This slender 1946 Dutch publication proved a little irresistable--the cover looked very loud, very red, and very accelerating-y, and was the only thing about the booklet that I could understand, though I really don't understand that, either.
I went over to Google Patents to see what a "Mars" search might unveil, and it lead me not necessarily logically to the following patent, which seems to me to be quite a playable astronomy game, with all of the necessaries found in the text of the document. I'm not so sure that the game would be "fun" per se, but, well, it could be played. And perhaps someone might learn something from it. [Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, here.]
I found this illustration browsing Owen Gingrich's (editor) Astrophysics and twentieth century astronomy (Cambridge 1984) , and found it fascinating. The telescope was designed and built by Andrew Ainslie Common (1841-1903, a wealthy engineer and amateur astronomer), and it was a 155 cm/5-foot reflector, and had a flotation mounting. This sort of mounting seems at least unusual to me, though one of Common's earlier telescopes used a mercury flotation system. It was finished in 1889 and replaced a very fine 91cm instrment, both of which were constructed mostly for astrophotographical service. The 155cm didn't really perform, ever, whereas the earlier and smaller instrument certainly did. (Following its service with Common, the 91cm went on to Edward Crossley in 1885m and was then used by James Keeler in 1893, and then by Charles Perrine.) I found the large-ish reservoir in use for keeping stutter and vibration away from the telescope to be very intriguing. It was purchased by Harvard University around 1905, and was moved and again a flotation mounting was employed. (The article on the telescope's purchase is located below, taken from the Harvard Crimson of 5 April 1905.)
In a post last week in the Strange Things in the Sky department: the Exploding Moon, I mentioned that images of the Earth's Moon actually exploding seem to be quite uncommon. The ever-observant Ray Girvan wrote to say that the Moon does just that in the 2002 remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, when Earth's lunar mining operations disrupt it so that it makes the Moon disintegrate, raining parts of itself on Earth.
And it just so happens that I stumbled on another odd image of the Moon coming to its end: a mention of a drawing by Thomas Voter, showing the Moon disintegrating under the force of the Earth's gravity. It appears in the November, 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics in the "Explorers of Space" article.
And then, on the next page of the magazine appears another image of the breaking Moon by Wallace Favereau, this also showing bits of the Moon slamming into the Earth.
Thomas Voter's illustrations led me to his image showing Boy Scouts flying on their odd destiny to the Moon for a rendezvous with Post-War Moon Nazis in what is a surprising juvie novel by Robert Heinlein, Rocket Ship Galileo (1947). [Image courtesy of the excellent Roborant site, well worth a visit and bookmark, here.] The three boy-rocket-experimenters are on their way their with their Nobelist uncle, piloting a thorium-fueled mail rocket that the Manhattan Project Uncle was able to rig up for interplanetary adventures, which gets them to a nuke-war-ravaged-Moon with victorious commanding Nazis over whom the intrepid travelers eventually triumph. This really has nothing to do with exploding or disintegrating Moons, but finding a reference to Moon Nazis does classify as a strange-thing-in-the-sky. evidently the story is much disparaged by modern readers, though the author of Roborant feels as though there is a much greater depth to the story that the possible high-comic storyline implies.
It looks like there is a sub-genre for Evil Alien Space Nazis in books and film, but I just can't go any further with the topic.
[Cover art by the great Frank R. Paul for the August 1953 issue of Science Fiction Plus.]
In my experience of Strange-Things-in-the-Sky Department,the idea of the exploding Earth is far more popular and more illustrated than that of the Exploding Moon. So far as I can recall Moon doesn't explode in most cases of early sci fi, including the earliest case of Lucian's Icaromenippus and his great True History (a satire on outer space travel and interplanetary warfare between the kings of the Moon and the Sun over possession of the Morning Sat (Venus). Nor does the Moon explode in the other very early efforts of de Bergerac (1657), Francis Godwin (Man in the Moone, 1632, where Our Hero gets to the Moon on a goose-powered aerial something), Johnannes Kepler (Somnium, 1634) and others. The Moon gets into trouble enough, but not so much trouble to lead it to blow up.
(I can't leave this without mention of Robert Heinlein, who wrote many short stories addressing the Moon, many with fantastic titles and even better story lines: "Columbus Was a Dope", 1947; "Gentlemen, Be Seated!", 1948, about a lunar tunnel; a Boy Scouts on the Moon, "The Black Pits of Luna", 1948; "The Man Who Sold the Moon", a 1949 "Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon", 1949 (future Boy Scouts on the Moon); "The Menace From Earth", 1957, (Lunar teenager angst and a muscle-powered space ship); "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" (1966), (and a Lunar penal colony)--lovely titles for some superior writing.
The Moon certainly takes abuse here and there, ranging from cloud attack (in Lucian) to colonization to this very memorable (and frightening/disturbing, as I found as a child) as in the case of the Man in the Moon being shot in the eye with a space ship (George Melies, Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902)).
And of course there's always the runaway Moon and the havoc that it would soon cause to the Earth, though then again this is not an exploding Moon, except it seems as though it might soon be so.
And so in a bit of rambling about the Moon that has gone on in this blog, there are no other mentions of the Moon exploding, though there are some other strange things going on there. Just not "exploding" strangenesses.
I was getting ready with what was supposed to be the real post for today when I stumbled upon this woodcut of the Roman god Saturnus. What makes this image so terrifically compelling is how benign it is—in its weird, mechanical, disinterested observational manner the artist conveys almost nothing about the act that we witness as the god plots his way across the sky in its celestial chariot. Saturn (equated with the Greek Kronos, and the Titan father of Zeus, and also the name of the gaseous oblate six planet) commits acts of horror, and becomes, again and again, perhaps the greatest coward of the Roman pantheon of questionable deities.
It begins with Saturn being told his future: that at some point in his life his son or sons will supplant him, catch him, replace him and kill him. And the best thing that Saturn can think to do is to methodically eat his children, and he does manage to consume all but one—Zeus—who then fulfills the prophecy; but then again, who wouldn’t? There is really very little like this in mythology—and, really, why should there be?
Our artist—or engraver—is George Pencz (1500-1550), alive and dead very neatly at the century and half-century mark, and his work ("The Life of the Children of the Planet Saturn") is illustrated in Folge der Planeten . The image of Saturn racing along with his son’s head in his mouth looks naive compared top the rest of the illustration, which is a very lively, if quiet, depiction of the industry that his dead sons would have applied themselves to if they hadn’t been consumed by their father. The illustration of Saturn is very disturbing to me, particularly when you notice the son-in-waiting, who is watching his father eat his brother, and in an incredibly pathetic and heart-breaking way is trying to protect himself by holding his head. I think it is so very moving because it is a perfectly logical (from a child’s point of view) reaction to an unimaginable terror, and perhaps this is how Pencz can best deal with the vile god.
Images of Saturn really are legion, but there are a host-and-a-half that are pretty upsetting, like the one above, and the one coming, below. I think that the one that is the test against which all others are measured is by Francisco Goya, who during his “black period” painted the truly terrifying image of Saturn devouring his child right on the wall of his house in 1824 (or thereabouts). It really is bad stuff. The scene as painted by Peter Paul Rubens isn't much better.
Admittedly, J.I.I Grandville (1803-1847) didn't conceive of this series of bridges as a plausible means of interplanetary travel and is in all probability an allegorical creation, but the image does--in an odd way--allow a dialogue on the idea of moving from planet to planet, which was still pretty solitary thinking in the mid-19th century. Although this didn't have a direct effect on the perception of man's place in the solar system, it did have a great and direct impact upon a vast number of illustrators and cartoonists who followed in his considerable wake.
This image comes from Grandville's Un Autre Monde, published in 1844.
In addition to an interplanetary bridge that there is another singular creation here in Grandville's cosmos--a balcony constructed of the rings of Saturn (if indeed this was supposed to be Saturn--it is as advantageous as not to think of it in this way) and if we think of a balcony being a place to watch and observe, then we are brought instantly to W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, which is a textural masterpiece, and mostly I guess a novel about everything that Sebald observed in his walk through Suffolk. (Another Saturn-related work of fiction is Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut, a very mature and insightful 1959 novel which really has nothing to do with anything here; I just needed to throw that in, what with him being a master storyteller, crank and human-caricaturist-observer and all…) And so by 1844 it comes to pass that one French caricaturist/imaginist comes to draw an extraordinary and impossible land/space bridge between the planets only 234 years after Galileo first glimpsed Saturn's "handles"--give the optics of his telescope Galileo didn't see the rings of Saturn as such, seeing rather two "extra bodies" on either side of the planet It would take another 65 years and accumulations of observations by some of the greatest names in the history of astronomy (Galileo, Casini, Hevelius, Huygens) to show that the disk (singular) on Saturn was actually a series of rings. (I should add that the first photograph of Saturn's rings is not made until 1883.
Which somehow brings me to the troubled world of the "Saturn Gnosis", the Fraterniti Saturni. Actually the only place I'm getting to here is a picture (above), which I tried to understand before I realized what it was, and how much of an expanding hocus-pocus (otherwise defined as "woo woo" in the words of James Randi) rabbit hole of diminishing returns it leads to, a dizzying history of competing complexities and nonsense. But the image (found in a book edited by Eugen Grosche, (Offizielles Publikations-Organ der deutschen Gross-Loge Fraternitas Saturni Orient Berlin, 1929), comes from a psycho-sexual-astrological-magical group (one of a number of such associations in Germany and particularly Berlin in the 1920's), and seems no less a part of reality as does Grandville's Saturn. Sameness ensues when you try to approximate the volume of limitless emptiness, or belief.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 1748 (An expansion of an ealier post from 2008)
The soft-sell of the generally recognized and understood propositions, stepping well around the main, central, controlling issue, hinting broadly along its perimeters, defining the emptiness by its shell, left to an undistinguished recognition, is what we're hunting here.
I have two examples of extreme examples of understatement occurring at the beginning and end of things—all things.
The first understatement--"the" Big Bang of the title--that we will look at here belongs in the last paragraph of the seminal paper by Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason, writing an extension and refinement (and adding much more data) on the “discovery” of the Big Bang as they defined the Red Shift, which was actually a roughly proportional increase of distance traveled to red shift. They plotted a trend line for 46 galaxies and in 19291 formulated the empirical Redshift Distance Law of galaxies, which is today known as Hubble’s Law, which was consistent with the solutions of equations of GRT. (This momentous discovery was cheered by the normally non-cheering astronomy community in unusually verb-y ways, such as with the statement made by W.S. Adams, (director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory), who said that thee Hubble/Humason effort was "the most ambitious project astronomy has ever undertaken...maybe (the) research will reveal the very edge of the universe"2.
It is in a further report on their studies in The Velocity-Distance Relation Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae (The Astrophysical Journal, July 1931, full text here) that Hubble and Humason react to and answer questions that arose from their 1929 paper, and also incorporate much new data. As a matter of fact, they managed to "spectacularly extend the linear relationship"3 to a speed of 20,000 kps, and also to an estimated distance of about 100 million light years, this by using many more points in the 1931 diagram. This was the further proof needed to strengthen the existence of a linear redshift-distance relation, and it appeared in this "promised sequel"4 of the 1931 paper.
It is in the 1931 paper that Hubble and Humason make their stupendous understatement: regarding their understanding of the phenomena and the expanding universe. They take many steps back, and say in the concluding paragraph "the writers are constrained to describe the apparent velocity-distance displacements without venturing on the interpretation and its cosmological significance". They basically lay out the functioning of the universe and the best understanding of how we got to where we are in the cosmos (Vesto Slipher notwithstanding), and how according to their understanding that the universe is expanding and is consistent with all known laws, that they decide to not say anything, um, philosophical.
And so, in the last paragraph of this paper discussing the Great Alpha, the authors decided, in their modest and terrifically understated Bartlebian way, to not comment.
The second example of tremendous understatement occurs in a report discussing the Great Omega, and how in the end the end might actually be avoided. Written by Joseph Coker, Chief of the National Resource Evaluation Center in the Office of Emergency Planning in Washington, D.C. in April 1965 (100 years to the month after the end of the U.S. Civil War), “NREC Programs for Gaming the Logistics of National Survival” is by its very title and appearance a startling looking and sounding document. Coker and his NREC worked within the Executive Office of the President (LBJ at the time), and his paper concentrated on a succinct appraisal of the existing gaming programs looking at survival of all aspects of the national life in the days following nuclear end-game.
In general the document is as dry and cardinal as bagel toast—it warms quickly and invisibly, however, and that bagel toast becomes a burnt and invisible cinder via Coker’s prose.
The document wastes no time in getting directly to vast understatement, and stays there. In chapter one “Logistics of National Survival”, the second chapter opens:
“Because of recent changes in the technology and potential tempo of war and because of the base power of force is in being (including equipment and supplies), there is general recognition that any future war in which the United States is engaged, especially if it is an unlimited nuclear war, may be decided without significant additional military demands upon the nation’s industrial economy.” Hmm. He continues: “That is not to say, however, that the post-attack economy would not face enormous logistical support problems.” There is no human element of this equation. “The logistic requirements of survival and recovery would present very heavy demands.”
“Very heavy demands” reaches a very great height of understatement. How high is high? I don’t know. Remember: Mr. Coker was Chief of this division and working within the Executive Office. This was thinking at a very high level.
He continues in this same paragraph: “Furthermore, the post-attack economy may be ill-prepared to meet such demands”. The paragraph ends in a tremendous horizontal soar: “It may be expected that following any massive nuclear attack against the U.S., the economy would be characterized by resource imbalances and critical shortages (italics our's).
Coker’s papers meant to remedy the approaches to these “imbalances”. The NREC was up and running with ideas and computing fire—in the form of the CD 3600 computer and FORTRAN—to develop a “damage assessment system” called READY that would replace the existing programs named, with no evident imagination, JUMBO, STREAK and DART.
Throughout this entire document there is no mention of overwhelming, catastrophic death and/or obliteration of the social structure, except that it must be implied that there must be “someone” to operate the essential industries that must be brought back on line.
Curiously there is a discussion about the survivability of the Federal Reserve and the banking system. My guess is that in the ensuing giga-tons of holocaust of flame that paper money didn’t burn along with its human holders.
1. Hubble & Humason, A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae... Mount Wilson Observatory, 1929. Contributions from the Mount Wilson Observatory No. 427
2. David Harland, The Big Bang, Springer, 2003.
3. R.W. Smith. "The Origins of the Velocity-Distance Relationship", in Journal for the History of Astronomy, volume 10, p. 133, 1979.
I started out in this post to write about the scholar pictured in Andrew Borde's book, The Breuiary of Healthe, for all maner of syckenesses and diseaes, Expressynge the obscure terms of Greke, Araby, Latyn, and Barbary, in Engluish concernying Phisicke and Chierurgerie...., which was printed in London in 1556. Underneath this rather long title is perhaps the earliest "modern" work on hygiene--or at least (in a real test of qualifications) it was the first book written by a medical man on hygiene that was originally written and published in English. In its way it is a wonderful book, being a compendium, really, of 384 short chapters on the this-and-that of medicine, all alphabetically arranged, which made it a simpler book to compose than a full treatise on the subject arranged in a medically-logical way. But what I liked in it was the contrasting image of the scholar, which to me is the very picture of ennui, laid side-by-side with the chief element by which this book is probably best remembered, which is "Myrth is one of the chiefest thygnes in physicke" (or "humor is the best medicine"). Borde's scholar may not be taking his own medicine, here.
In looking for the text for this fine book I came across something else, Borde's Aristotelian celestial spheres in his The First Book of the Introduction of Knowledge, printed in 1542, the year before the publication of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus. It is a magnificent woodcut, and tells the story of a vision of mankind that would soon come to vast change.
The image shows us the geocentric universe, the creation, and eleven-sphere unit that follows the Earth at center and the four subluminaries (earth wind air fire), followed by the orbit of the Moon and Mercury and Venus, after which comes the Sun, followed by the rest of the planets. These spheres are followed by the fixed stars/the starry firmament), and ultimately by the Primum Mobile, divided into the crystalline heaven, the first mover, and the Empyrean. Its a beautiful image.
The following is in a sense a cross-section of the Borde image, which shows pretty much the same information (with the Sun being in the fourth sphere). This is manuscript is more than a hundred years earlier than the Borde, and accurately represents the elements of cosmology of the time.
An even earlier version of this more-or-less static image, the perfect image of the perfect creation in which all of the stars in the visible sky were always there, in some perfect number, in the configurations for all time. (This idea of course would be one of the greatest disfigurers of ancient thought that the telescope of Galileo would provide.)
Source: Spheres Surrounded by Angels, Brevari d'amour, late 14th c
Robert Fludd, a visionary of a different sort, as his celestial sphere will show:
Fludd’s (1574-1637) features a complicated astrological existence well beyond the point of Copernicus. In addition to everything else, real and imagined, Rosicrucianism and astrology and puffy-birds, Fludd, who was an English physician, delved deeply into the real stuff of the world in this book in addition to all of the other make-believe--optics, the musical intervals, perspective drawing, hydraulic engineering, construction of lifting machines, military engineering and many other interesting, physical science topics. But this drawing, right there on the title page, reveals Fludd’s real interests and shows what governs what he does. Everything else, the math and and the physics, services this need. Of course the image is beautiful, which is why it is here, but it is also a deeply personal, exploitative, cover-all for the things that Fludd *wanted* to find.
While flipping through William Herschel's 1801 Philosophical Transactions paper "Observations tending to investigate the Nature of the Sun in order to find the Cause of Symptoms of its Variable Emission of Light and Heat", I thought it was a good early-ish paper on sunspots. I was surprised to find a lengthy entry on the applied nature of his findings, and that on the variable nature of sunspots and agricultural yield as determined by wheat prices found in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Honestly I was fully unaware of Herschel's involvement with sunspots and seasonal growth and price fluctuations, but there it was. And he does find a correlation, albeit a very cautious one where he says the subject deserves more study and more data.
He writes: "it seems probable that some temporary scarcity or defect of vegetation has taken place, when the sun has been without those appearances which we surmise to be the symptoms of a copious emission of light and heat..."
This must make Herschel--already a celebrity astronomer for his discovery of the first planet discovered since ancient times, Uranus, among many other things--one of the earliest (if not the first) astronomer to experimentally entertain the effects of solar disturbances on the Earth. And this on sunspots years before Schwabe established the periodicity of sunspots (1846) or the electromagnetic connection with sunspots (that would come only with G.E. Hale in 1908). Herschel (who left/fled Germany to reside in England) was a man of interesting sight: he discovered Uranus, identified new moons of Saturn, established that the previously-nebulous nebulae were collections of vast numbers of distant and faint clouds, drew a spectacular image of the Milky Way galaxy as an outside observer looking in, that there was a light from the sun that was beyond the visible spectrum, and also discovered in the micro-world found that coral were animals rather than plants.The business of trying to see if there were any correlations between solar activity and plant production on Earth was novel, and interesting. [The original paper is available for purchase through our blog bookstore, here.]
“When the father and creator saw the creature which he has made moving and living…, he rejoiced, and in his joy determined to...make the universe eternal, so far as might be. …Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity itself rests in unity; and this image we call time… Such was the mind and thought of God in the creation of time. The sun and moon and five other stars, which are called the planets, were created by him in order to distinguish and preserve the numbers of time… And for this reason the fixed stars were created, to be divine and eternal animals, ever-abiding and\ revolving after the same manner and on the same spot…” Plato, in which he wrote about the formation of the universe, among many other things, (Jowett. v. 2. Timaeus, p. 19), and spotted at the Linda Hall [Science] Library here
Well, not exactly, but this was some pretty good thinking by Plato for his time, and beyond that--actually, the thinking was held for centuries. But it was some very nice thinking by (Danish) Ole Rømer that pieced this part of Plato out, turning it around, and coming to terms with the use of "the order of heaven" to "preserve the numbers" of the speed of light, all through the observation of eclipses of Jupiter's moon Io.
I should first say that today's post came about via Peter Horrebow's (1679-1764) Operum Mathematico-Physicorum... , a three-volume work published in Copenhagen in 1740-41. Horrebow was a very accomplished astronomer in his own right (we'll get to that in a moment), but what is of interest for me right now is the third volume of his book, as it (the Basis Astronomiae...) contains very detailed descriptions of the astronomical instruments and observatory of his fellow Danish astronomer Rømer (1644-1710). Horrebow must have been a very gifted machinist and man-about-the-"lab", as he was able to make his way through the educational system and then to the highest levels of academia even though beginning his life as a fish-seller's son--an extraordinary accomplishment, really, as there were not many opportunities for people without some sort of privilege to succeed on this level. And succeed Horrebow did, serving as the great Rømer 's assistant and charge, living in the man's house for some time. (He didn't stay for very long, as Horrebow was a father of twenty.)
There are some famous illustrations in this book--not the least of which is the depiction of Rømer at work on a transit in his observatory--but the image I like most of all is not one of the instruments, but a beautiful engraving of the observatory built by Charles IV. The massive structure--called the Rundetam--was begun in 1637and finished in 1642; it is as its name suggests a "round tower" that rises 34 meters; it has no stairs using a 7.5-turn walkway instead. (It is a confusing thing, walking 'round to go up, and seems to me to have been much more than just seven turns; in a weird way by the top of the walk it felt as though one was going "down" somehow. Maybe I just got dizzy.) In any event the tower would be an observatory, with Rømer (and then, later, Horrebow) working from the roof as well as from some high windows, and was meant to replace the great Tycho Brahe's demolished Stjeneborg
[Cross-section of the observatory.}
Rømer's career was remarkable, but what I find particularly beautiful was his determination of the speed of light, and all from basically sitting there with his instruments in a window of a massive stone structure in the middle of a city, figuring out minute differentiations, making detailed observations of eclipses of the moons of a planet that had only been observed telescopically less than 67 years earlier (with the newly-invented instrument, the telescope).
The moons of Jupiter had been observed in 1666-1668 by Cassini and were a subject of intense study by him and Rømer, among others; Rømer in fact would travel to the Paris observatory and be an assistant to Cassini as the two worked together on the moons and eclipse observations. In this Rømer noticed a particular peculiarity in the changes of the times of these eclipses, becoming shorter when the Earth was closer to Jupiter and longer when farther away. From this Rømer concluded that light was taking different times to reach the Earth, and from their calculated its speed. He reported to the Royal Academy of Science on 22 August 1676:
This second inequality appears to be due to light taking some time to reach us from the satellite; light seems to take about ten to eleven minutes [to cross] a distance equal to the half-diameter of the terrestrial orbit.
What a jewel that was to give to the world! It is difficult to imagine the impact of this sort of announcement in the first three-quarters of a century of the telescope, to be able to calculate something as elusive as the idea of the speed of light, and that coming from the observation of moons of another planet. This was the first true quantitative measurement of the speed of light--there were earlier attempts (by Isaac Beekman and Galileo), but while their ideas for measuring were interesting and theoretically workable the instrumentation for recording minute differences in light flashes were not. (For example in the Galileo experiment (measuring the differences in the light of exposed lanterns a mile apart, the time was not measurable. If it could have been measured the answer would've been 10 microseconds; at that time the idea of the "second hand" a clock had not yet come to be.) Rømer established that the speed of light was finite, and gave a value that was within about 25% of the modern standard, or at least 220,000 km/sec. Galileo's earlier best estimate was that light was at least ten times that the speed of sound. (HE was right, of course, light is at least 10x sound, but the capacity for more accurate observation and instrumentation were just beyond his age.) This was a truly remarkable accomplishment.
The observatory had a relatively short shelf-life, what with light pollution and the rumble and vibration of city traffic doing it in by the mid-18th century; so for its size and heavy fullness, the building lasted a little more than a century as a useful observatory.
This very quick posting is made in relation to a book just posted to the blog's bookstore (Gustav Kirchhoff's "Zur Geschichte der Spectral-Analyse under der Analyse der Sonnenatmosphaere"(On the history of spectral analysis and the analysis of the solar atmosphere)--or at least in relation to another object in the 1863 Annalen der Physik volume. And that other object is this, this beautiful series of diagrams illustrating "Ueber das Verhalten einiger Farbstoffe im Sonnenspectrum" by J. Haerlin, on elements in the spectrum of the Sun that appeared in teh same volume, tucked away at the end of the journal--art in science.
The following are some beautiful images from a rather popular ephemerides by Bernardus de Granollachs, printed between 1484 and 1515. The slender (16-page) work, Lunarium: In quo Coniunctiones & oppositiones Lunae... was published first in Spanish in 1484 and was then picked up and reprinted in a number of other languages over the next few decades.
The image most interesting to me comes from the Rome edition of 1516, simply because of the magnificent black wallsemblazoned with stars (which occurs on the title page):
The image did remind me very slightly of another gorgeous thing which I wrote about earlier in this blog (here):
Some other variations in the Granollachs can be seen below:
--"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.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 1458 [With thanks to Rich Lewis, Dickinson College, who found and suggested some remarkable cartographical curiosities!]
I was thinking about the history of atlases of imaginary places [in Western culture] composed before, say, 1900, and I had a hard time coming away with any. Lowering the sites to a series of maps relating to the same idea didn't help--its only when you get down to the single-map level that I found some results. But even there, at the basic representational level of an imaginary place, there aren't really that many examples, at least compared to the rich narrative life of created space.
I wonder why that is?
If you widened the scope a bit you might look at the night sky as being a sort-of map locating ancient deities, but the sky is really just a picture book with dislocated images without very much to do with one another.
Books of the Dead1 kind of fit the bill, but how come there aren't any surviving ancient maps of Olympus, or
Heaven for that matter? The Heaven, and Hell, and Purgatory part does get mapped and mapped pretty heavily after Dante reaches the scene--there are at the very least dozens of cartographic/pictographic representations of the worlds that he surveyed in the Divine Comedy. For example, there is this spectacular effort by Sandro Botticelli (being a drawing on parchment executed ca. 1480-1495):
The Botticelli is a scary accomplishment, frightening and heavy--you can almost feel the very burden of Hell coming down upon you. (Here's a good link for a zoomifying version of this map so that you can see its elements in detail.)
Then there are allegorical maps that show the stages and stations of life, the progress of the arts and sciences. A fine example here is a work by B. Johnson, who in 1805 published this fantastic map of the possible paths for living one's life:
which seems to tell the reader to keep away from the southeast. Another map, this one earlier, printed in 1777, is by J.G.I. Breitkopf, Das Reich der Liebe (The Kingdom of Love):
Another fantastic example of mapping the imagination is found in Matthaus Seutter's Accurata Utopiae Tabula. Das ist Der Neu entdeckten Schalck Welt, oder des so oft benannten und doch nie erkannten Schlarraffenlandes, published in 1730. It depicts a Utopia of sorts, though not the world of Thomas More--this is like a pyrite of utopias, a fool's gold, a fools' paradise:
This land is much like the land of Cockaigne, a mythical Medieval/Renaissance place of plenty, which is pictured below in an image made by Niccolop Nelli in 1564:
(It is interesting to picture these places of plenty and sloth in conjunction with some 20th century songs of the Great Depression and earlier, where the land of plenty is far, far simpler--as in the land of the Big Rock Candy Mountain--but that is a different story.)
As long as we're mentioning Utopia, here's a 1516 representation of More's hopefullness, from the first edition of his work:
And another represntation, two years later:
There are more recent examples, but not that many, not so far, anyway. There are editions of Pilgrims Progress (1678) that contain maps of the travels; there are also a number of charts showing the progress of Mr. Gulliver from the Swift book (1726); Robinson Crusoe also contains a small sketch map opposite the title-page, and, more recently, R.L. Stevenson's Treaure Island (1882) contains a map of that place.
But given the extraordinarily rich tapestries of mythical/mystical places that have been created since the beginning of people telling stories, why weren't there, well, tapestries (or something) illustrating what the whole of these places looked like? Why for sample when we meet up with a map of the very pronounced extra-terrestrial wanderings of Cyrano de Bergerac (in his ancient-advanced science fiction work on traveling to other inhabited worlds)? Taking the antiquarian thought on extra-terrestrials as a case study, why don't we see more of that sort of thinking illustrated in some way? The idea of extraterrestrial life is very old, stretching far back into Hindu cosmology, and even deep into the (eighteen worlds) of the Talmud. Thales, Anaximander, Democritus, Aristole, Ptolemy all thought about and agreed on the possibilities of life being lived on places other than the Earth--infintely more life, in the case of Epicurus. Bruno, Copernicus, Fontenelle, Henry More--were all there, but without visual aids, and certainly without maps. Except for Fontenelle--Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle--who almost but not quite gets there in his 1682 book Entretriens sur la pluralite des mondes.
It seems to me that as a representative of extraterrestrial imagination not being illustrated its hard to beat the case of the beautiful and polymathic Christian Huygens. Huygens (1629-1685) 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 correspondant. But towards the end of his relatively short life (he died at age 56) Huygens embarked down the science fiction road in pre-science fiction days, writing a wonderful and provocative book entitled Cosmotheoros, The Celestial World Discover'd: or, Conjectures Concerning the Inhabitants, Plants and Productions of the Worlds in the Planets3, where he establishes the possibilities of life being lived on worlds other than that of Earth. He developes a detailed fabric for these new heavens,m so much so that he can also establish samenesses for the ETs and humans, stating here his belief in the eternal/cosmoloigcal abilities of mathematics and music:
“It's the same with Musick as with Geometry, it's every where immutably the same, and always will be so. For all Harmony consists in Concord, and Concord is all the World over fixt according to the same invariable measure and proportion. So that in all Nations the difference and distance of Notes is the same, whether they be in a continued gradual progression, or the voice makes skips over one to the next. Nay very credible Authors report, that there's a sort of Bird in America, that can plainly sing in order six musical Notes: whence it follows that the Laws of Musick are unchangeably fix'd by Nature, and therefore the same Reason holds valid for their Musick, as we even now proposed for their Geometry"pg 86
Huygens holds close to the immutable nature and close association of music and mathematics,m which would be the same here and everywhere (everywhere else, the ET communities, being referred to here as "other Nations").
"For why, supposing other Nations and Creatures, endued with Reason and Sense as well as we, should not they reap the Pleasures arising from these Senses as well as we too? I don't know what effect this Argument, from the immutable nature of these Arts, may have upon the Minds of others; I think it no inconsiderable or contemptible one, but of as great Strength as that which I made use of above to prove that the Planetarians had the sense of Seeing." pg 86/7
Huygens is so sure of this that he is willing to tak a bet with long odds that not only do ETs enjoy the possibilities of muic but that they have also created instruments:
"But if they take delight in Harmony, 'tis twenty to one but that they have invented musical Instruments. For, if nothing else, they could scarce help lighting upon some or other by chance; the sound of a tight String, the noise of the Winds, or the whistling of Reeds, might have given them the hint. From these small beginnings they perhaps, as well as we, have advanced by degrees to the use of the Lute, Harp, Flute, and many string'd Instruments. But altho the Tones are certain and determinate, yet we find among different Nations a quite different manner and rule for Singing; as formerly among the Dorians, Phrygians, and Lydians, and in our time among the French, Italians, and Persians" pg 87
Huygens then continues to make a beautiful distinction between the musics of Earthling and ETs, in that it may not sound anything like any music we have on Earth, but--since the laws that govern math and music are the same, everywhere--it still might be "very good". And not only that, the alien music might be better than our's:
In like manner it may so happen, that the Musick of the Inhabitants of the Planets may widely differ from all these, and yet be very good. But why we should look upon their Musick to be worse than ours, there's no reason can be given; neither can we well presume that they want the use of half-notes and quarter-notes, seeing the invention of half-notes is so obvious, and the use of 'em so agreeable to nature. Nay, to go a step farther, what if they should excel us in the Theory and practick part of Musick, and outdo us in Consorts of vocal and instrumental Musick, so artificially compos'd, that they shew their Skill by the mixtures of Discords and Concords? pg 88
And so on. But why I wonder with all of the great images painted for us in his text is there no venturing into a visual artform? There's enough information in the Huygens work to allow for a map, but then there are none, not even something along the images of de Bergerac, who was perhaps among the greatest visionary of techno-anthropormorphic human flight. Before he was the object of Edmund Rostand’s 1897 play, de Bergerac was a massively creative author, producing, among other things, the book Histoire des Etats et Empires de la Lune (History of the States and Empires of the Moon, published posthumously in 1657), followed by Histoire des Etats et Empires du Soleil (History of the States and Empires of the Sun, again, published further and deeper into his life’s surrender, 1662), both eventually collected as L'Autre Monde (Other Worlds). Bergerac introduces us, the humble reader, to one of the most important concepts in the history of literature--namely that we humans were not only not alone in the universe, but that we were not even the dominant culture, and indeed we were actually hated by some of the other more advanced species.
The foundations for structuring a visual habitat for the ideas of Huygens are abundant, as you can see easily in the table of contents (which is like an annotated table of contetns for a modern book) as seen in footnote #4--the signs for a road map are there, mostly--there's just no road, but there are plenty of suggestions for one.
So I bring this part of this open discussion to a close--I do ask forgiveness here in the likely case that I've left out some obvious examples, this is a Thinking-Out-Loud piece which takes place in the cultures west of the Urals--thinking about where the maps and images weren't. Finding almost nothing when you think there's nothing there is easy to do, especially when you can hold yourself to a porous definition of "nothing"--the next step is harder, finding out how close people came to making these maps, or diagrams, or images.
And having said this about finding nothing I cannot let this piece go without mentioning The World's Most Beautiful Map: Lewis Carroll’s map from The Hunting of the Snark, an Agony in Eight Fits, and occurs in the Bellman’s tale, starting the second fit. It begins:
The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies- Such a carriage, such ease and such grace! Such solemnity too! One could see he was wise, The moment one look in his face! He had bought a large map representing the sea, Without the least vestige of land: And the crew were much pleased when the found it to be A map they could all understand. "What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators, Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?" So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply, "They are merely conventional signs! "Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes! But we've got our brave Captain to thank" (So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best- A perfect and absolute blank!"
Sometimes there is nothing so fine as something that beautifully illustrates the nothing that isn’t there, and this lovely map, unencumbered of all of the elements and details that define the mapness of something, perfectly explains the origin of its need.
1. They're not really the Book of the Dead, but collections of papyrus that each contain a unique set of instructions and magic spells and such to assist its dead reader of getting fromthe dead place into the light, into the afterlife. This image is a rather famous one, pictured and described in the following Wiki bit: "The mystical Spell 17, from the Papyrus of Ani. The vignette at the top illustrates, from left to right, the god Heh as a representation of the Sea; a gateway to the realm of Osiris; the Eye of Horus; the celestial cow Mehet-weret; and a human head rising from a coffin, guarded by the four Sons of Horus."
2. Here's another version of the Dante structures placed in context to the Earth, this image by A. Ritter.
3. Following the edition of 1698 translations appeared in English (1698) and in Dutch (1699). In the following years, translations also appeared in French (1702), German (1703), Russian (1717) and in Swedish (1774)
4. The table of contents (with links) is extremely interesting and tells much of the story of the book:
There is a developing thread on this blog relating to strange things in the sky. Sometimes the images are extraordinary, impossible, beyond fiction: multiple/duplicate Earths, flying buildings, horses in balloons, extra-human missing souls downloaded to the Earth from extra-Moons, and so on. And at other times, the images are more subtle, questioning, ambiguous, as in the example of some 16th century prints that show the sky opening to reveal the Creator, who is in turn pictured against, say, a completely blank background, suggesting an enveloping nothingnesss of Heaven; or a field of beautiful stars filling a Renaissance sky of deepest red, at night. A gigantic foot shown floating in the sky in a 17th century image might be ambiguous, and it also wildly so; both it and the more subtle ambiguities--for example early representations of caves-over-mountains that give them an inside-out appearance--are welcomed sights.
Perhaps some of the most beautiful of the Strange Things in the Sky department might belong to the skies of Dante--they can be extraordinary, straightforwardly unusual and--when the narrative is presented pictorially--beautifully strange and with little ambiguity. They are presentations of ideas of time and space, fantastic adventures in imaginary environments, as much an internal journey as Milton's Paradise Lost is an external one1.
Dante's celestial exploration and the foundation that he provides have led to the possibility of an entire atlas of maps of paradise, hell and purgatory. Here's an interesting map2 constructed by Michelangelo Caetani (1804-1882) showing the structure of the Comnedia:
I've presented this map just to give a context for the placement of the following images, though I do like the Caetani because it presents a good overview of the entire placement of Dante's work, though necessarily having to leave out almost all of the detail of what is actually going on in each level.
Nearly all of the images below are from La comedia di Dante Aligieri con la nova espostione di Alessandro Vettlutello, published in Venice in 1544 by Francesco Marcolini (or Marcolino)3. For the present collecting/browsing purposes I'm just going to go over the images lightly rather than try to launch into an ill-advised exegesis on a subject that I don't know very well at all.
In the Sphere of the Sun Dante and Beatrice among the wise and the learned, hearing them all (eleven) named so by Thomas Aquinas. They include Albertus Magnus, Gratian, Peter Lombard, Solomon, Dionysius the Areopagite, Orosius, Boethius, Isidore of Seville, Bede, Richard of St. Victor, Siger of Brabant. Paradiso X
Dante and Beatrice entering the sphere of the fixed stars, using a ladder of contemplation, mythically suggesting stairs and in this case a stairway to god.
The souls ascent to the Empyrean, with Dante looking down to see the Earth ("the little patch that makes us so vicious"), and to trace the ("mad") voyage of Ulysses, and to see perhaps how far he has traveled (Paradiso XXVII). Dante listens to St. Peter, and Beatrice, who describe the place, which is basically the mind of god and which is the envelope surrounding the final sphere:
"The nature of the universe which holds
The center still and whirls the spheres around it
Takes from this region here its starting-point.
"And here this heaven has no other where
Than in God’s mind, where there flames up the love
That spins it, and the power it pours down.
"Light and love enclose it in one circle
As it does all the rest, and this enclosing
He alone who circles it can comprehend.
Beatrice and Dante together with Saint John and Saint James, Paradiso XXV.
"My body is still earth within the earth
And will remain there with the rest until
Our number equals the eternal tally.
"Only those two lights who have ascended
Wear their two robes here in the blessed cloister,
And this word you shall bring back to your world."
I couldn't resist straying a bit to show this fantastic 1491 woodcut (published in Venice by Petrus de Plasiis) illustrating Dante and Beatrice surveying and then entering the Moon. The scene is described in Paradiso II:
"Turned toward me, as glad as she was lovely,
And said, "Direct your mind with thanks to God
Who here has made us one with the first star." --[the Moon is described and identified as a star.]
I thought we were enveloped in a cloud,
Shining, solid, dense, and highly polished
As a diamond struck by the sun would be.
The timeless pearl took us inside itself
In the same way that water can receive
A ray of light while it remains intact"
Again, my apologies to those among you who know Dante--I really was just trying to get at the luxuriant strangeness of these images and display them--much more so than talk about them.
1. "The difference is that the visual phantasy bequeathed by Dante was mainly a congeries of intense and intricate symbolisms of his own personality," Masson explains, "whereas that offered by Milton was mainly a sublime version of an independent objective tradition." 12. David Masson, The Life ofJohn Milton: Narrated in Connexion with the Political, Ecclesiastical, and Literary History of His Time, vol. 6, 1660-1674 (1880; reprint, New York, 1946), p. 522.
2. Michelangelo Caetani, La Materia della Divina Commedia di Dante Aligherie (1855).
3.. Francesco Marcolini (or Marcolino), a typographer born in Forlì, also published the first book of cartomancy, or telling the telling of the future and fortune through the use of a deck of cards, in his 1540 Le sorti intitolate giardino d’i pensieri (“The oracle called garden of thoughts”).
"At the age of just twenty-six, Karl Jansky had become the first person to detect and identify radio waves coming from outer space, a truly historic discovery... The true significance of Jansky's breakthrough surpasses even the momentous discovery that the Milky Way emits radio waves. His accomplishment was to establish the science of radio astronomy and to demonstrate that astronomers could learn a huge amount about the universe by looking beyond the narrow band of electromagnetic wavelengths that are visible to the human eye... He announced his result in a paper entitled 'Electrical Disturbances Apparently of Extraterrestrial Origin' --Simon Singh, The Big Bang.
"In conclusion, data have been presented which show the existence of elctromagnetic waves in the Earth's atmosphere which apparently come from a direction that is fixed in space." Karl Jansky, (1932), page 1398.
Found in these three papers (below) is the description of the discovery of an entirely new astronomy, a brand new way of looking at the universe. Instead of using telescopes operating at optical wavelength of about 10-5 cm and gathering information visible to the eye, Karl Jansky used a technology that had previously been employed in transoceanic communication. It was in the communication field that Jansky was working (for Bell Labs), trying to identify an interfering hiss, in which he came to realize (and displayed in this series of papers) that this long radio wavelength interference was something extraordinary, publishing his first results in 1932.1 It was later in 1933 that he published his findings that this "hiss" was not "local", and the serendipitous discovery came from a source outside our solar system, which was a tremendously significant finding2, "his revolutionary claim that the hiss static seemed to have its origin in our Milky Way galaxy, with a maximum in a direction that pointed close to the galactic center" (American National Biography). His third paper of 19373 discusses further problems of interference in the short-wave systems. (These three papers are offered for sale at our blog bookstore, here.)
But it wasn't so significant to most of the rest of the astronomy world, because, well, no one rushed out to replicate his findings. At least no one until Grote Reber, who (necessarily) built his own equipment (a 9m parabolic radio telescope ) and set up shop in his backyard around 1937, publishing his results and confirming Jansky's efforts in the Astrophysical Journal in 1944. Also it should be noted that J.S. Hey (a British Army officer) detected radio waves emitted from the sun for the first tome on 27 February 1942.
Jansky was interested in pursuing this work in astronomy, but Bell Labs took him away from this area, giving him other assignments, leaving the rest of the new world of radio astronomy for others to operate in. Subsequently, radio sources were found in stars and galaxies, and were emitted from entirely new classes of objects like quasars, pulsars and radio galaxies. And in fact the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation which came through a series of surprises to Penzias and Wilson and which offered compelling evidence in support of the Big Bang (the background radiation of which had earlier been theorized by Gamow and Alpher and Wilson but which was evidently not known to P+W and therefore not referenced), was made in a similar way, via sweet serendipity, while the pair was working on something else for Bell Labs.
Karl Guthe Jansky, born 22 October 1905, died of a heart condition at age 44, 22 October 1950.
1) "Directional Studies of Atmospherics at High Frequencies." In: Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, vol.20, no.12 (Dec.1932), pp.1920-1932.
In fact Nickola Tesla and Oliver Lodge had previously attempted to detect radio emissions coming from the sun, but both failed, mainly due to the inhibitions of their equipment.
(2) "Electrical Disturbances Apparently of Extraterrestrial Origin.". In: Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, vol.21, no.10 (Oct.1933), pp.1387-1398.
(3) "Minimum Noise Levels Obtained on Short-Wave Radio Receiving Systems." In: Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, vol.25, no.12 (Dec.1937), pp.1517-1530.
All published in the Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, Menasha, Wisconsin. : Institute of Radio Engineers, the three papers published 1932-1937. All in their original printed wrappers. Very nice copies. Very scarce.
See also: Lang and Gingerich, A Source Book in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 1900-1975, Harvard, 1979, pp 30-31, paper #6. (The authors use Jansky's paper of 1935, "A Note on the Source of Interstellar Interference", published in the Proceedings of the IRE as the chief paper, though noting that the 1932 paper was the "first report on these studies". In this 1935 paper Jansky of course references his "former papers" (our #s 1+2 above).