A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
This is the heart of the beautiful orrey created by William Pearson (1767-1847, and one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society) as found in the magisterial if not occasionally problematic Cyclopedia of Abraham Rees (1743-1825). It was published in 1817 and features the main gearing for a mechanical display of the functioning of the Solar System:
This is the detail from the following, full-length version, which is 8"x10"--so there's a fair amount of detail in a limited field:
And the beautiful Dadaist detail of Jupiter and Saturn:
The original print is available from the blog's bookstore, here.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 1107 (from 2010, Appended April 27, 2015) [A continuation of our History of Dots series.]
The history of dots must have some fair share of its content filled with a very varied history of astronomy, which just goes to show that even within the seeming-sameness of microscopic investigations of dots that its subcategories could be so vast and differentiated. (The image above is a small detail from the following image, below.)
Dots aren’t necessarily just dots–even in representing the stars, dots have a rich history. The first star-dots published in the West appear in 1482, taken from the work of the first century astronomer and philosopher Hyginius1, and is a book that contains maps of the constellations composed of such beautiful light-encrusted bits. There wouldn’t be another work like this one, strangely, for another 75 years. Alessandro Piccolomini’s2 work of 1559 (which would be the first true star atlas), and again we see the familiar representation.
Galileo’s dots were very aggressive. By 1610 he had produced his fifth and most powerful telescope, allowing things to be seen one thousand times closer, using it to make enormous discoveries–discoveries so big in fact that their towering significance is a but hard to understand today in the context of early 17th century knowledge. It was all published in his fantastic Sidereus Nuncius on March 4, 1610—the extraordinary very title page3 of the book proclaiming some of the great discoveries of Galileo’s adventure.
One monumental outcome of Galileo’s work was expanding the number of stars in the sky, which was basically mucking around with the perfect plan of the creator–formerly a cornerstone for the existence of a divine being. With the exception of comets and eclipses the sky had remained immutable, a perfect score of the creator’s creation, until 1572, when Tycho Brahe noticed something new in Cassiopeia, something that was not a comet—a “something” that was a star. This was momentous because the night sky had been seen for centuries as being complete—a new star, the Nova of Brahe, contradicted this high belief, offering the possibilities of newness where there had not been one previously. And so too with Kepler’s new star of 1602.
One of the things that Galileo brought to the world was an entirely new sky, revealed to him through his telescope—so many stars that he could only guess (though he reckoned that there was an order of magnitude more stars than previously known “stars in myriads, which had never been seen before….and which surpasses the old, previously known, stars by ten times”).
Which brings me to the images that I stumbled on today from “Statement of Views respecting the Sidereal Universe”4which was the work of the astronomer and great popularizer, Richard A. Proctor (“B.A. (Cambridge), Honorary Fellow of King's College, London”).
Proctor’s dots challenge all dots that have come before so far as theorizing on the structure (and extent) of the Milky Way is concerned. Proctor refers to William Herschel’s5--the man who first gave the Milky Way its shape and who fixed our own sun in an inferior and not-particularly-special place inside that map--statement that the extent and constitution of the Milky Way is “unfathomable”.
Proctor gets there by presenting a map of the night sky with stars visible to the naked eye:
And then the double hemisphere map of the northern and southern skies “We have here the first step towards just views of the constitution of the Milky Way, or rather the next step beyond the great, but little noticed, discovery of Sir W. Herschel's, that the bright clouds of the Milky Way are for the most part spherical clusters of stars.”(Page 546.)
Finally is the crux of the matter: two sections of an fantastic map displaying 324,198 stars visible via a 2.5 inch aperture telescope.
(The following being a small detail in the above section:)
He comments:“I assert, without the slightest fear of contradiction by any possessing such knowledge, that the broad teaching of the equal-surface chart. 0/3 24,000 stars disposes finally of all theories of the constitution of the sidereal universe which had previously been enunciated. The chart does not definitively indicate a new theory—rather it suggests the idea that the constitution of the sidereal universe is too complex to be at present ascertained. But it completely negatives (i), the stratum theory (even in the modified form apparently retained by Sir W. Herschel) ; (ii), the flat-ring theory of Sir John Herschel ; and (iii) the infinitely extended stratum theory, with condensation towards the mean plane, which Struve adopted.” (Page 547)
I think that for 1873 the verbose Mr. Proctor got his point across.
1. Hyginius Mythographus (fl. 1st century A.D.). Poeticon astronomicon. Edited by Jacobus Sentinus and Johannes Lucilius Santritter. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 14th October 1482. The first star atlas per se, standing alone in its field for a century.
2. Piccolomini, Alessandro. De la Sfera del Mondo. 1559
3. Galilei, Galilei Sidereus Nuncius (known in English as Starry Messenger), published 1610 The title page reads: Great and very wonderful spectacles, and offering them to the consideration of every one, but especially of philosophers and astronomers; which have been observed by Galileo Galilei … by the assistance of a perspective glass lately invented by him; namely, in the face of the moon, in innumerable fixed stars in the milky-way, in nebulous stars, but especially in four planets which revolve round Jupiter at different intervals and periods with a wonderful celerity.
4. Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Paper, Abstracts and Reports of the Proceedings of the Society from Niovember 1872 to June 1873, vol XXXIII, London, printed by John Strangeways, 1873.
5. It seems that few people now remember Frederick William Herschel as a great discoverer of alternative existences, but, well, that's pretty much what he did--and he did it during a time that must've made his astronomical discoveries seem like science fiction .For example, in 1785 Herschel published a revolutionary image of the “Stellar System” (the Milky Way), showing its irregular pattern and the off-center placement of our sun amidst a panoply of other stars. (His image was remarkably and substantially correct, with the most grievous error being the placement of the sun too close to the center of the galaxy.) It was an image which bought the concept of a not so humano-centric idea into popular philosophy, and that our sun was a star among stars in a sea of stars.
I must say that I rarely see a question mark in scientific illustration--there may be an enumeration at some point with a footnoted question or question mark, but very rarely in the illustration itself. (I cannot recall ever seeing a question mark on a printed map, by the way, even though for centuries there were plenty of blank spaces that were filled in with wind roses or compass roses or text or a cartouche or a decorative border of some sort--that, and flora/fauna both real and imagined, would serve to take up the insulting white space of unknown geography. But not question marks. No?)
And so here it is next to the spectra of a meteor, appearing as the illustrated plate in Alexander Stewart Herschel's paper on meteoric spectra published in The Intellectual Observer for October, 1866. (A.S. Herschel [d. 1907] was part of the famous family of astronomers, with John his father and William his grandfather; he scoped out his own specialty in meteoric spectroscopy.)
And another detail from this beautiful illustration, this having nothing to do with question marks--it simply has a pre-modern non-representational art quality to it:
This lovely image of the head and envelopes of Coggia's Comet (C/1874 HI) as seen by Norman Lockyer on a summery night "under first-rate atmospheric conditions", July 12, 1874, and then drawn by him--and then published almost immediately in Nature on July 16, 1874, the magazine that Lockyer edited. This image is beautiful and significant for its "striking differences" from earlier cometary images
"Without doubt, C/1874 H1 (Coggia) was a beauty; a true great comet. At its brightest, it probably exceeded the first magnitude and displayed a series of envelopes within its coma that astronomers compared with Donati's Comet 16 years earlier. Suitably placed observers also noted maximum naked-eye tail lengths reaching 70 degrees as the comet passed near Earth in July." Seargent, David A. J. (2008). "C/1874 H1 (Coggia)". The greatest comets in history. p. 126. --Wiki, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C/1874_H1#cite_ref-6
This interesting graph of cosmic discovery (and re-discovery) is found in the open pages of Martin Harwitt's Cosmic Discovery, the Search, Scope, and Heritage of Astronomy, Basic Books, 1981 (page 14). It is an interesting advanced-introductory book which has a number of surprises, including this astro-discovery graph (below). There's another unusual display of historical data in an optical power of telescopes graph, which plots "Sensitivity improvement over the eye" of telescopes with astronomers and observatories over time, from Galileo to 1980 (and which is found on page 175). They're handy and useful and tell in a quickish glance some parts of the history of astronomy.
And so there came a time in 1923 and 1924 when it was determined that when the Earth next came into closest proximity with Mars (closest in opposition for a century) that efforts would be made to determine whether or not there was anyone around on that planet. The idea of the radio being a powerful-enough instrument to be used in such a way was initiated in 1896 by Tesla, and soon followed at the turn of the century with support for the idea by Marconi and Kelvin. (This interest was perhaps ignited after both Tesla and Marconi detected unexpected and steady signals that they thought were extraterrestrial but which were in fact ionospheric radiation--and of course there was Percival Lowell and his self-derived belief in Martian intelligence as described by the thought that there were canals on the surface of Mars.
This was a massive-idea effort: a U.S. government initiative demanded five minutes of radio silence per hour over a 36-hour period in the vast hope that transmitters closed down that if there were any radio signals being directed towards the Earth from Mars that they could be more easily detectable.
This was the magnificent "National Radio Silence Day". And it was extraordinary that i twas supposed to affect every radio in the country.
William F. Friedman, the Chief of the Code Section in the office of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army, was on the job and ready to decipher any messages that might need deciphering, which was some very hopeful thinking--not only was it hypothesized that there might be life but that it was also sufficiently advanced from some semi-primordial goo as to have a technology capable of interplanetary communication, and that a code expert might be able to read anything that came in.
Additionally that New York Timesarticle from 1921 described the proposals for the construction of a 60' (720") reflecting telescope--an absolutely enormous thing for the time, and for now, considering that the largest reflecting telescope yet built is 420" (Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC)), and that is a segmented scope, whereas this 720" mirror-monster would have been one big piece of glass.
But the country as a whole deserves a bit of credit for being so interested in the possibly of communicating with extraterrestrials thatit was willing to let a main source of information and entertainment be interrupted for science, and that so many people had a hand in this. It was possibly one of the largest public experiments in the history of experimentation in the United States, and was also one of the earliest SETI attempts to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
This is just a quick addition to a continuing series on antiquarian cosmological images (the two major posts, Visual Chronology of Cosmology, Part I and Part II) containing 80 images, mostly before the 19th century) and a long series on the History of Dots. The engraving below comes from the great intellectual explorer, Fr. Athansius Kircher, in his ultra-fabulous three-volume Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652-4). And in here--as is the case with some other cosmological images--in between the sphere of the Sun and the sphere of the stars was the realm of the planets, and that is where Fr. Kircher's artist employed the use of dots, to differentiate the planetary real estate from everything else.
And the image in full view (both images reproduced from the Hachette reprint):
I uncovered a somewhat found-again-lost-again paper in the collection here, an unusual small-distribution version of a great paper in the history of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The work is by N.R. Schwartz and Charles Townes, "Interstellar and Interplanetary Communication by Optical Masers", which appeared in the journal Nature for April 15, 1961 (volume 190, pp 205-208), and I have seen it referenced here and there as a started-it-all sort of paper as the first applied and elaborated scientific effort "to communicate with other intelligent life [which] might exist on neighboring planetary systems". That is to say it is a more involved approach to detection than the two earlier and perhaps more-famous papers by G. Cocconi and P. Morrison, "Searching for interstellar communications" (a short paper published in Nature, volume 184, No. 4690, pp. 844-845, September 19,1959) and F. Drake's "How can we detect radio transmissions from distant planetary systems?", published in Sky and Telescope (volume 19, No. 3, pp. 140-143, January 1960).
The present copy is an offset, stapled affair sent to the editor of Physics Today; it has the annotation "Mr. Katcher" in a secretarial hand at top, that being David Katcher, the founding editor-in-chief. This is a pre-printed version, and is dated more than a month before the article's publication, and is dated February 27, 1961.
Both Schwartz and Townes were at the Institute for Defense Analysis in DC at the time of publication, Townes being the Director of Research; later in 1961 Townes would become Provost and professor of physics at MIT. In addition to the Nobel Prize in physics, Townes was awarded the Templeton Prize (in the understanding of religion and science).
The full text as it appears in six pages in Nature appears here at Coseti; it is obviously a different format from the 14-page variety that I have here, and has a few minor changes, though for all intents and purposes the text is the same.
The Cocconi/Morrison paper is located in full text here at Coseti.
Also just for the sake of it, the Drake equation (1961) for determining the number of extraterrestrial civilizations, here, again at Coseti.
I found this very interesting image in the early pages of T.E.R. Phillip's astronomical review and history, Hutchinson's Splendour of the Heavens, issued by the publishing house whose name is in the title, and printed in London in 1923. What we see here is a representation of light, or at least the corpuscular theory of light and the movement of the corpuscles. The theory is partially the work of the Christian atomist Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who argued that light was composed of infinitesimally small particles traveling at finite speeds and in a straight line in all directions.
The corpuscular theory preceded the wave theory which preceded the EM theory which preceded the quantum theory of light, and it is interesting to note that even though this work was published 18 years after the Einstein paper of 1905 and four years following the Eddington/Dyson et al eclipse confirmation of relativity after which Einstein became a mega-star, that there is scant mention of this paper in this book in spite of his 14 other mentions.'
Still, this is a pretty cool rendering of the "shape" and constituents of light.
Christian Huygens (1629-1695) worked across many fields, including astronomy, biology, math and physics, and was extraordinarily productive, making numerous contributions in the physical and theoretical areas, as well as being a prolific author and correspondent.
These images were published in his Systema Saturium..., published in the Hague in 16591, which was his fundamental work on the planet and in which he announces the discovery of its rings--this was a very considerable element, because the "arms" encompassing the planet had been a mystery to a generation of astronomers, from Galileo onward. The roman numerals relate the belief in the structure of the rings according to observer, so I was made by Galileo in 1610, II by Scheiner, 1614; III by Riccioli,1641-1643. IV-VII by Hevelius; VIII and IX by Riccioli, 1648-1650; X by Divini, 1646-1648. XI by Fontana in 1636; XII by Gassendi in 1646, and XIII by Fontana and others from 1644-1645. (This list identifying the rings of Saturn over time come from notes I had taken and misplaced, though the original I am sure comes from published work by Ronald Brashear, head of Special Collections at the Smithsonian.)
Here's Huygen's own beautiful and modern image of the planet, from his page 21 of his work above:
JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding an earlier post from 2013, but different enough to get its own Post # 2297)
Thinking about the depth of space and visually explaining it are two different things--vast numbers and the deepest depths, all colliding with the imagination, which really has a hard time keeping up with it all.
This beautiful engraving appeared in Amedee Guillemin's Le Ciel: notions d'astronomie a l'usage des gens du monde et de la jeunesse, which was published by Librairie de L. Hachette and Company, and printed in 1865 (the images from which are available here). Guillemin (1826-1893) was a social/culture writer who became a very respected science journalist/writer, becoming very popular with works in physics, technology, astronomy and general science, many lavishly illustrated.
There are many striking images in this book, The Sky/the Heavens..., but I've chosen this one because it has a certain deep depth to it, and relays a complexity and distinctness to something that is generally imaged as being less so, being a massive star cluster and all. Unlike many of his other books, the great illustrations here are the small text images, some only 25% of the page, and in most cases rendered sparingly, and with a real feel of "difference" to them (at least so to me).
The "Amas du Toucan", known now more familiarly as 47 Toucanae or 47 Tuc (NGC 104), is a bright element in the southern sky, a huge cluster 120 light years wide and 16,700 light years from Earth, visible to the naked eye in the constellation Toucan (created by Petrus Plancius in 1598 or so). And here it is, in a little 9x8 cm engraving with hundreds of white points as stars, made after an engraving of Sir William Herschel (1738-1822, a German-born English astronomer who--with his sister Caroline and brother John--spent decades observing and recording stars, double stars, clusters and nebulae).
47 Tuc was first catalogued as not-a-star by Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762), a French astronomer who found it too be too fuzzy to be a single star, and who produced a 10,000 (Southern) star catalog, Coelum Australe Stelliferum, which was published in 1762, and which also introduced 14 new constellations. 47 Tuc made another quick appearance in the great Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d'Étoiles ("Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters"), a superb and meticulous work by Charles Messier, and published in 1771.
But distances and depths such as we know them now were not-conceivable at this point for Guillemin--and really would be for another 60 years or so. At this point, and for some time to come, the Milky Way was considered to be the entirety of the universe. The business of galaxies being outside of the Milky Way is a relatively recent development, determined so by Harlow Shapley in 1924, expanding the size of the universe ten-fold to 300,000 light years; this was blown up a quite a bit by Edwin Hubble in '24 to 900,000 light years, and then five years later in one of his most famous papers Hubble blew the figure up a lot, expanding the universe to 280 million light years. Walter Baade and others added to the figure in the 1950's (4 billion light years or so), and during the 1960's-1990's the figure expanded to 25-30 billion light years, finding its way to 94 billion light years in 2006.
I would imagine that the concept of galaxies outside of our own, and that the universe was vastly larger than we thought, and that the potential for there being new/unforeseen discoveries was great, that in 1924/1929 it may have seemed somewhat like Galileo suddenly seeing an order of magnitude more stars than had ever been seen before by the naked eye...that the sky which had basically been unchanged in appearance to humans for thousands of years really wasn't what people thought it was. Perhaps it was like the Two Dimensional beings in Flatland trying to comprehend the first appearance of a Three Dimensional entity. Or of course the realization could have been like when Sandy Cheeks came to the shocking epiphany in an episode of the Immortal Sponge Bob Square Pants that the titanic battle she had been waging and ostensibly won with an Alaskan Bull Worm was just her fighting with the tip of the beast's tongue--oh. Oh my. Something along those orders. Deep depth.
The Guillemin work is simply a lovely and elegant thing--one of many accomplishments in a beautiful and relatively simple book.
Well, these look unusual to me, mainly because I do not understand the representation of the Sun in either image. The first image (printed I guess around 1860) is the easier of the two, showing the Oikoumene, the inhabited world, of the Earth as known to Herodotus, the orbis herodoti, of the 5th century bce. All of the land to the right (south) is Libya, Arabia, Persia, and India, all undifferentiated, though we can see the Nile delta. The two main land masses poking into the sea are Thrace and Phrygia, with
no sign of very much to the west of that, no sign of Italy, nothing for the Celtic regions or Iberia, with some hint of polar regions. Why the Sun is so, I am not sure.
The red Sun makes another appearance in the outline of the solar system, in the next image. It is red, and brilliantly so, and firey; in the place of the Earth in the third sphere is the Moon, and beyond that another yellow firey star, which I take to be, perhaps, our own planet. I can't read this one, the yellow star and all...though it is very pretty.
Just a very short note here, as I was doing a little work on black holes, and read the earliest recognizable scientific papers on the idea of the black hole (I almost wrote black "whole" which is an interesting concept that I guess might be sort of the same idea as a black 'hole" if the notion existed), and thought to reproduce parts of them here. The paper is by John Michell (mind the 't"!, 1724-1793, pioneering/filed creator of seismology and magnetometry, and one of the first people to competently weight the world) and exists in this long but beautifully titled work found in the Philosophical Transactions in 1784:
"If the semi-diameter of a sphere of the same density as the Sun were to exceed that of the Sun in the proportion of 500 to 1, a body falling from an infinite height toward it would have acquired at its surface greater velocity than that of light, and consequently supposing light to be attracted by the same force in proportion to its inertia, with o ther bodies, all light emitted from such a body would be made to return toward it by its own proper gravity." (Michell, Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society of London, January 1,1784.
He came up with the beautiful idea of "dark stars", and even how to find them--it is unfortunate how (and also a function of the times) that his work would go basically unnoticed until a time when it could be better understood, but only so far as historicism is concerned. Michell however was rescued in the 1970s at least in bibliographies, lifted from his parson's grave of scientific anonymity.
This beautiful object is Le jeu de la sphere ou de l'univers selon Tyco Brahe [The game of the (celestial) sphere, or the universe according...] and was printed in 1661, and was an educational toy for the advancement of kids young and old. It was played with a spinner and took the players on a tour of the universe, compiled in 4 elements, 7 planets, the constellations of the Northern hemisphere, the Zodiac, then constellations of the Southern hemisphere, and then the Empyrean. Presumably after playing at the game for some time the players would know something at least through familiarity.
1) Earth ; Case 2) Water ; 3) the three Regions of the air; 4) Region of Fire ; 5) the Moon ; 6) Mercury ; 7) Venus ; 8) the Sun ; 9) March ; 10) Jupiter ; 11) Saturn ; 12) the firmament ; 13) the Little Dipper ; 14) the Dragon ; 15) Cepheus ; 16) Cassiopeia ; 17) the Camel ;18) the Great Bear ; 19) La Teste in Cheveleure Berenice ; 20) The Bouvier ; 21) Hercules Crown of the North ; 22 ) The Serpent ; 23 ) Antinois ; 24) Sting Eagle ;25) the Liré sign; 26) the Dolphin Horse ; 27) the Pegasus Horse ; Case . 28) Andromeda ; Case . 29 ) The Triangle of the North the Abelles ; Case . 30) : Perseus ; Case . 31) the hide ;32) the Aries ; 33) Taurus ; 34) the Gemini ; the Escreuisse ; 36) Lyon ;37) the Virgin 38) Libra ; 39) : Scorpio ; 40): the Sagittarius ; 41) Capricorn ; ) : the VerseEau ; 43) Pisces ; 44) : the Balene ; 45) : the Eridau River ; 46) : Orion ; 47) : the Unicorn ;48) Little Escreuisse Canucule or small dog ; 49) the Hydra of the North Raven ; 50) : Vase ; 51) the Centaur ;52) the wolf ; 53) the Altar ; 54) Crown Midy Dard du Midi ; 55) : the Poisson 's Gruc ; 56) the Phenix ; 57) the Hare ; 58) Canis Major ; 59) Rooster Turkey ; 60) : the Dove ; 61) : L'Arche Christmas ; 62) : the Dorado Cloud the Hirondele ; 63) The Cameleon Fly ; 64 ) The Triangle Midy Bee Indiene ; 65) the Peacock ; 66) Indian ; 67) the Tocan the Hidre Southward ; 68) Premiere Mobille ; 69) Sky Christallin ; 70) : Sky Empyrean.
Earlier in this blog appeared a similar and later game:
--"Whoever first arrives here is to take the title of Astronomer Royal'"--end point of the game The Pleasures of Astronomy
I'm not sure how early the earliest board game featuring a scientific game might be, but I do know that this one--Science in Sport, or the Pleasures of Astronomy; A New & Instructive Pastime. Revised & approved by Mrs. Bryan; Blackheath--seems to be very advanced for its age. Made in 1804 by John Wallis on London, the game such as it is isn't very "game-y"--the gaming aspect of it isn't very interesting or involved--mostly the mostly-representative aspect so the game is to just expose the young players to select aspects of the history of astronomy. As a pedagogical tool, the game probably works pretty nicely.
The game board, or the course of the game, is relatively standard, though the subject matter is not. The object was to arrive at Flamsteed House1, and by the course of victory the young player would become acquainted with elements of morals, ethics, natural philosophy (although Wallis did in fact produce a very similar game for that topic alone) plus of course some basics of astronomy.
1. "Flamsteed House, the original Observatory building at Greenwich, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke and built in 1675-76." See here for more information.