Today I visited the medieval library at Merton College, Oxford as a guest of the Fellow Librarian. It is the UK’s oldest library that was designed to be used by scholars, and it has been functioning as such since its construction in the 1370s. You enter the library at the ground level through a massive door. Going up the stairs you reach the upper floor, where the books are stored. It is sensational to walk among the rows of book cases in the half-lit room. Their shelves are filled with hundreds of early-modern books (many still fitted in their original bindings), which are patiently waiting until someone will touch them again. Heavy benches hoovering over wooden floors are a reminder that this room was once filled with scholars leaning over their books, trying to catch the last light of the day. In the middle of the library a big 13th-century book chest is found, next to a small collection of shiny 14th-century astrolabes. What a heavenly place.
Pics (my own): library, book cases, consultation bench, book chest (13th century), stained-glass window (medieval), and entrance. More information about the library on Merton College’s website (here) and also here; more on Merton College, which dates from the 13th-century, here.
I love the fact that I’ve never seen the inside of this room before but my very first thought was, ‘that looks like Oxford.’
Man I miss Oxford. I love that place so much.
Oh. My!! I need this in my life.
“Self-discipline is necessary, but so is playfulness, flexibility, joy. When you stop demanding perfection of yourself, your writing desk will become a spacious place. Slipperiness is good. Sloppiness is OK. Cultivate patience with your own uncertainty and doubt; a tolerance for bad writing; a willingness to let a story develop embryonically.”
How to Remember Anything (runtime ~20 minutes)
For those who have never seen it: a totally useful Ted Talk by science journalist Joshua Foer (who is also the founder of the absolutely awesome Atlas Obscura). He talks about covering the U.S. Memory Championships where he learned how humans can train their brains to remember a lot in a little bit of time. But more importantly, he talks about why we ought to strengthen our memory in an age when one can outsource the storage of most information to the web.
Related: Last year, Clive Thompson published a fascinating book about how technology is changing the way we think (mostly for the better). Maria Popova reviewed it on Brain Pickings, covering some of his most important observations, namely: the difference in transparency between traditional public storehouses of information (i.e.: the public library) and modern storehouses (i.e.: the web). And in this context, we wrote a bit about the perils of algorithmic curation.
Happy Valentine’s Day! This image of a heart was sequenced by a Revolution* CT scanner, which can take a complete 3-D scan of a heart in one beat.
Since this is a real medical device, here’s the fine print: * 510(k) pending at FDA. Not available for sale in the United States. Not yet CE marked. Not available for sale in all regions. Trademark of the General Electric Company.