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.

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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.

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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.”

Home, soil, rain (it’s cold outside)

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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.”

No pain, no gain

Yes, I think that it’s the way things are: you must work hard to obtain results.

This is true in a variety of situation. More or less, it’s true basically everywhere.

Take the case of art, for instance.

This is a field in which misunderstanding is quite common, on this topic. People are used to think that great artists are people who let flow art naturally from their hands. Naturally, i.e., without (too much) effort. 

Problem is, things are different. Artists are ordinary people which a strong urge to make art: following this sort of calling they are simply determined to work hard till they obtain the desired results (avoiding the traps of perfectionism).

Of course, talent matter.

But, talent isn’t all. Work and regular practice is even more important.

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I can speak only for myself, of corse. I cannot say how much talent I have in writing. But I can assure you that my best results have come in that cases where I convinced myself to spend a good amount of time on a given project. Making myself available also to write and re-write till I was not satisfied. 

To listen to suggestions. Even to change the plot, in some crucial points.

I worked on each chapter of my novel Il ritorno (in italian) for a lot of time. Plenty of time, actually. One thing I can tell you, that all that works succeeded in improving considerably the manuscript.

First draft is always frightening, even if – it can contain some gems inside.

Working till the light of the gems comes out, it’s the hard part. But it’s necessary.

And, after all, it’s what each person who love writing, is willing to do. Because he know that he has no change, nothing different than take his art seriously.

And it pays. Always.