Greece

Back from family vacation in Greece.  Tiny notes/memories:

  • I have a heuristic that Americans fly the national flag much more than Europeans do, but in Greece, the Greek flag is all over the place.
  • Greeks really like, or Greeks think people in hotels and restaurants really like, soft-rock covers of hits from the 80s.  Maybe both!  We heard this mix CD everywhere.

    If you don’t feel like an hour and a half of this, at least treat yourself to James Farelli’s inexplicably fascinating acoustic take on “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

  • The city of Akrotiri in the Aegean islands, a thousand years older than classical Greece, was buried under 200 feet of ash by the massive eruption of Santorini. They’ve only just started to dig it out. There are wall frescoes whose paint is still colorful and fresh. But these wall frescoes aren’t on the walls anymore; they fell during the earthquake preceding the eruption and lie in fragments on the floors. Our guide told us that they don’t try to reconstruct these using computers; archeologists put the pieces together by hand. I was perplexed by this: why don’t they digitize the images and try to find matches? It seemed to me like exactly the sort of thing we now know how to do. But no: it turns out this is a problem CS people are already thinking about, and it’s hard. Putting together pottery turns out to be a computationally much easier problem. Why? Because pots are surfaces of revolution and so their geometry is much more constrained!
  • The 2-star Michelin molecular gastronomy restaurant Funky Gourmet, run by a member of the El Bulli disapora, is just as great as advertised. But how can you run a molecular gastronomy restaurant in Athens and not call it Grecian Formula…?

3 thoughts on “Greece

  1. Alison Miller says:

    I saw Ingrid Daubechies give a talk that mentioned computerized fresco reconstruction once! I think it was essentially this one : http://helper.ipam.ucla.edu/publications/caws3/caws3_13600.pdf (I couldn’t find a good account of this written by the researchers who did that reconstruction.)

    But those people were solving a different problem: this was a fresco that had been bombed in WW2, and had been photographed in B&W before then. So they were solving a jigsaw puzzle where they had the image on the box already, which is a much much easier problem! Especially when the pieces are degraded around the edge. (On the downside, they were missing the vast majority of the pieces; but they did end up with enough to let them effectively colorize the image once the pieces were placed.)

    It does seem like there might be some value in digitizing the pieces and crowdsourcing the reconstruction? I don’t know how much this is done, and it might be harder because the archeologists may be using some of the physical characteristics of the fragments that aren’t apparent in the scan.

  2. Emmanuel Kowalski says:

    I also saw Ingrid Daubechies give this lecture at ETH; here’s a link to the video of the talk:

    http://www.video.ethz.ch/speakers/pauli/2015/9627f750-c107-420f-a5ca-cf21654c632e.html

  3. Lovely post and interesting to find out about the molecular gastronomy restaurant. I’m actually reading about Ferran Adria right now. Greece on the other hand is amazing. I’ve written about it on my blog too, especially Naxos and Amorgos where I stayed.

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