Open source, and open science

As scientist, the least thing I expected, when yesterday I listened to the very interesting Linus Torvalds speech at TED, was a discussion on the way science and its results are diffused. I was pleased to hear Linus mentioning arXiv, the famous science archive of paper.

ArXiv_web.svg.pngArXiv is entirely opened, you can browse and download articles without any restriction (you don’t even have to login). It’s updated daily and it’s articulated in various disciplines. As a whole, it’s a very pragmatic way to show the benefit of free idea circulation within science.

At the moment writing, arXiv contains 1,178,149 articles. Not bad.

I do admit I did not expect Linus was aware of its existence, being into a rather different ecosystem.

Well, now I understand that there are deep links between the open source paradigm and a certain way to think about science and about the spreading of its methodologies and its results.

Something which has a deep connection with a very simple word, “open“. A simple word that it can disclose a whole world.

Something Linus addressed very well, in just a few words.

Jennifer, where are you?

This Is Your Song proposes a very difficult task!

You know, It’s so hard to choose just one song, since everybody has plenty of wonderful songs  inside, that are ready to be loaded in memory when the situation do require it…

Songs are, sometimes, such incredible concentrations of beauty, all packed in a easy-to-deal-with form, that it’s difficult for me to think of a more easy way to reconnect with beauty, different from reloading a song on my mind.

Here I want to come back to an old songs by Eurythmics, Jennifer. It’s a song that – after all these years (it dates back to 1983) – still fascinates me for the interplay of the voice of Annie Lennox (so sweet!) and the rich and complex electronic tapestry – almost hypnotical in a certain way.

Oh, and it features a precious sense of wonder, in its lyrics. Truly a gorgeous piece.

Pens and Pencils, tales from a distant age…

Ages. I do not use pens and pencils from ages. And it’s quite clear from what happens when I am stil forced to use them: I simply write something which cannot be understood!

That’s the fact. I’m worrying that I am simply loosing the ability to write by hand. Yes, I can try to write, but the result is discouraging: I usually produce something that nobody can read. Include myself, of course. Definitively, the modern age brings new abilities and skills, but sometimes it also looses something. Being not able to write by hand is not a good thing.

child-313790_640
We are loosing the ability of doing it by hand…

Nowadays, the occasions to adopt pens and pencils – for me – are really rare. Consider the simple action of taking notes. I use my iPad with Evernote (or something similar), and it works wonderfully. I can take notes and easily move them to my iMac, for further elaborations.

From some years, I maintain a digital diary with the (wonderful) Day One app. Recently, I’ve also started to experiment with Journal, to satisfy my (periodically awaking) Android side.

I cannot even remember the last time I wrote something substantive with a pen, apart from some unfortunate occasions where I had to take notes and I was without one of my tablets (iPad 2 or Nexus 7).

I agree that physical agendas can be truly beautiful. They have something attractive which definitively can’t be reproduced by any electronic device, no matter the software that you can load onboard. They speak about ancient ages, where you could touch the paper, evaluating its consistency, appreciate its color. Feel the subtle noise of turning page. This is something we are loosing, something that it’s going to disappear.

The most annoying thing of a written manuscript, it’s that it can’t easily be processed. This is the first reason, for me, for following the digital ruote.  That’s the most important reason why I do believe that it’s impossible to return to a pre-keyboard era.

And yes, I’m losing the ability to write with a pen.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

Are you (still) reading on paper?

I was just a little surprised when I red the title of this article on Washington Post. Why digital native prefer reading in print… Well, I am not a “digital native” in any way (my age will prevent me to think that), so you may understand that I’m rather used to printed papers. As a matter of fact, I remember ages in which printed papers was the only way, since there was absolutely no alternatives.

With all of that, I admit that I got used to digital books quite fast. For me, their advantages are by far more intriguing in respect to their shortcomings. So that now I’m a bit annoyed when I do not find the electronic version of a text I want to read.

open-book-585865_640
Is reading in print really better?

Not that I do not understand the reasons explained in the article. Online distraction, for example, is a serious issue. Reading on a computer screen, or reading on a tablet it’s the same: just to put it down simply, you can do too much things. That’s fine, when you play games. That’s not so fine, when you want to concentrate on a difficult book. In the meddle of a difficult page you’re working on, you suddendly remember that you did not check your Facebook status in the last ten minutes! Well, let me see if any notification is waiting, after all it may be important. Oh, in passing, any new email? And what about Twitter replies?

That’s hardly deniable. It’s part of our world, nowadays.

That’s why I do not like reading from a computer of from a tablet.

Anyway, I feel that there is another option, which is not clearly covered in the article. Yes, the article generally talk about “reading from a screen” as simply opposed to “reading from paper”. Actually, there is a third choice: the ebooks devices (Kindle and similar stuff). When coming to serious reading (or studying) an ebook reader has several advantages.

The bigger advantage is that a Kindle cannot show your Facebook timeline. Yes, it can post portions of text you are reading (on Facebook and/or Twitter) but that’s all. It even cannot allow you to check emails, too (until you try to use the experimental browser inside, definitively not a easy route).

That’s very good when you want to seriously concentrate. I definitively need a device that cannot deal about my presence on social network, at least at a certain point of my day. I need something that does not show how many notification I’m missing on Facebook (oh, speaking of it, let me check now…)

A Kindle is a very good alternative to paper, in my opinion. Other considerations can be done: for example, it’s easy to highlight some part of text without any worries, since it’s now a “digital operation” fully reversible. Also, it allows you to carry around hundreds of books, without much effort.

Anyway, there will always be place for printed books (art publications, etc…). But it’s not too difficult to speculate that one day, reading on print could became the exception, not the rule.

Home, soil, rain (it’s cold outside)

ColdOutside

Baby it’s cold outside. This words comes into my mind while I’m thinking about the caption of the photo I’ve just taken. I’m walking in the park and the first evidence is that it’s deep winter, all around me.

Things are now what they seems. 

I think about the fact that in some secret places, under the soil, spring is patiently preparing, waiting for the right time to come. There is some secret movements I cannot detect, there are some secret worlds waiting for them to show. 

At the right time. 

Everything comes at the right time. I can’t hurry anything: it’s useless. I just have to wait. Even love can’t be hurried (as the Supremes declared since the glorious sixties…)

This is worth for me to be thought, again and again.

Yes, because my spontaneous  attitude is to hurry, to try to force things to happen: those things I desire, those things I want. Those things I decide I’m in need of. It’s funny, but whenever I do accept this simple law – namely, that I have to wait – in this very moment I can experience a state of tranquillity, I begin entering in a wonderful realm of calm. 

I can relax only if I realize that things keeps happening in my life, even if sometimes I feel as I walked in a deep winter scenario. Even in those moment in which I feel like someone running under heavy rain, striving to be at home.

Changes are preparing, opportunities will spring.  At the right time.

Things do happen: and the more you let it flow, the more they happen. 

So the lesson is simple (which does not means easy, you know): just relax, get rid of this crazy attempt to control everything, and let the world act for you.  

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Free Association.”

Rondoni: “Poetry and science are not that distant”

Some times ago, I received (and very gladly published) a piece of the poet and writer Davide Rondoni, who kindly accepted my request and spoke about the “Carnival of Physics” # 27, hosted some times ago by my italian blog GruppoLocale.it. I stumbled upon this article just yesterday, and I realized that it may be worth reading also for not italian people.. so here is it!

Davide Rondoni
Davide Rondoni

Arthur Rimbaud says that science is too slow for us. In our opinion, he means that we look at the world with the typical method of poetry, which is that of analogies, shadows, glimpses of evidence in the appearance. With words that frame a life that we don’t really know but which nevertheless asks for our active participation.

Besides, long before you physicists teached us that everything is movement and energy, Dante spoke of a “love that moves the sun and the other stars” and to him that was not a metaphor, but a real matter of fact. We are dealing with a difference of speed – the truths to which the poetic method leads are those a man needs in his life, whereas science takes sometimes thousands of years in order to succeed in analyzing some phenomena. Difference in speed and method therefore, (poetry knows by synthesis, by analogy, experiencing that state of knowledge through wonder and spiritual enlightenment that in science happens only sometimes), but not in the route nor in the final purpose. In fact, the language that scientists often use to indicate the primary or last realities they are looking for – in addition to the formulas – is composed of poetic metaphors. What is the “fossil light” that the recorders of the early events of the universe are analyzing? Isn’t it a reality which we can explain using a poetic language?

And a great contemporary poet, Les Murray, in one of his poems says that Newton certainly had a huge intuition seeing the apple falling from the branch, but if he had also wondered how the hell that apple had arrived up there he would have discovered a “more used physics.” Poets are interested in the physics of the world, that is to say its movement – or sense, which is the same, since there is no real movement without sense, because it would be frenzy or excitement, or (which is the opposite and the same), it’d be boredom.

Poetry and science are not opposed: they were not opposed at the beginnings of wonder, which perceives the world as a first step, and they are not opposed now – after the long journey of both – when they are carried out as a will of knowing the mystery of reality. That is what Ungaretti called the “secret” of the world.

Davide Rondoni has founded and heads the Center of Contemporary Poetry of the University of Bologna. He has taught and teaches poetry and literature at the University of Bologna, Milan Cattolica, Genoa, Iulm and at several institutes as well as abroad at Yale University and Columbia University (USA). He is the artistic director of “DANTE09”’s festival in Ravenna. He took part in the most important poetry festivals in Italy and abroad.

He has published several volumes of poetry, including “Il bar del tempo” and “Avrebbe amato chiunque” with whom he has won, among others, the most important prizes in Italy (including Montale, Carducci, Gatto, Ovid, Camaiore, Metauro). “Amore Apocalisse”. Mondadori, June 2008. A booklet published in 2001, “Non sei morto, amore” (and republished in 2006) is read by the author together with a pianist of blues, as well as put on stage by Sandro Lombardi and David Riondino. With a company of tango are read the poems of “Danza lentamente con le tue ombre” (Tracce, 2009). He is also in the most important anthologies of Italian poetry of the late twentieth century published by Mondadori and Rizzoli and in many others. Some of his poems have been published in books or magazines in France, USA, Venezuela, Russia, England, Croatia, China and other countries.

He is one of my preferred Italian poets, so that I’m very glad he accepted to write this words for my blog. The publication of this piece in English is also intended as a tribute to his arts. Thanks Davide!

Adapted and translated from Italian, with the precious help of Claudia Castellani

Why WordPress (dot com) ?

Disclaimer: this may sound as a declaration of love. Because it is. I’m getting in love with you, WordPress. I want to spend more time with you, I want to stay closer. You have what I need. Yes, it’s true.

Ok, enough for the emotional part. Now I cool down a bit…

Honestly, I’d hardly find a better way to improve my English, to overcome my fears of expression in a foreign language. To jump over my fears of making errors. Since I’m discovered the exciting WordPress (dot com) community, something is going to change. First, I’m starting to write my post directly in English. This is a rather new thing for me: before, my usual procedure was simply taking a post from my Italian blog, invoking Google Traslate, and than making the needed corrections by hand.

This is changing. I want to grow, I want to learn to express myself in English, without intermediate steps.

I want to widen the spectrum of things that I can talk about. Emotions, feelings, impressions.

wordpress-589121_640

How WordPress can help me (and possibly, you) in that? As a matter of fact, wordpress community is a wonderful place to find interesting content in English for me to read. To learn the language, and namely, to learn the language that bloggers do use mostly.

I’m rather new to an intensive use of WordPress (dot com) facilities, since my main (Italian) blog is on Blogger (at least, at the moment writing), so in the following I list the things that most impressed me, during this path to gain familiarity with WordPress.

First, I do appreciate the Reader, with its list of updated posts from the blog that I follow. I also like the many ways WordPress team adopt for inviting you to write, as the Weekly Writing Challenge, just so say a name. Generally specking, a resource as The Daily Post is a  great point of reference if you’re looking for some intriguing idea for your blog.

The Fresly Pressed is another wonderful resource to see what it’s hot. More, there are lot of things to discover, like the 365 Writing Prompts, for example. Or Zero to zero, 30 days to make a better blog.

For what I understand, in Blogger you’re left alone, more or less. It’s a very good platform for various reason (apart from its embarrassing steady state, whereas WordPress keep updating at a good pace) , but it has not a real community that support it. Here is different, here you can feel yourself as a part of a vibrant community.

It’s for now, for this community, that I resolved to move my blog from a full installation under Altervista to a free blog inside WordPress.com, notwithstanding some technical  limitations. Yesterday I also decided to invest some euros in connecting this blog to my domain, so this is the first post under en.marcocastellani.me (admittedly, in Blogger I can do it for free, but…). I plan to spend at least some months here, to see if this is really what I like. Meanwhile, to understand a bit more about WordPress, I also bought the book The Year without pants from O’ Reilly (not too enthusiastic for the title, but ok)

All may happens, as usually. But, if I must judge from my first impressions, I think that I’ll stay.

If you’re here to improve your English, too, or if you would like to give your advice on how using WordPress for this task, I’d like to have your feelings in the comments section! Come in and drop a line!