Cambridge, UK 2019

Camera: Leica SL
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My visit to Cambridge, UK was absolutely wonderful.  I visited to deliver a seminar on using ultrastructure to characterize neural connectivity, and how we’ve applied it to the study of retinal circuitry.  I am grateful to Andras Lakatos (@lakatoslab) for the invitation and the hospitality of his lab.  Conversations were stimulating, and I am looking forward to where our collaboration will go.

I also had the fortunate opportunity to stay at King’s College in Cambridge for a couple of nights during my visit which afforded me ready access to the old town, the university, and to the King’s College Cathedral.

 

Camera: Leica SL
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Aperture: f/4
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While walking through the streets of Cambridge, I got to thinking quite a bit about history in context of how humanity tends to move technologically speaking, forwards through time rather than backwards.   Cambridge and Oxford were (and are) the centers of academic thought and progress in the UK, and the state of affairs in the world has been weighing on my mind.  Being in England, Brexit has been ever-present, being discussed in pubs, restaurants, taxi cabs, and workplaces.  Everyone seems to be wondering what is going to happen and is frustrated at the lack of leadership.

Reflecting on Brexit while walking through the streets of Cambridge and looking at buildings people lived in going back to the 1400s, inspired some thought about how things were done in 1400s England.  Things like sewage disposal… which in the mornings would go, out the window onto the street below. This sounds bizarre, but was true and whole economies were built around how to deal with human waste.  It turns out that waste was a problem that had been solved and England, along with the rest of Europe moved backwards as nationalism and war swept the continent.  However, at one time, the U.K. along with much of Europe was ruled by the Roman Empire.  During this time, there were public sewers, clean water from aqueducts, …. and then in the middle ages, people forgot all those lessons along with the technology that went along with it, and the reality that people lived with changed.  Perceptions changed too and society moved from a civilized one united by representational government, to one that valued toughness and admired men for their skill in combat.  Bathing, sanitation, and personal cleanliness became less important to society.  As this happened, disease outbreaks also became common enough that up to a quarter of the population in European cities died from disease including cholera, plague, etc…  How did we lose sight of common, practical and desirable technologies related to sewage disposal and clean water for almost 300 years?  How does a society move from embracing education, skills, and technology to one that rejects these things and accepts a clearly more unhealthy and inferior way of life.

Camera: Apple iPhone XS
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By the late 1700s, academic progress was coming back into fashion in England and people like Henry Cavendish helped push our knowledge and technologies back into importance.  I must say that it was a bit of a thrill to come across this plaque, and to see some of the other dedications to the historical advancement of knowledge around Cambridge.

However, I worry that events like Brexit, and the nationalism that gave birth to it, along with the election of Donald Trump in America is moving us backwards.  There already have been dramatic shifts in intellectualism and the value that we place upon expertise and professionalism.  We have leadership that has adopted truly embarrassing and frightening perspectives that impact how people are being treated domestically and overseas.  We are letting the current Republican leadership debase our standing in the world, are damaging the very institutions that create stable societies, and are deconstructing our foreign services and intelligence communities… for what purpose?  How far back will we go?  Humanity has demonstrated before that we have rejected the value of an education and of expertise in favor of personalities, fame and fear.  What is this going to cost society?

Speaking for myself, I can only try and be the best, and most compassionate human being who strives for empathy, as well as respecting and honoring the practice and culture of academia.  I will trust that it, along with hard work will help to move humanity forward, past the ignorance and indecorous behavior that has seemingly swept the globe these past few years.  If it does not, and we slip into another dark age, I will be able to rest in my grave with the knowledge that I labored for something better, more respectful, rigorous, and professional.

 

Image courtesy Andras Lakatos

 

Image courtesy Andras Lakatos

 

Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Focal Length: 35mm
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Camera: Leica SL
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Camera: Leica SL
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Camera: Leica SL
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Camera: Leica SL
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
Exposure: 1/500
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 1,600

 

Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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Camera: Leica Monochrom
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