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Posts Tagged ‘Kepler

“The endless repetition of an ordinary miracle”*…


Snowflakes under a microscope

In 1611 Johannes Kepler wrote a scientific essay entitled De Nive Sexangula; commonly translated as “On the Six-Cornered Snowflake.” It was the first investigation into the nature of snowflakes and what we’d now call crystallography. Since he was a gentleman and a scholar back when you could be such a thing without being ironic or a hipster, Kepler gave the essay as a New Year’s gift. As Kepler wrote on the title page:

To the honorable Counselor at the Court of his Imperial Majesty, Lord Matthaus Wacker von Wackenfels, a Decorated Knight and Patron of Writers and Philosophers, my Lord and Benefactor.

As the title suggests, Kepler’s main concern was the question of why snowflakes are almost always six-pointed…

Follow the train of thought from the stacking of spheres to the intricacies of tiling at “Snowflakes and Cannonball Stacks.”

* Orhan Pamuk, Snow


As we pause to ponder patterns, we might recall that it was on this date in 1891, about 20 miles outside of Midland, Texas, that the first rainmaking experiment in the U.S. was conducted. Robert St. George Dyrenforth, a Washington patent attorney and retired Army officer, led a team that used “mortars, casks, barometers, electrical conductors, seven tons of cast-iron borings, six kegs of blasting powder, eight tons of sulfuric acid, one ton of potash, 500 pounds of manganese oxide, an apparatus for making oxygen and another for hydrogen, 10- and 20-foot-tall muslin balloons and supplies for building enormous kites” to create enormous explosions meant to help clouds form.  Their efforts– which were based more on Dyrenforth’s instinct than on anything resembling scientific evidence– were entirely unsuccessful.  Still, at a time of extreme drought, it’s likely that almost anything seemed worth trying.  (The full– and very entertaining– story, here.)



Written by LW

August 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

Inside knowledge…

Original x-rays of Einstein’s brain will go under the gavel on December 3 at Julien’s Auctions in Hollywood (along with other such memorabilia as the first guitar used on stage by Jimi Hendrix and the Michael Jackson “Bad” costume made for and worn by the chimp Bubbles).

Taken by an old friend when the Father of Modern Physics was 66, the x-rays may illustrate the root of the genius’ genius; as the BBC explains:

Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada compared the shape and size Einstein’s brain with those of 35 men and 56 women with average intelligence.

They think their findings may well explain his genius for mathematical and spatial thinking.

In general, Einstein’s brain was the same as all the others except in one particular area – the region responsible for mathematical thought and the ability to think in terms of space and movement.

Uniquely, Einstein’s brain also lacked a groove that normally runs through part of this area. The researchers suggest that its absence may have allowed the neurons to communicate much more easily.

“This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way he did,” said Professor Sandra Witelson, who led the research published in the Lancet.

“Einstein’s own description of his scientific thinking was that words did not seem to play a role. Instead he saw more or less clear images of a visual kind,” she said.

The x-rays are expected to fetch $1-2,000.

(TotH to Cakehead Loves Evil)

As we muse that the juxtaposition of items in the auction is… well, relatively odd, we might cast our eyes to the heavens in honor of Johannes Kepler, the mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer (the distinctions among those fields being pretty vague in Kepler’s time); he died on this date in 1630.

Kepler’s “laws of planetary motion”– most famously, that the planets move in elliptical orbits around the Sun– were the foundation on which Isaac Newton (one of the few humans arguably smarter than Einstein) built his theory of universal gravitation.



The Annals of Semiology, Volume 666…

Signs of our times…

Many, Many more examples of the communications arts at SignSpotting.

As we erect our displays, we might recall that on this date in 1618, Johannes Kepler discovered the principal of planetary motion that he called “the harmonics law”…  and that (however improbably) influenced Goethe in the development of his Theory of Color– a little-read and fundamentally-incorrect, but fascinating critique of Newton’s theories of light and color.  In any case, a noble quest…  for surely, as John Ruskin observed, “of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.”

The colorful Johannes Kepler

Written by LW

May 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

On the internet, *everybody* knows that you’re a dog…

From Silicon Alley Insider‘s “The 5 Worst Tweets Ever,”  a reminder that it pays to understand social media before one uses them…  and that once something hits the web, it’s there to stay:

Back in March, the social media-savvy people employed by Skittles-maker Mars thought they had the whole thing figured out. Instead of worrying about building a fancy web page, they simply redirected Skittles.com to a Twitter search results page for the hashtag “Skittles.” Then came reality, as pranksters flooded the results page with unflattering remarks about the candy. Lafksy says this tweet from comedian Baratunde Thurston is actually one of the “less raunchy” examples:

Do read them all

(Baratunde Thurston, a very funny guy, can be found here.)

As we limit ourselves to 140 characters, we might console ourselves that even really, really smart people sometimes get things really, really wrong…  e.g., according to the great German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, it was on this date in 4977 BC that the universe was created.  Kepler’s observations and theories had a powerfully positive impact on human knowledge, building as they did on the work of Copernicus and Tyco Brahe to influence (his contemporary) Galileo and their followers, maybe most notably, Isaac Newton.  But for all that, Kepler’s fix on creation was, modern calculations suggest, roughly 13.7 Billion years off.

Johannes Kepler

Written by LW

April 27, 2009 at 1:01 am

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