 2009). The museum celebrates scientific and technological discoveries from Islamic scholars and makes the point Islam is not anti-science. Examples from the ancient world include the Alembic, for the distillation of liquids and the Astrolabe, a mechanical calculator for navigation. I was fortunate enough to visit the museum in Istanbul shortly after it opened, in May 2008. It is well worth a visit.

Also there is the Timeline of science and engineering in the Islamic world in Wikipedia. I added the museum to the timeline and in the entry for Gülhane Park, where it is located.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Wireless House Project

Late last century there were numerous projects to provide public Internet access, though libraries and community groups. These are perhaps an echo of the Wireless House in Foley Park, Glebe, Syndey. This is a small building donated by Grace Bros to the Glebe Council in 1934, where people gathered to listen to the "wireless" radio. Artist Nigel Helyer is working on a sonic installation and website, as part of an oral history project on the Wireless House Project.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Historical Tour of Computing in Melbourne

At the ACS Victorian Branch 2009 Conference someone mentioned there was an Historical Tour of Computing in Melbourne. Unfortunately I missed the tour as I was at the conference. The next one is Sunday 31 May 2009. The tours are run by Caulfield School of Information Technology (Monash University) and are free, apart from your tram ticket. Many of the sites on the tour are accessible without the tour and the tour guide web page provides a useful self-guide. The highlight of any such tour has to be CSIRAC at the Melbourne Museum, the fourth computer in the world and the best preserved.

The Tour:

  1. Monash Museum of Computing History
  2. Site of Albert Park Barracks and DSD
  3. Melbourne's Silicon Mile: St Kilda Road and Fitzroy Street
  4. Stanhill
  5. Melbourne Observatory: Melbourne's first computer room
  6. Victoria Barracks: Australia's first supercomputer
  7. St Paul's Cathedral: the Babbage connection
  8. National Mutual: Smalltalk-80's Australian debut
  9. ICI House
  10. Melbourne Museum: CSIRAC
  11. Physics Museum, University of Melbourne
  12. Old Physics, University of Melbourne: CSIRAC's first Victorian home

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Science in Islam Hapmered by Poor PR

The Collins Class Submarine StoryScience and Islam: A History by Ehsan Masood (Icon Books Ltd , 2009) gets a good review in New Scientist ("Time to acknowledge science's debt to Islam?, Jo Marchant 25 February 2009). Both the book and the reviewer look for explanations for science not being as prominent in the Islamic world. However, I doubt this is a real phenomenon and may be just bad marketing on the part of science. As an example I visited the Museum of Technology and Islam the day after it opened in Istanbul. By now I assumed I would easily find details of the museum and its fascinating exhibits on the web. But the museum seems to be hard to find and Masood's book has no mention of the Museum.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Islam Science Museum

Look out for the mural on the wall of the Islam Science Museum about the history of flight on one of the walls of the museum: it starts with an ancient figure with cloth wings strapped to their arms and works it way through the centuries to a F35 stealth fighter, just glimpsed disappearing off the other end of the mural. If it seems fanciful to include an F35 in a mural about Islam, keep in mind that Turkey is a member of NATO and has advanced military aircraft.

One of the best exhibits of the museum for me were the Astrolabes, which were the notebook computers of the ancient world, used for calculating the position of the planets. Like a notebook PC, these were expensive and intricately made devices.

Some of the mundane aspects of the museum could be improved. As an example the toilet doors have difficult to operate fragile looking locks which should be replaced before they break. The liquid soap dispensers could be moved 100 mm closer to the mirrors, so they drip soap into the hand basin, not onto the bench.

The museum could do with a gift shop/cafe, ideally near the entrance/exit. The globe of the ancient world which features outside the museum would make a good logo for the organisation and in miniature would make a good souvenir to sell in the gift shop.

The door to the museum is difficult to find and some banners would be useful. This might be combined with some umbrellas and a kiosk.

There are stone towers of the original building used as stairways at regular intervals. These are dark and would benefit from a skylight or light tube directing natural light into the building (suitably filtered to protect the exhibits).

The multimedia content showed on screens in the museum are excellent. This might be combined with the text information to provide an online resource for schools. To save on the cost of maintaining this information, the same content as used in the museum could be used online.

An online catalog would also benefit visitors who have difficulty reading the signs in the museum, due to eyesight or language difficulties. They could have the text displayed on a hand held device, translated into their language or read out to them through a headset. This is commonly done in large museums, but at great expense with the special guide material needing to be prepared and provided on specially rented electronic devices. Instead the museum could simply make the same catalog content for people to use on their own devices.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Museum of Technology and Islam Opened in Istanbul

Photo of new Museum of the History of Islam, Science and TechnologyWalking through Gülhane Park in İstanbul today, I noticed a sign announcing the opening of the "Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam". I stuck my head in the door and met Dr. Detlev Quintern from Bremen University. The Islamic Science and Technology Historical Museum was opened Saturday by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The museum is in what were the Imperial Stables in Gülhane Park in the gardens next to Topkapı Palace. The museum will be opne 9 am to 4pm. It has technological and scientific works by Islamic scholars and is by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Frankfurt Goethe University (Germany).

There are three buildings along the edge of the park making up the new museum, with three and a half thousand square meters of display and research offices. There is also a Library of History of Science in the complex.

Currently there are only 140 items on display, but this is planned to be expanded to 800. The museum has replicas of inventions by Muslim scientists between the 8th and 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare.

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