Sunday, 15 February 2009

Weekend in London


Spent the weekend in London with my beautiful wife. We went down to see a lecture on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. the French Priest, Paleontologist, and mystic, but the Hilton made us a good deal so we stayed an additional night. We took in the Tate Modern as well, but I admit, the score was Tate, 1, Me, 0... Okay, I just don't get modern art... A huge display that was mostly metal bunk beds all painted blue or yellow with books on the uncovered springs ... sort of "Nightmare at Ikea."...

On the plus side, I like just walking around London. While strolling down Fleet Street I came across St. Bride's church, tucked away down a little narrow lane. Apparently St. Bride's is short for St. Bridget's, and the church is one of the oldest church sites in London, possibly dating back to the sixth or seventh century when the Irish priests came to save the pagen Saxons. The church, like so many others in London, was rebuilt after the "great fire" by Sir Christopher Wren, and is the 2nd tallest spire in the city. The spire (above) was a modification after Wren had finished (the nerve) and is supposedly the inspiration for the modern wedding cake (I know, the sign on the church gate told me so).

While in the neighborhood, I stopped in at the house that Samuel Johnson lived in during much of the time he wrote his English dictionary. While there I was supprised to find a note about a Lord Monboddo who seems to have been onto evolution well before Darwin. 'His lifetime’s work, The Origins and Progress of Language, published in three volumes between 1771 and 1776, was a pioneering work, anticipating, though in some odd ways, later discoveries in anthropology, biology, and zoology. He daringly ignored the current religious-based belief that human language was bestowed fully developed as a divine gift, and instead held that it was something that slowly evolved over a long period of time.

Most remarkable, though, was his observation of the humanoid features of the orangutang, in his day still a little-known primate. Monboddo daringly suggested that the orangutang might be related to humans. Anticipating Charles Darwin by generations, this offhand observation only brought down ridicule. The situation wasn’t helped either by some other strange observations in the book, such as his belief that a race of humans with tails existed somewhere around the Bay of Bengal."

Enough for now, I will return to math, which I know a (very) little more about than modern art, next time.
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