Monday, May 23, 2005

Adventures in Stockholm, Part I

I had a completely free day on Sunday, so I resolved to go to the Vasamuseet (Vasa museum), the final resting place of an ill-fated seventeenth-century warship that didn't make it very far out of Stockholm Harbor. The ship's design was quite flawed; its center of gravity was above the water level and it was too heavily burdened with cannon. Apparently somebody did a finite element analysis of it and figured out that if it had only been about one foot wider on each side, it would have been fine. It makes you wonder whether history would be different if the architect of the boat had made this change in his plans.

The Vasa was built to help in the war against Poland. Apparently the King of Poland had once ruled Sweden, but was deposed because the Swedes were by this time Protestant, and he was Catholic. Unperturbed, he still believed he was the rightful king of Sweden, and waged a war against Sweden. I'm pretty sure that he never regained control of Sweden.

The ship was amazingly well-preserved in the thick mud of Stockholm's harbor. They even found some skeletons of those who didn't survive when the ship sank, and a locked chest containing four sails. The Vasa museum has the oldest existing sail in the world. It was fascinating to see. Unfortunately, all my pictures turned out really badly, so I won't trouble you with those.

I also saw the Medeltidsmuseet (Medieval museum), which was all about medieval Stockholm. I thought it was really interesting too. Apparently because of trade, medieval Stockholm had a lot of Germans, and some positions in the city government were reserved for Germans. After Gustav Vasa became King, though, they kicked all the Germans out of the government. Gustav Vasa was the first great Swedish King, and this inspired a bit of a nationalist movement in Sweden.

I went to the opening reception for the conference on Sunday night, and talked a bit with some folks I already knew, but then I turned in once again for an early night. On Monday morning the conference began in earnest. I went to some interesting talks, including a talk by the guy who's going to interview me at IBM. The poster session was on Monday evening. They bribed people to attend with food and wine. I had a fair number of people come up to me and talk about my research. Here is a picture of me in front of my poster.

After the poster session, it was still light outside, so I went for a walk, exploring Stockholm north of my hotel. I walked as far as a park which is the site of an old observatory, built several hundred years ago. It was on a high hill, so I stood up there and had a great view of the city.

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