way back from Windsor we had a bit of time left so we decided to
do a fast viewing of the Science Museum. It was close to
one of our tube stops so that seemed to be a good idea.
None of us were prepared for the scope and depth of the museum
and they rang the closing bell before we could get our
fill. The short story is that this is a multi-day affair,
not unlike the British Museum.
The photos below are what we saw.
train from Windsor came into Paddington Station, a rather large
from Paddington to the museum took us through an extensive
tunnel system where we spotted this fellow. Much better
than the normal yodeling guitarist.
to the Science Museum with the intent purpose of seeing
Babbage's Difference Engine, but immediately got side-tracked by
one of James Watt's original steam engines. The invention
of the steam engine changed the world and these machines were
the very first examples of harvesting the power of heated vapor
on a mission because we knew that closing time was fast
approaching, but it was hard to walk past without at least a
engine was massive, one of the largest I have seen.
castings and arms are huge and a daunting task to manufacture
ghastly, but half of Babbage's brain was on display. I am
not sure what happened to the other half, but Babbage was
anything but a half-wit.
museum had a number of Babbage's machines on display.
These machines were intricate and complex with plenty of gears,
cams and cogs.
the machines would do 31 digit arithmetic and was used to
produce tables of mathematical functions and artillery
level of detailed machining that was required to produce a
working device was almost overwhelming.
actual difference engine was never finished, but finished over
100 years later by museum volunteers.
the target audience of the museum, the description of how the
machines actually functioned was somewhat lacking. Note
the large, many-lobed vertical cam on the left edge of the photo
Gears drive cogs and cogs drive gears.
This photo makes me think
of terms we used in engineering school like "now just turn the
Look at this stack of
We we rapidly running out
of time, so we moved on to another display this one showing a
mechanical differential equation solver.
In some respects, this is
more complex than Babbage's engine.
A mechanical tide
predictor that used the periodic motion of the planets as its
tide model. All the components were coupled by shafts,
gears and cables.
I am sad to admit, but
when I was in school I had a slide rule. In fact, I
still have it. It still works, but it is a PITA to
use. But, slide rules got us to the moon and it got me
Some of these "slip
sticks" were very powerful.
A close relative of #5 is
sitting on my book case at home. My father used it
during his engineering studies in college and so did I.
They rang the closing
bell, so we had to leave, but to get out we had to go past the
steam engines again.
An early steam turbine.
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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2015, all rights
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