JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post #88
This will be the first out-of-sequence post looking at the intervals of stopped time (random or not), and how people and cultures were able to stop or save time, and how they could arrange to segment and store time over thousands of years.
The first entry is from the Scientific American from August 25, 1877 and records the experiments of A.M. Worthington. They are perhaps one of the first revelations on the quiet residence of energy in something as simple as a drop of water or mercury. Much in the same way Robert Hooke revealed the microscopic universe to unsuspecting readers, so too did Worthington, in his way, reveal the explosive world of small, fast, and lost events. Worthington’s style is of course exceptionally restrained and free of exclamation, even while describing the first time any human has witnessed these events, like so: “…watching the changes of form of drops of various liquids falling vertically on a horizontal plane…the whole splash takes place so quickly that the eye cannot follow the changes of form…” This report, “On Drops” follows Worthington’s own earlier effort of 1876 and 1877 “A Second Paper on The Forms Assumed by Drops of Liquids falling vertically on a Horizontal Plate” (Proceedings of the Royal Society, 174 and 177), chronicles his brilliant adventure in the newly discovered world of fast time—a world he was pretty much creating as he moved along. (A particularly good description of the experiment as well as an image of the apparatus can be found on Martin Waugh’s lovely and arresting site—he is one of the leading modern practitioners making art in
this genre of high-speed photography: liquid sculpture calls it.) ) It is particularly powerful to note that the illustrations here are drawings of the phenomena of his study of splashes—drawings, not photographs. The photos by Worthington (On A Splash from a Drop of Milk) would not appear until 1894. (An entire book is dedicated to this subject by Worthington, who published, in 1904, the wonderful A study of Splashes.) This means, I guess, like the heroic chroniclers of snowflake forms and such that he ran many, many experiments and painstakingly observe red different parts of the splashes and recorded them by hand. Worthington wouldn’t be able to photographically record the images of his splashes until later after the application of inventions and advances by C.V. Boys and Lord Rayleigh. Until that time his audience would have to depend upon his tenacious observational powers—or try the experiment themselves and make their own observations, as Worthington provided all the necessary data for his experiments to be replicated, of course.
The next paper relates the success of Ernst Mach and P. Salcher in creating an apparatus to illuminate and photograph a bullet in flight—this was again found in the Scientific American, but for 24 September 1887 (supplement 612). Unfortunately, their results are rendered only by a drawing, even though the half-tone was available by this point to provide a high-quality reprint of a photograph, it took Scientific American another few years to start employing that breakthrough method. (I’m not sure why this was so.)
The results were made available in the original Austria edition of his publication from which this article is drawn. This paper "Photographische Fixierung der durch Projektile in der Luft eingeleiten Vorgange" presented to the Academy of Sciences in Vienna in 1887, was revolutionary in more ways than one, as it was really about the visualization of flow over objects, and in particular, the movement of media as a bullet traveled at supersonic speeds—and to which Mach would donate his name for the description of units of supersonic speed. (The term was first publicized in 1929 when Swiss engineer Jakob Ackeret used Mach’s name for the first time in the description of these speeds.)
This last photo is included just because of its sheer beauty—it is far in advance and way out of the continuum for a discussion like this, but this effort, produced by Harold Edgerton, just must stay. This is the titanic blast of ingenuity that was the intellectual successor to the earlier works listed above, but the technical advancement is just so fabulously great that the earlier scientists could simply not imagine them. This image was as much science fiction to them as their images were to scientists considering these ideas right there at the birth of photography in 1839.) Harold “Doc” Edgerton, 1893-1990, who would form EG&G and serve MIT for many years owned this field of photography for many years—time stopped for the venerable Edgerton right after he paid for his lunch at the faculty club at MIT. Failing life with a heart attack at 87.)
For an interesting look at videos of various sorts of splashes see the North Carolina School of Science and Math HERE.