Cyberspace Web





Enter the web.


Leonardo da Vinci possessed a remarkably hypertextual mind. His curiosity probed every node it could get at in the gigantic hypertext we like to call Mother Nature, and almost in the sense defined by Vannevar Bush, da Vinci authored his notes by weaving together the lexia he observed. The design for his pedal-powered flying machine drew its inspiration from birds, which is no remarkable feat seeing as how hundreds of engineers and inventors, both before and after him, tried to imitate nature in an attempt to unravel the secret of flight. Leonardo differed from most of these probing minds, however, in that he appeared to be a very aggresive hyperreader. He offered the following:

A bird is an instrument working according to a mathematical law. It lies within the power of man to make this instrument with all its motions, but without the full scope of its powers; but this limitation only applies with respect to balancing itself. Accordingly, we may say that such an instrument fabricated by man lacks nothing but the soul of man.

It's quite amazing to note how Leonardo had been able to see the relevance of maintaining balance as the center of mass wavers due to the flapping of the wings. He did not seek a solution to this problem; not having built a prototype, he assumed that the pilot would be able to compensate for potential imbalance by modifying his posture. However, da Vinci was not one to give up so early. He kept clicking. After having spent some time studying aerodynamics, he noted:

Describe underwater swimming, and you will have described the flight of birds.

Being able to see the similarity between the two elemental powers of air and water, apart from being preposterously heretical, was simply ingenious. This seems even more impressive when one considers that Leonardo's contemporaries were used to thinking in terms of solely discrete elemental powers. Leonardo was devoted to discovering the connections between everything, however, so much so that he has even been quoted saying:

Water struck by water forms circles around a point of impact, the voice in the air does the same along a greater distance, fire goes still farther and still farther the mind in the universe, but since the universe is finite the mind does not reach infinity.

It almost seems as if Leonardo's mind was working against his contemporary culture, deconstructing everything he had ever been told and linking the lexia in a way that made the most sense to him. His lack of schooling during his former years had given him the curiosity and the self-confidence with which he tackled the enigmas posed by nature solely using the clues offered in turn by nature itself. He created inventions for times of both war and peace, much like Vannevar Bush who worked on the Manhattan Project. Leonardo was not an artist, nor a sculptor, nor a mathematician, nor an engineer, nor an inventor, nor a doctor, nor a musician, nor a poet. He was all of these things, and more. He was a hypertext reader, and he was taking his time with the universe.

One can't help but wonder if he had a Memex on autopilot for a brain.