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Great post today by Mario Livio on Galileo's 1588 lectures on mapping the structures of Dante's inferno.
In 1588, shortly before he assumed the position of lecturer in mathematics at Pisa, the twenty-four-year-old Galileo Galilei (Figure 1) was invited by the Florentine Academy to present two lectures, which had an unusual title "On the Shape, Location, and Size of Dante's Inferno." To some, this may sound like an uninvited and presumptuous penetration of science into the artistic domain, but interpreting it like this would be a mistake. In attempting to mathematically map Dante's disorienting description of hell in the Divine Comedy, Galileo was actually trying to build a bridge between the epic masterpiece and scientific thinking. His goal was to demonstrate that science is an integral part of culture, and that it can enhance, rather than diminish, the poetic experience.