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"Islands -- I don't get them.
Surrounded by water, poor things."
Patrizia, in Antonioni's L'Adventura
The quote above is from the delightful 'Waterfront' by Phillip Lopate. The book is literary tour around Manhattan island, from the perspective of a social historian. I am a sucker for architectural history, especially of my beloved borough of Brooklyn ('Fourth Largest City in America'). About a year ago, I embarked on a project to determine the exact whereabouts of original Dutch settlement of New Utrecht, a neighborhood of Brooklyn close to where I grew up, and probably most famous for supplying the high school shots at the opening of the iconic TV show 'Welcome Back Kotter.'
From old landholding maps found on the internet, I could superimpose the old street drawings of New Utrecht as layers in Photoshop over the Mapquest diagrams of the modern area. To my surprise, the town center of New Utrecht lay within the parking lot of a ramshackle discount store where as a child I would get my school supplies, and whose owner in 1969 once tried to convince several very skeptical kids that a chunk of sidewalk in the display case under the checkout counter was actually a moon rock from Apollo 11.
To understand the apparent lack of purpose for that interaction, you must read some of Arthur Miller's remembrances of his childhood in Brooklyn .
The Internet site The Edge asked a few hundred deep thinkers "What's your law?"? I liked Eberhard Zangger's two laws.
Zangger's First Law
Most scientific breakthroughs are nothing else than the discovery of the obvious.
Zangger's Second Law
Truly great science is always ahead of its time.
As examples, he gives:
The Hungarian surgeon Ignaz Semmelweiss in 1847 reduced the death rate in his hospital from twelve to two percent, simply by washing hands between operations -- a concept that today would be advocated by a four year old child. When Semmelweiss urged his colleagues to introduce hygiene to the operating rooms, they had him committed to a mental hospital where he eventually died.
The German meteorologist Alfred Wegener discovered in 1913 what every ten year old looking at a globe will notice immediately: That the Atlantic coasts of the African and South American continents have matching contours and thus may have been locked together some time ago. The experts needed sixty more years to comprehend the concept.
Heinrich Schliemann's excavation of Bronze Age Mycenae and Tiryns in Greece was considered by English archaeologists in The Times' as the remains of some obscure barbarian tribe' from the Byzantine period. In particular, the so-called prehistoric palace in Tiryns was labelled "the most remarkable hallucination of an unscientific enthusiast that has ever appeared in literature."
The theories of the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud were called "a case for the police" during a neurologists' congress in Hamburg in 1910.
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