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Further to my last—I’m no advocate, by the way, of a technology silver bullet—I note that Nature has published an extract of C P Snow’s Science and Government.  Snow wanted ‘to disentangle how political decisions were made during the war and, importantly, how scientific advice was used to make them.’  In the extract, he retails the British Government’s decision to develop radar—an unproven technology in the mid-1930s, but essential to the British war effort.

In public, rebellious politicians like Churchill were attacking the whole of the government’s defence policy. In secret, the government scientists, the military staffs, the high officials, were beating round for some sort of defence. There was nothing accidental about this. It was predictable that England, more vulnerable to air attack than any major country, would spend more effort trying to keep bombers off. But there was something accidental and unpredictable in Tizard being given his head.


[Tizard] succeeded, with the help of Blackett’s exceptional drive and insight, in beginning to teach one lesson each to the scientists and the military, lessons that Tizard and Blackett went on teaching for twenty years.

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Urban Cartography is one of those uber sites: simple idea; very cool; and prompts you to think about the world differently.  Oh, to be able to draw and present complex ideas simply.  

 Speaking of which, this is a very cool map:

 Getting to this map took me three jumps, and each had its take on the map along the way:

  • The original posting wonders why Milan and Warsaw were relatively immune from the plague.
  • One step, Leonardo Monasterio suggested the city authorities walled in houses with the plague: brutal, but apparently effective.
  • Two steps back, Paul Kedrosky notes the spreading bands of the plague’s progress—given technology and globalisation, the nature of spread would look very different today.  And of course it’s harder to wall people into their houses.
  • Three steps back, Global Dashboard adds a point from one of the commenters: the role of plague in terms of redistributing wealth.  

Also from Urban Cartography is this:

Useful as a remedy to anyone weary of that concentric circles map.

May 2009