I believe

The blog awakens. One interesting thing is that even when I haven’t written anything for weeks, there are still people reading it. Seems to be a random assortment of old posts.

I guess I should write something about the Parliamentary Select Committee report  but Peter already blogged it  and didn’t get any debate, so maybe it needs a bit more thought, aka come up with provocative line.

Instead I shall continue my occasional travelogue series. I know you love it. Here I am in Naples for the twice-yearly IVOA interop. Keywords for Napoli are : chaos; pizza; chaos; antiquity; noise; sfogliatella; chaos; religion; volcano; chaos; and chaos. I do like the chaos. But its exhausting.

There are churches and shrines everywhere, packed into streets so narrow that Google Maps can’t name them. The only one with more than about twelve feet of space in front of it is the Cattedrale San Gennaro. Twice each year a miracle occurs  at this location. A vial containing the dried blood of San Gennaro himself spontaneously liquefies. A few years back I was lucky enough to witness this miracle. Well. I say witness. Actually I was craning my neck to see over the heads of about eight million people, and could just about see some blokes in funny costumes waggling something.

So is this what I believe ? Do us a lemon, John. No. I believe in Hollywood. Bear with me.

Having a few hours spare I went to see the National Archaelogical Museum. This contains some marvelous frescoes and mosaics, some preserved in Pompeii. Here are two favourites : the famous portrait of Sappho, which actually probably isn’t; and a lovely mosaic of fishes.

There are also rooms and rooms of rather dull and pompous Roman statues. However I did rather enjoy the gallery of emperors, and spotted a lovely contrast. On the left is Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher-Emperor. As we know from watching Gladiator, he was a wise and just ruler as well as a deep thinker. I have his “Meditations” and even read about half of it one day before I got hungry. And golly gosh his nobility just leaps out of the bust. One the right is his son Commodus, who as we also know from Gladiator, was a snivelling shit, a nasty piece of work, and a dastardly cheat. Gibbon dates the beginning of the Decline from his reign. And blow me, his bust looks just like Joaquin Phoenix in the movie. I definitely wouldn’t trust this man.

All temptation to point out resemblances to current personalities will be avoided.

5 Responses to I believe

  1. Roy Williams says:

    Looking forward to the blog post in a few days about the impact of the IVOA meeting on astronomy?

  2. Paul says:


    – First thing in Nature that I ever read.

    Of course, this was back before electricity had been invented, so there wasn’t any interweb and I had to have a pal who was older than me and already at university trek down the road to the library, seek out the appropriate fragment of dead tree, photocopy it, and post the copy to me. Ahhhh, how times change.

  3. Steve Warren says:

    Yes. Marcus Aurelius, lovely chap, but all that good work undone by his rotten choice of his son to succeed him. Does this show that you that you can’t be an idealist, you have to be a pragmatist as Regius Professor, sorry, Roman emperor?

    My favourite Roman emperor is Diocletian – the only one who abdicated!

  4. telescoper says:

    I think you might temper your enthusiasm for Marcus Aurelius by reading about the way he initiated the persecution of the Christians, especially in Gaul…

    ..but that’s not to say The Meditations aren’t wonderful. Even Hannibal Lecter quoted him:

    Of every particular thing, ask what is it in itself? What is its Nature?

  5. ryburn says:

    I had been proposed this website by way of this relation. I am not saying specified whether or not this post is written by the pup seeing that nobody identify such specified in relation to my difficulty. You will be astounding! Thanks!

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