Filed under astronomy

Clocks and Rituals

Clocks are seen as a source of control, but the early clocks in churches were huge – at times the dial was 2 metres wide, showing hours, days, lunar phases, planetary positions high and low tides, as well as automata and music with the bells striking. Clocks were not just for telling time, they employed … Continue reading

What is a clock?

This seems a stupid question. Even with our choices of dials, digital or talking, we know what they are. But mechanical time keeping began as alarm clocks, to wake priests for their services, or to announce services through the day, or for people to take lunch breaks. Sometimes the alarm would disturb a human who … Continue reading

Heart Time

I’m waiting for a book on the history of timekeeping, but dipped into the start of it which mentioned that the only accurate means of measuring time for Galileo was his own heart. Think about it. Think of how many times your heart changes speed. Exercise, excitement, exhaustion, walking up a hill. I was going … Continue reading

Science& curiosity

Contrary to what most people think, science arose from religious debate not from magic or alchemy, at least in England. This is from a book, curiosity by Barbara Benedict: “The reinterpretation of curiosity from an intellectual to a visual lust was stimulated by an explosively popular, new way to define & channel enquiry: empiricism. ..proponents … Continue reading

Perched on a Nunatack Near Jango Bingo

This is from a pamphlet that accompanied the British Council’s exhibition a few years ago, subtitled New Architecture and Science In Antarctica. What little I know of life in the Antarctic comes largely from Werner Herzog’s film Encounters at the End of the World, of the US base, which is a sprawling ugly place full … Continue reading

Men in the Moon

When John Herschel was in South Africa, he was amused by an incident which must rank alongside Orson Wells’ stunt with the ‘War of the Worlds’, which succeeded in large part due to the lack of fast communications: “Richard Locke, a reporter on a New York daily newspaper, The Sun, … printed a story that … Continue reading

The Serenity of the Sage, Innocence of a Child

Bath in the 18th century had a lot of famous visitors, but one of the most important residents was William Herschel, who, with his sister Caroline, made huge contributions to early astronomy. But just as important, though in different ways, was William’s only child, John, described by the famous astronomer Patrick Moore as having made … Continue reading

Whatever Shines is to be Noted Down

It is now a century since the Suffragettes were noisily demanding equal rights for women, but there are still professions where they are still woefully scarce, and science is one of them, despite the first professional woman scientist being from the 18th century. Her name was Caroline Herschell, younger sister of William who discovered the … Continue reading

The Other Meridian

The Other Meridian

The Greenwich meridian is the line of longtitude ie 0 degrees that runs though the Airey Transit Circle telescope at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, named after the 7th Astronomer Royal and in use from 1851, on a hill to the south of the Thames and city of London. The line that denotes the equator … Continue reading

Northern Lights

This year promises to have one of the most spectacular displays of the Aurora borealis, a spectacular night light show. It is incredible that this has not been known about for very long. Possibly because most people went to sleep when the sun went down so would have missed it.  This is from a journal … Continue reading