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Galileo, data visualisation and word of mouth expert

Galileo, data visualisation and word of mouth expert

Hats off to the BBC for its series The Story Of Science.

I stumbled upon it tonight and ended up a happy licence fee payer.

Tonight’s first episode, presented in a passionate and accessible way by Michael Mosley, looked at the history of our understanding of the physical machinations of the solar system and the universe beyond it. And it discussed the societal and political machinations that influenced how that developing knowledge was gathered and disseminated.

It was all sufficiently compelling and accessible to separate my 13 year old daughter from Facebook for the best part of an hour.

I was most taken by a 10 minute passage, at the end of which I was struck by the similarities between how Galileo’s heliocentric theories (the sun at the centre of the universe) were developed and shared back in the 17th century and how ideas are being developed and shared in our digital age.

His ideas were fueled by emerging technology (the telescope).

This technology was effectively open source, which allowed him to develop, refine and apply that which had been started by someone else.

Through painstaking observation this new technology generated large volumes of data.

Galileo then painstakingly proved himself to be a dab hand at data visualisation as he drew and engraved his observations and discoveries.

New media (the printing press) allowed him to distribute his controversial Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems to a mass audience.

The attempt by the Catholic Church to control (i.e. ban) his intellectual property, and their conviction of him as a heretic, effectively ensured a powerful underground word of mouth movement to share and discuss his ideas.

The internet – another little bit of history repeating itself.


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