Category Archives: technology

Stalking Leonardo in America

On the hunt for Leonardo da Vinci ever since starting on the novelization of my time travel novel, but it seems, instead, he’s been stalking me.

The genius is very much alive. A few of the most notable Leo sightings, up-close-and-personal. The Da Vinci Machines exhibit, currently on display in Bradenton, Florida. Artisans from Florence, Italy, have constructed life-sized models of a series of Leonardo’s inventions found in his writings and jottings and sketches found in more than 13,000-known pages of Leonardo’s codices (definition: notebooks; singular, codex. From the Latin. Think Renaissance blog). There are an additional 20,000 or so pages from codices that scholars suspect lay hidden and molding in unsuspecting people’s attics and musty shoe boxes throughout Europe.

tank

Da Vinci Museums Exhibit

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Da Vinci’s glider

Here is material evidence of Leonardo’s genius in plain sight for the throngs of kids, teachers and adults visiting the exhibition. A creative thinker who could design a modern tank from observing turtles, whose glider emerged from hundreds of hours watching and sketching hawks in flight, the first working robot, and myriad seemingly modern inventions–all from the mind of a 15th-century man.

Of course, there is another, perhaps more famous side to Leonardo: his art. Which took me to Williamsburg, Virginia, recently, to see an exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty,” at the Muscarelle Museum of Art on the campus of William and Mary. While, still today, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper get most of the press, observing the master’s drawing skills at close hand is a thrill.

Leonardo and Beauty

Leonardo and the Idea of Beauty

I felt the hand of the artist on my shoulder as I stepped up to each new piece on display. On display: attributes of left-handedness — shadowing and drawing lines diagonally from up left to down right to avoid smudging and see the trajectory of each line — that make him unique among Renaissance masters. To breathe in the antiquity emanating from these 500-year-old papers and parchments. To feel the aura of the artist in the room, looking out from the shadows and into my eyes even as my eyes took him in.

In the introduction to the exhibition, in a book of the same title, Dr. Aaron H. De Groft, the museum’s director and CEO, writes, “Leonardo’s notebooks are filled with quick short notes on what he saw, how he felt, things to remember to do and many other pronouncements, statements, and fully worked out thoughts…and so much of it was illustrated. We see him living his life literally day by day and week by week documented on the page in many ways like the modern day equivalents of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. […]…he wrote in one of his last recorded lines, ‘I must go now…because the soup is getting cold.'”

How  fitting to see this inveterate doodler through the eyes of twenty-first century technology. And how like Charley, the protagonist of Out of Time, to want to record what she sees, things to remember and the many other pronouncements of her own curious, creative and inventive mind in a blog and on social media.

Auratic tweet

Charley’s Notebooks: Tweet Storytelling Out of Time

Next stop on my quest to discover Leonardo in America? The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Salvador Dali draws on the inspiration of Freud’s meanderings on the great Renaissance master to celebrate “Where Minds, Machines and Masterpieces Meet.”

Dali Museum Leo

Where Minds, Machines and Masterpieces Meet.

Seeing yet another side of Leonardo’s genius up-close-and-personal? Can’t wait!

robin and mona

Mona and me

Asian Gerbils Carry Black Plague to Europe

Smoking gun: Asian gerbils, not European rats, caused the plague.

Uffizzi plague victims

Roman-era Plague Victims Photo: Maurizio Degl’Innocenti/EPA, via Landov

No doubt if such news had appeared in the broadsheets of, say, 14th century Italy (and did the have anything even remotely resembling a newspaper for informing citizens in those largely illiterate days?), trade with Asia would have been banned, and the traders themselves shipped back to their home port.

Today, it’s forensic archeology informing history–and our understanding of the progress of civilization. Medical detectives sniffing into the corners of history and civilization to determine how diseases start, why they spread, and how tree rings offer the smoking gun tracking shifts in climate.

You may have guessed by now that the true purpose of this blog, under the guise of Leonardo’s fabulous and inventive mind (so emulated by the heroine of Out of Time, Charley) is to explore what’s on my own mind. What’s got me thinking right now? Would I might have known–way back in the ancient history of my formative years–that biology + archeology + anthropology + history = a way to figure out how disease spreads through history and affects the story of the world, how different my own history might be!

What triggers this revisionist thinking of career potential from my younger self? I recently ran across a story of archeologists digging up a mass grave containing human remains more than 1,500 years old under the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy–the beautiful museum where some of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces are on permanent display–these skeletons now thought to be victims  of an early plague.

florence-uffizi-gallery

Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Amid growing national concern about the trickle of qualified candidates to fill a growing number of jobs in technical fields requiring strong skills in science, math and engineering, the question is increasingly important: how to entice young people into pursuing STEM careers that may not crop up in the normal course of Middle School Career Day? We live in times where how we define work, and what occupations are available, are in vast flux. The doctor-lawyer-teacher professional triad is still viable, but the world is changing. Doctors are not the only health workers. Law is narrowing for newly-minted JDs. Teachers are not revered, much less adequately compensated.

The careers of the future open up vastly different opportunities for young people today–and exposure to those possibilities can open vistas and ignite curiosity and the imagination.

As usual, Leonardo da Vinci’s example, a passion for learning and seeing in new ways–leads us to new insight. He let his nose–and eyes and chalk–lead in his passion to understand the world around him. His fascination with human anatomy led him to grave robbing and even using the underground morgues in the Vatican itself to gain access to skeletons that would allow him to study human skeletal structures and the undergirding of the face that allowed him to draw and paint such lifelike, living humans in those masterpieces that come down to us today. In fact, had Leo known of the destruction beneath a gallery that displayed his masterpieces, he might have even been tempted to exhume the bodies himself, in his constant search to portray the human form in all its guises.

There was also the fascination with life, death, age, youth and nature–so present in Leonardo’s age and, paradoxically, so remote and isolated in our own. The contrast between beauty and death is one that captured Leonardo’s attention throughout his prolific career and revealed itself in his painting, sketching and sculpture.

anatomy-of-human-body-da-vinci

Of course, in 1492 and beyond, Europeans were not the only victims of disease-carrying ships. Historians have documented the link between Europeans arriving in the New World and the subsequent spreading of disease among Native American populations, peoples who had no immunity to diseases carried by their conquerors, and the germs they carried with them. But until fairly recently, understanding how conquest went viral–and often deadly–was not a meme of history.

Could modern medicine, with its vaccines, antibiotics and advanced treatments for infectious disease–if known back in the days when barbers were surgeons–have eradicated the Black Death and changed history? Do we even know what the picture might have looked like if millions of lives that were erased due to plague, cholera, and other epidemics, had been controlled by better sanitation, isolation against the spread of disease and contemporary public health practices had been available back in the day?

Not to say we don’t have uncontrollable scourges today taking lives, Ebola being only the latest example. But today a new form of virus, proving just as infectious, is carried through ether of the World Wide Web and delivered electronically into our homes. As yet, the consequences of computer viruses are still being tested–ranging from terrorists recruiting members with their chilling videos extolling killing in the name of God, to warnings about spying from supposedly preventive and benevolent sources such as the US National Security Agency. Will the spread of such viruses will impact our future story for good or ill? History–and future digital forensic anthropologists–may someday uncover evidence that these have alternatively helped or hurt our world.

Had such an example of sleuthing research and discovery been available to me in my own formative years, I might have honed my love of writing, my aptitude for explaining science through story to then dive into biology, anatomy, environmental science, medical history and tracking the global trail of infectious disease to pursue a much different, but highly satisfying career path.

Growing up, my daughter had a pet gerbil. Scribbles seemed innocent enough–and certainly no great threat to the health of our family, except when it came to cleaning his cage, a task which would have been neglected completely were it not for the smell, and a good bit of nagging on the part of the parents. [So much for children promising to take responsibility!] A gerbil in the wild, stealing on a sailing ship for a three week journey in less-than-optimal conditions is undoubtedly a different beast than his domestic ancestors in the neighborhood pet store.

Who knew? And what young person today, cleaning her gerbil’s cage and wondering about her pet’s family history, might awaken a new interest in how such things work that takes her out of the classroom, into the lab, and onto the road of discovery in other yet-to-be-imagined ways?

Smoking guns may define the history of our past. But, for now, my bet is on the gerbil to sniff out the future history of health.

Et tu, Scribbles?

The Story, the Competition, and Bringing It All to Life

This is cross-posted from the EdTechWomen Blog — http://edtechwomen.com/blog/2014/6/12/outoftime

Out of Time – The Story, The Competition, And Bringing It All To Life

 

 

 

By Margaret Roth

There are many roads that can be taken on the the journey to inspiration and creation. For Robin Stevens Payes, her journey began literally on road. As a mother of three children and science interpreter, she spent a lot of time on the road, listening to stories and tales of drama unfold from the driver’s seat as her children explored their school-age years. This experience was not only treasured time with her children, but for a writer immersed in contemporary science, this was a complete study in teenage psychology.

With this inspiration, and not to mention set of first-hand observations, Robin began crafting Out of Time, the story of Charley Morton, a teenage girl whisked back in time, by a science fair project gone-all-too-well, to the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci on the journey of a lifetime. As Charley explores the world of Florence with Leonardo, her idol and mentor, she must find a way home, all while finding herself.

Over the last 15 years, this story has transformed itself. First written as a screenplay, Charley’s story is now a transmedia science fiction, time travel, adventure novel, and is a finalist in the When Words Count Retreat Pitch Week, a juried competition for authors of promise. As a finalist, Robin is competing for a book deal, national publicity campaign, and all the support necessary to make Out of Time the next breakout book for teens.

As Robin is eagerly preparing for her journey to Vermont next week for the competition, EdTechWomen checked in via e-mail to see how things were shaping up for the next stage of her adventure.

MR: Out of Time, both the novel and your journey, is absolutely fascinating. Tell us about your plans and where you see this all going.

RSP: From the scientific, technological, and historical scope needed to tell the story, and the breadth of Leonardo’s genius, emerged the idea to create Out of Time Media, an online learning platform, to turn the process of reading Out of Time into an immersive, multimedia, multimodal, learning experience.

Using the story as the foundation, coupled with Leonardo’s curious and wide-ranging intellect and Charley’s inventiveness, brains and grit, educators will be able to create a dynamic transdisciplinary and blended learning program through the Out of Time Media experience. There are so many possible points of student engagement on a vast array of topics, from the physics of time to geo-history to military engineering to Renaissance cuisine.

While the online learning platform is still in the works, pending funding, and the right STEAM-Ed visionaries, partners, and investors, the plans for this transdisciplinary learning through story project continue!

MR: As a former middle school teacher myself, there are so many ways I can see this being used in the classroom. Tell us some more about the kind of learning experiences you see Out of Time allowing educators to create for their students?

RSP: There are a number of classroom activities and projects that I can see emerging from a reading of the novel, and a myriad of ways Out of Time Media can support teaching and learning in the classroom. Out of Time creates a world, Renaissance Italy. Instead of memorizing straight facts for a just another novel unit, the story allows students to reconstruct the way people lived, the conditions that encouraged the flowering of a rich intellectual, social, and artistic ferment that allowed for the emergence of so many great geniuses, whose work still impact our lives today. They can study the role of the Roman Catholic Church in that period and how the Pope and the di Medici rulers of Florence were often in a struggle—not just for power, but for a way of life.

MR: You are obviously extremely passionate about story. How has that impacted Charley and how do you see her story impacting classrooms?

RSP: Learning is made more resonant through story when lived and imagined by readers through the eyes of strong and compelling characters. Out of Time Media brings them together in one online place, where flipped learning, social learning and storytelling invites learning beyond STEM, and STEAM to a new level of broad MASTERY.

Davinci_formula

My commitment to the importance of MASTERY is the reason why as part of the online learning platform, I plan to break out experiences and resources into Learning Departments.

These Learning Departments will include transdisciplinary learning opportunities, that combine areas of inquiry that Leonardo himself pursued in his large and compelling body of work, and that might engage someone interested in mathematics to pursue musical theory and composition, or an artist to study anatomy. This will allow students to explore their interests using the narrative of the novel as a roadmap.

MR: Out of Time is a huge project, with so many different aspects, and so many amazing ideas. What was the greatest challenge you faced over the last two years as an entrepreneur and what did you do to overcome this challenge?

RSP: As a writer, creative, and solopreneur, it has sometimes been lonely to hold onto the vision for Out of Time and bootstrap it into being. I have been fortunate to get feedback, support and encouragement along the way from groups like EdTechWomen. ETW’s invitation to participate on the “At the Helm :: Women’s Impact in EdTech” series at SXSWedu in Austin this year was an honor and an amazing experience!

I value these interactions, and the connections that have enabled me to keep Out of Time moving—and suggest improvements along the way.

MR: What is the number one piece of advice would give to others to aid their journey to success in our field?

RSP: Persistence, patience and unwavering belief in your idea, product or project are important as the educational technology field matures. Technology offers the potential to revolutionize teaching—and provoke resistance and lagging adoption based on lack of training, cost, and waiting for “the next big thing” to emerge. This has been true since the days of the mimeograph and the overhead projector (here I date myself!), and promises to get more challenging as new players, some with deeper pockets, enter the field.

MR: As I know that the competition is coming up fast, what can others do to get involved with Out of Time and to show their support?

RSP: I need your support to show the judges the power and potential of Out of Time and Out of Time Media as learning tools. The more I can show that others support my work and this story, the better chance I will have during the competition!

Show—and spread—the love:

  • Follow the Out of Time Blog
  • Tweet your support to @OutofTimeMovie
  • Use the hashtag #FriendsofOOT
  • “Like” Out of Time Media on Facebook
  • Share the Out of Time website and videos
  • Spread the word to friends and family
  • If you are an educator, or know one, who might like to get their class engaged in “making history” in a Twitter chat with Charley M and Friends @OutofTimeMovie, let me know that in comments as well!

I’m also inviting all readers of the EdTechWomen community to vote in the comments for which of two cover designs (pictured above) we’ve created they’d prefer for the book. And by the way, major kudos to my designer Melissa Brandstatter for her artistic vision and grace in accepting multiple challenges along the way to make Out of Time compelling visually, as well as wordily (Can I say that? I think I just made that up!)!

Please help me share the power this experience will be for students and help get Charley and her friends out into the world! They can not wait to share their story!

MR: This competition is coming up so fast! How are you feeling?

RSP: I am excited and nervous! I will be competing against five other very talented authors—none of whom I have met yet. It feels a little like I imagine competitors in American Idol or any of those talent competitions feel when they’ve gotten into the finals—the stakes are high and the eyes of the world are on them.

But I am keeping my eyes on winning as a way to get Charley’s story out to readers and dreamers everywhere who fancy themselves mastering worlds—real or imaginary—and making a difference in the lives of their family, their community and their world.

And then the real work begins—helping create an environment for learning that is consistent with the way things work in the real world. Because in life, one doesn’t do Biology for an hour, then Spanish, then History, then PE — all those things cross over, informing not just our brains but our lives. And we’re learning all the time! So why not make it relevant?

And because I believe every young person has their own form of genius to grow into, having the right inspiration to do it can make all the difference between learning to live and living to learn.


RobinScreen Shot 2014-03-08 at 11.30.41 AM Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing. Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.


EdTechWomen has previously recognized Robin Steven Payes for her excellent work in edtech through our SXSWedu Session “At the Helm :: Women’s Role in Edtech” and we are proud to continue to support her. Please show your support for this amazing woman by actively sharing her story and helping her novel Out of Time become the engaging, STEM-infused, multimedia, and cross-disciplinary teaching resource that it is destined to be for our students!

Robin Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing.Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.

When Time Is Unevenly Distributed

“The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” ~William Gibson

Smithsonian Future Is Here

Last weekend, I had the gorgeous, splendiferous, mind-bending opportunity to attend Smithsonian magazine’s “The Future is Here” Festival. Listening to the newest news on scientific discovery, exploration and art by some of today’s Superheroes of History (that is, if time were “evenly” distributed – since I’m safely writing this a week past the event, we can safely say that future is now history by today’s standards of time-keeping), we 300+ participants were regaled with the imperative to record human stories to be sent into deep-space messages; exoplanet exploration and the development of a “star shield” to better “see” via the Kepler telescope the presence and distinctive energetic signatures of potential Earth-like orbs in galaxies far-far away; Antarctic cosmologists’ detection of the earliest signature of the Big Bang; and even some of the ethics of re-birthing extinct species that once graced our own home planet. There were writers who have regaled the earth with science fiction that has been the inspiration for many a scientist who used the fiction as a jumping-off point for her own explorations of the universe. Mind blowing, or as my very creative, Argentine-artist friend Rosana Azar would say, “Blow-minding!”

Tweeting the event, Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.40.11 AMalong with a cadre of avid live conference bloggers, both Charley and I (Robin) were honored to have our tweets quoted in Smithsonian’s live reporting of the event:

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.39.29 AM

Loved this “capture” by fellow microblogger Summer Ash, quoting science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, on the one stunning photograph from space that could conceivably justify any investment our little exurban planet might put into exploring the multiverse:

Perhaps the most “blow-minding” exhibition of the day was the jet-powered Rocket Man flight: 58 seconds of a young man flying under jet-pack propulsion wearing a suitably superhero-like red-and-white suit and protected by nothing more than a helmet.

Wonder what Leonardo da Vinci would make of this–or wait, did he anticipate it 500 years ago?

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Off to the Past

For those of you who have been brave enough to watch videos Out of Time, thank you. I realize it’s been some time since we first chatted about this young adult time travel adventure, and perhaps you have been wondering what Charley and her friends have been doing since that autumn introduction.

Or maybe not.

But if you’ve tuned in at all, you may have noticed that our modern-day Renaissance genius is a very ambitious teenager. Where some teens dream of becoming tech-geek gazillionaires before the age of 25 (back in the day, when I was growing up, we used to think 40 and a cool million was aggressive!), Charley’s goal is to learn a good chunk of something about, well, everything, by the time she applies to college.

Davinci_formulaBecoming a Renaissance genius back in Leonardo da Vinci’s day would seem to have been a lot simpler. It’s simply a matter of degree.

Anyway, though I’d catch you up on what’s been going on.

LegolandIntroducing Charley: self-proclaimed teen genius. Finds Leonardo’s plans for a time machine in one of his notebooks and decides to build it for the school science fair with her smartest-geek-in-the-class pal Billy Vincenzo. Teacher says, sure, why not. BFF Beth Jacobs says, ha-ha-ha, Charley. You do too much. Besides, I’ve got my heart set on being a normal, fashionista teen with a huge crush on school hot-jock Lex Campbell. So go build your stupid time machine.

Build up: Charley convinces Billy the time machine is doable. Billy knows the science: Higgs-Boson may make faster-than-light travel possible in the quantum field, but in the physical world…fugheddaboutit.

But Charley goes to Take Your Child to Work Day at her dad’s Homeland Security-agency contracting company and learns that, amid the spook agencies of government, there’s something quantum afoot in the physical world. Logging on to Dad’s Top Secret-secured computer while he’s in a meeting, she gets the download for a mysterious formula that seems to tap into a reality-as-hologram science with the Qualia Rosetta. Part of mysterious Operation Firenze.

The messenger is the equally mysterious Kairos, a teen just a bit older than Charley who gives her two keys to time travel, the formula that unravels the Qualia Rosetta with coordinates set to 1492 Florence, and a mini-sculpture—the model for Leonardo’s Man-and-Horse. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth (LOL), Charley takes the key and runs with it!

Billy’s done more research, now he meets with Charley in her garage to assemble Leo’s version of the time machine. Still skeptical, even after Charley shows him the evidence, Billy knows their science grade—and winning the Da Vinci Middle School Science Fair depends on creating a model that would work if it could.

Meanwhile, aforementioned Lex, clueless to Beth’s crush on him, decides Charley’s time machine is key to his finding out when he’ll be drafted into the Major Leagues…and by what team. He’s holding out for the Nats, when he’ll beat out Bryce Harper for youngest player to join the pros.

Billy goes home and Lex corners Charley thinking she can send him into the future. An awkward embrace and an accidental triggering of the time machine and—poof! Fire, smoke, an inside tornado breaks out. Coughing and teary-eyed, Lex lets the smoke settle before he gets brave enough to set out and warn the kids: Charley’s disappeared!

And the rest is history! Charley whirls through the eye of time into a wild and weird alternate universe, or so she hypothesizes, until she crashes into a rocky outcropping on a field in the black of midnight amid a hail of cannon fire. The first-person shooter: none other than Leonardo da Vinci himself.

When the smoke clears, Charley is astonished to find herself in a close encounter with her Renaissance idol, and a badly banged up foot.

Charley’s been busy getting herself into some interesting new adventures with Bethy II and now involving a pig named—of course—Wilbur, and Billy’s beginning to get into the act. And Gwen may be ill!

No spoiler here… Not wanting to give up the ghost but there is a specter that hangs overCharley in this time and her own.

Pen and ink

Working now on what’s next: suffice it to say that there are Machiavellian manipulations that have Charley worried about her mother and keep her own future—and that of history—in doubt.

Keep your compass turned in this direction for more adventures through time and all around the globe. And join in tweet storytelling @OutofTimeMovie!