Tag Archives: Sydney Padua

Science for the People: Lovelace & Babbage

sftpThis week we’re learning about a pair of 19th-century geniuses, and the friendship that gave rise to the era of modern computers. We’ll speak to artist and animator Sydney Padua about her graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer. We’ll also talk to Suw Charman-Anderson, founder of Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Don’t forget to support the Science for the People Patreon Campaign to keep the sciencey goodness flowing toward your ear holes.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.


The Proto-Trolling of Charles Babbage

No one, not even his closest friends, would deny that Charles Babbage was a first rate pedant. In 1842, Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote a poem entitled “The Vision of Sin”, which included the following verse:

Fill the cup, and fill the can:
Have a rouse before the morn:
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.

Good stuff that. I feel all inspired to fill life up with joy, because it is fleeting and meaningless. The “carpe-est” of “diems”, if you will*. I am so moved that the editor in me is not even bothered in the slightest** about the unorthodox punctuation choices.

Charles Babbage is a better pedant than I. He wrote a letter to the poet:

In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads, “Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born”; I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend ot keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum totatl is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows: “Every moment*** dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born.”

Babbage trolled Tennyson. Babbage trolled Tennyson hard.

*Please don’t.

**Botheration is stastically indistinguishable from “not bothered in the slightest”, primarily due to large sample variance.

***Apparently, the original version used “minute” which Tennyson later changed to “moment”.

SOURCE: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua , which you go and buy now. In fact, I ‘ve already judged you more than a little if you have already bought the book, read it, and been completely familiar with this story, because you read the end notes like a true scholar.

Stupid Questions

From the introduction to Randall Munroe’s What If?:

They say there are no stupid questions. That’s obviously wrong; I think my question about hard and soft things, for example, is pretty stupid. But it turns out that trying to thoroughly answer a stupid question can take you to some pretty interesting places.

What If? is the book I would have written if I was better at math and had free time*. Much like The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage is the book I would have written if I could draw and had free time*.

*This does not imply that either Randall Munroe or Sydney Padua have any free time. It merely implies that my priorities are misaligned.

The Analytical Engine, Plan 25

"The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage" by Sydney PaduaMy copy of Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage is supposed to arrive next week (21 April 2015). I’m a little excited. As regular patrons of The Finch & Pea know, I’m just a little bit of a fan of her work*.

Until then (or until the copy you just ordered arrives), you contemplate the complexity and beauty of the completed analytical engine (if only in Padua’s imagination) at The Guardian.  You can also read about the development of the illustration and the choice of color palette at Padua’s own site.

*Mutual appreciation society

The Publishing Engine

Am I unreasonably excited that my favorite webcomic, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, is going to be published as a book? No. For those of you familiar with the funny, hyper-referential, quirky work of Sydney Padua, my excitement would be considered entirely reasonable in its grandiosity.

Now it my great pleasure to announce that this humble comic has been elevated to the PANTHEON one might say, actually, one would definitely say, because Pantheon Bookshas heard your pleas (a lot more effectively than I have it seems) and we are going to do Lovelace and Babbage: The Papery Thing with Ink On!

If you were wondering what to get me for my birthday next year. . .