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The Age of Rediscovery – online open learning science expedition

A fascinating online science programme for the curious, including homeschoolers by Rohit Gupta, who blogs at Compasswallah, and tweets as @fadesingh, is an autodidact interested in the history of science and mathematics. In particular, interdisciplinary interactions such as between astronomy and geometry; or colonial science and its Oriental reception. Some of the previous workshops arelisted here, along with a recent interview. His older projects have been featured at Wired and the BBC.

the age of rediscovery
The age of Re:Discovery – an online journey in the history of science

Excavation of the past and contemplation of the future are the same intellectual undertaking. – Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh II (1688-1743) of Jaipur. We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, is all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again.  – Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise

The sailors of yore braved storms, tsunamis and monsters to make their way across continents. Future spacefarers will pit themselves against interstellar dust, comets, asteroids, the perturbations of planets, gravitational tides and cosmic rays. As space travel becomes a reality, and mankind enters a new Age of Discovery, we will need new maps for this uncharted territory. Far from the comforts of our home planet a familiar drama will play out all over again.

  • In the absence of a Global Positioning System, for instance – the art of nautical astronomy will become relevant…
  • In the absence of a pharmacological industry, the art of chemical medicine – oriatrochemistry, will have to be exhumed from history…
  • In the absence of our forests and gardens, a botanical attitude will be necessary for survival…
  • Exotic asteroids will become geological curiosities in the manner of banded agate and precious stones…
  • One may even find useful to make 3-dimensional stick charts of interstellar space that resemble the wind, wave and island maps of Polynesians or Inuits…

What other ancient knowledge and antiquated systems will we need to revive? The Age of Re:discovery is an online workshop that invites artists, students, scholars and thinkers from all over the world to explore this possibility together. The duration of the workshop is roughly 9 months, extending from 29 January – 19 October, 2014. The expected commitment is roughly 2-5 hours per week, depending on your enthusiasm. Syllabus: We plan to take history of navigation techniques as the backbone of the story; then show how it connects to geology, biology, botany, astronomy, mechanics, physics, chemistry, commerce and medicine – across millenia. We can then speculate how all this oceanic history might play out on a different scale in outer space. One of the more interesting modules towards the end will be ‘gravitational cartography’. Ancient portolan maps failed to account for the curvature of earth. Will tourist guides of the solar system have to account for the curvature of spacetime? With a good enough map, one should be able to slide down a Japanese origami paper boat from Earth to Venus. [Some of this weird ‘experimental history’ might branch out as smaller projects in ‘design fiction’.] For more information and to register, please see the programme announcement.

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