Archive for September, 2010

Camille Silvy @ National Portrait Gallery

September 13, 2010

An exhibition I had the pleasure to enjoy last week: Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life. Camille Silvy (1834-1910) worked both in France and Britain and is regarded as one of the pioneer photographers as he -through his work- celebrated the portrait photography in a period in which this ‘style’ was not common. (more…)

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BP Portrait Award 2010 @ National Portrait Gallery

September 13, 2010

Daphne Todd is the winner of this year’s BP Portrait Award. I saw the portrait last week during my visit to the gallery and I found it magnificent. Although it portrays the dead mother of the artist, paradoxically, is so full of life: (more…)

The Grand Design

September 13, 2010

‘A Brief History of Time’ by Steven Hawking some years earlier had given me the impression that I am ready to study Physics! I just loved it. Back then it was probably more the simple/attractive language the British cosmologist used rather than the theories themselves that made me enjoy the book. (Now I think that I certainly understood less than I believed at that time…).

This month Hawking and Leornard Mlodinow promise ‘new answers to the ultimate questions of life’. This is the subtitle of their recently published book: The Grand Design (Bantam Press). The authors adopt an approach which they call ‘model-dependent approach’ in order to provide a model of the world, both how and why the universe was created. They suggest that the ‘M-theory’, a series of theories, can provide an answer to the question of creation.

Some articles appeared last week commenting on Hawking’s transition from Agnosticism to Atheism. The reason probably is found in chapter 1 where the authors state: ‘..M-Theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god’. (p.8).

I have only read the first chapter , ‘The Mystery of Being’, so there is more discussion and observations to follow. Some points from the first chapter:

  • …philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge…’ (p.5)
  • ‘Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other?’

Is that just me or are the above points a bit contradictory? If the quest for knowledge is the ultimate aim of the scientists, then, in what they really differ from the philosophers? In that they use different tools?

P.S. I just realised that I chose to put this post in the Arts category…..By accident? Probably because Hawking makes me perceive Science as Arts…..Or, because the mystery of Cosmos is still concealed both artfully and scientifically… To be continued….

Slight Optimism and Strong Scepticism

September 13, 2010

Today in FT Wolfgang Muenchau claims that ‘A Eurozone banking crisis left unresolved’. (FT, Monday September 13, 2010). He concludes: ‘Two years after Lehman’s collapse, the fragility of the European banking sector is still an issue. I would bet we are still talking about it in five years. That, in turn, means the financial crisis will go on and on, at least in the eurozone’.

That doesn’t sound very promising for Greece at a time when George Papakonstantinou -the finance minister- is arranging a delegation with officials from EU, IMF and ECB to meet investors in Paris, London and Frankfurt. Greece needs to convince potential investors that confidence in the country should be revived. The bail-out package ends in 2013 and there is not enough time. Although the fiscal adjustment programme is going well perhaps further structural programmes are still needed. Just one week ago the Greek PM, George Papandreou, reshuffled his cabinet. Old Emperor with new Clothes? I do not know. But, it seems, not only to me, that he is still determined to try hard. Time will tell….

To Be or ….Net to Be?

September 13, 2010

We tend to give fake names on the Net. Is that we are dishonest with the others, dishonest with ourselves or both? Is that we like playing with our identity and we think that the Net offers such an opportunity? Is the fake identity we choose more real than the ‘real’ one? Is the Net the mirror that reflects deep desires or elements of the self that the offline reality cannot accommodate? Can the Net be the real sphere of political incorrectness? Questions, questions, questions……

How kind is the Kindle?

September 13, 2010

Will Kindles replace the traditional reading methods or even the books? Will they be welcomed by the students? As a regular Amazon customer I come across many books that have been converted in a Kindle format. I recently found that among students who participated in a study, only few seemed to regard Kindle as user-friendly. (FT, Monday September 6, 2010). Are we ready to introduce Kindle in higher education?

I am trying to imagine Socrates’ students carrying their I-Pads and wondering what is more ‘intrusive’: the complex distribution of the digital content of their teacher’s lectures or their teacher himself?

Tony Blair: Difficult to embark on a ‘Journey’?

September 13, 2010

The autobiography of Tony Blair has been published. I purchased the book as soon as it became available. A series of  launch parties though -to mark this publication- were cancelled anti-war campaigners who had organise to protest against the ‘memoirs’ of a man who still needs to be labelled by history…

Is it difficult for Tony Blair to embark on a post-leadership Journey? On a lunch with FT (September 11/12 2010) he asks us to ‘….to understand that they [politicians] are human beings and to understand things from their point of view’…‘.

A master in framing an argument he also adds: ‘…..a lot of what I’m saying [in the book] …..is about where we are now and where we need to be…

I chose some lines from the Postscript referring to the West: ‘…For almost twenty years after 1989, the West set the agenda to which others reacted. Some supported us and some opposed us, but the direction of the globe, the destination to which history appeared to march, seemed chosen by us.‘ (Chapter 22, p. 664). True or false? I leave it to the reader to decide….