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October 2008
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corvi [userpic]

My Astrobiology professor used an entire class period today talking about sundials. He's designed a sundial that will be used by the Mars Rover being launched two years from now, and brought one of them in to show us. Interesting blend of aesthetics and functionality - gilt and wood and aluminum, encased in a thick glass jar. It has colored triangles to calibrate the cameras, and pictographs of the relative position of Mars and Earth and the ship and the rover, and 'Mars' written in about fifty languages, and a message to an eventual manned mission that finds it, and the usual elegant concentric circles (in calibrating gray) and such one expects from a sundial.
It's always fascinating listening to people talking about their obsessions; there's a sort of inner glow that leaks out of their eyes and shimmers in their words. He spoke lovingly of the mathematics for the martian sundial, and of elegant bronze 18th century sundials, their worn faces inscribed with three sets of lines and elaborately inlaid, and of sundials in the Seattle area.
Mmmmm. I think, if I were the personality type prone to crushes, I would have to crush on people who discuss their intellectual obsessions with me. But right now I want to build a sundial (I love having access to a good machine shop), wade through the equations on my own and carefully shape the gnomon myself. I want to go to some of the sundials he mentioned around Seattle with my camera, and try to catch on film even a little of the sparkle he gives them.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

Preindustrial scientific instruments fascinate me.   Modern variations on such things that retain most of the form of the old are one of the more interesting concepts I have ever come across.   I once had an amusing idea for an indoor clock-sculpture based around a heliotrope and a sundial that I will someday have to investigate further.

I really should get access to one of the campus machine shops over the summer and make a few things.   I enjoyed doing a little soldering to swap out a dead power supply fan far more than is normal -- I think I've been overly deprived of my tool-using time of late.