At the bottom tip of Lake Como one of the most (if not the) most over-the-top memorials to a scientist is found sitting on the edge of the lake. The Tempio Voltiano is a temple built to commemorate the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta (who, amongst other things, invented the battery). Built in 1927 the temple depicts Volta as a classical figure. In central Como there's a statue of Volta (on the Piazza Alessandro Volta) with the scientist draped in robes as if he were a figure from the Roman era.
The temple itself continues the theme, with statues representing science (on the left of the entrance) and the Roman goddess Fides
(Goddess of trust).
And the interior is similarly grand with an inlaid floor of marble, alabaster and other stones. The circular layout follows the progression of science that Volta worked from the left to right with the dates engraved in the stonework.
The actual exhibition is a little disappointing. In 1899 Como put on an enormous exhibition celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Volta's invention of the battery. A massive fire broke out and many of Volta's original instruments and creations (including his batteries) were destroyed. The temple contains those artifacts that remain augmented by reconstructions based on parts that were recovered.
Nevertheless it's here that you can see some of the first batteries ever created. Such as this Voltaic Pile
And there's a good display of other batteries made by Volta using a variety of metals and electrolytes (some of them dry and some of the wet technologies):
And here's some equipment used for electrolysis to see what gases are generated at the anode and cathode.
Volta's invention came about because of Galvani
's investigation of 'animal electricity' that appeared to be exhibited when frogs' legs moved when placed in contact with two different metals. Volta didn't believe Galvani's explanation of the presence of electricity in animals, but rather thought the the contact of the metals and the legs was creating electricity. In disproving Galvani he invented the battery.
Also, on display is equipment that Volta used to measure the electromotive force
by balancing weights against two charged plates to measure the force required to separate them. And there's a display of capacitors (which he called 'condensors' because the electricity was thought to 'condense' on the plates).
If you visit the museum be sure to ask for the handout in English that describes all of the numbered exhibits and buy the 6 Euro English-language "Guide to the Volta Temple" which is well worth reading as it covers the history of the building and Volta's inventions in detail.
At the start of June, The Geek Atlas
will be published in Portuguese by publisher Editora Altabooks
(it's also available in German
Os 128 locais abordados neste livro compõem uma lista pessoal de lugares para visitar onde a ciência, a matemática e a tecnologia aconteceram ou acontecem. Você não encontrará pequenos e tediosos museus de terceira categoria, ou placas presas à parede indicando que “o Professor X dormiu aqui” entre os locais selecionados. Cada lugar possui real interesse científico, matemático ou tecnológico.
Nem todos os lugares apresentam invenções ou descobertas humanas. Há também fenômenos naturais, como o variável Polo Norte Magnético e a Aurora Boreal. E há também alguns túmulos de cientistas famosos, mas tenha a certeza de que há equações neles.
Cada lugar tem seu próprio capítulo e cada capítulo é dividido em três partes: uma introdução geral sobre o local, com ênfase em sua importância científica, matemática ou tecnológica; um assunto técnico relacionado, abordado em maiores detalhes; e informações práticas sobre a visitação. O livro pode ser usado como um verdadeiro guia de viagens (e espero que você tenha a oportunidade de visitar alguns desses lugares), mas também pelo viajante de poltrona, a quem espero inspirar a deixar este livro de lado para aprender um pouco mais sobre a ciência, a matemática e a tecnologia aqui abordadas...
Today, March 22, my book The Geek Atlas
is part of a special O'Reilly Deal of the Day
. Here are the details:
O'Reilly, No Starch Press, and Tidbits will donate all revenues, less author royalties, from "Deal of the Day" sales to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
Thanks to the Internet, we understand more deeply than ever that everyone on the planet is connected. The disasters that have hit Japan feel close to home, and those of us at O'Reilly, No Starch, and Tidbits want to do something to help the Japanese people recover and rebuild. We know many of you do, too. Working with the O'Reilly Tokyo office, we will ensure that your valued contribution goes to the relief of those most in need. We'll update the total amount donated throughout the day, as well as the final amount.
That's a great deal since all the revenue will go to the Japanese Red Cross. You can take advantage of this deal with the code DDJPN.
But there's one part that makes me uncomfortable. Although O'Reilly is giving almost every penny they receive to this cause, they are going to pay me my royalty. That's 10% of whatever people pay O'Reilly for the eBook of The Geek Atlas
using that code.
I can't in good conscience promote this deal and then accept money. So, if you buy The Geek Atlas eBook today using that code please email me
the receipt from O'Reilly and I will donate 10% of what you paid O'Reilly to the Japanese Red Cross so that 100% of what you pay to O'Reilly ends up helping victims of the earthquake and tsunami, and so that I don't profit from this disaster.
A few weekends ago I went to visit Down House
where Charles Darwin and his family lived from 1842. It's very close to London and an easy drive. The house is managed by English Heritage
and contains a combination of restored rooms and an exhibition covering Darwin, his family life and his work. It was completely restored in 1996.
The museum explains how Darwin ended up thinking about natural selection and contains a large selection from Darwin's own collection. There are his original notebooks on display as well as items he collected, such as these Galapagos finches:
His family life is covered, including the death of his daughter Annie
aged 10. This log book details Darwin's observations of his daughter's health and treatments tried.
It's clear that Darwin had a lot of affection for his children. This is a slide he had built that attached to the staircase inside the house to his children could slide down on pillows.
The museum has many parts that are suitable for children. Here's a game that explains how traits are passed down in birds and there's another that shows the link between the number of cats at Down House and the amount of clover growing on the lawn (cats kill mice, mice attack bee hives, bees pollinate; increase the cats and you get more clover).
Darwin himself wasn't averse to a good game. There's a room in the house dedicated to billiards where Darwin would go to relax from the strain of the public reaction to his theory of natural selection.
In his study, there's his armchair which he modified so that it had wheels attached. This allowed him to scoot around the room to get books or specimens without having to get up. Since he would be sitting with a board across his lap for writing it was more efficient to glide around.
Lest you think Darwin was physically lazy any trip should end at the bottom of the large garden with a walk around Darwin's sandy thinking path inside a copse. Darwin had it constructed so he could take a daily constitutional walk while thinking. He would walk around the path using a pile of stones to count the number of circuits he'd done while thinking.