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The 17th century mission to the moon.
July 20, 2009 7:20 AM   Subscribe

He built an artificial rainbow machine, but had even bigger plans.
posted by chronkite (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
His creativity showed itself with inventions such as the first airgun and mileage recorder.

Since they didn't have gas engines back then, I assume this means an odometer. *cough*

Wilkins believed food would not be needed by his explorers. He thought there was already evidence of people going long periods without eating.

Any evidence of those people surviving?

And in space, free of Earth's "magnetism", there would be no pull on their digestive organs to make them hungry, he argued.

lol

Great link.
posted by DU at 7:29 AM on July 20, 2009


Wait, I thought baron Munchausen did this. So many of these people were born too early. It's great to have dreamers. I always wonder what da Vinci could have accomplished had he been born at a later time, but them perhaps without him technology wouldn't have progressed in the manner it did.

Off to go look for some Selenites.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:29 AM on July 20, 2009


The Discovery of a World in the Moone.
posted by peacay at 7:31 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's very interesting how this played out before the notion of experimentation took hold. Science by "that sounds like a good argument." This, therefore that. The logic is unassailable.

I kinda wish the scientific method had taken root earlier in history, and we as a species had applied it a little more broadly. It's not perfect, but it's better than Quasi-Reasonable "Logic."
posted by adipocere at 7:48 AM on July 20, 2009


He was a founding member of the Royal Society and built a model space-ship with Robert Hooke, thus finding that his ideas didn't work as well as he thought. That makes this neither chronologically nor psychologically "before the notion of experimentation took hold".
posted by DU at 7:55 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artificial Rainbow Machine would be a great name for a band.
posted by Mister_A at 8:00 AM on July 20, 2009


Personally, I want to know more about this artificial rainbow machine.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was just reading a (semi-)fictional account of him in Quicksilver. Moved on to the almost entirely fictional Jack, Eliza and Leibniz section now, though.
posted by kalessin at 8:46 AM on July 20, 2009


10 or 20 men clubbing together 20 guineas each. Maximum budget therefore 420 shillings. Remind me of NASA's budget again?
posted by Major Tom at 9:03 AM on July 20, 2009


Was it really the popular view that the moon and other planets were inhabited? And now we're hunting around for a few dead microbes on Mars and there's a Nobel Prize in there somewhere. We're like so sophisticated.
posted by hciadt at 10:03 AM on July 20, 2009


adipocere: It's very interesting how this played out before the notion of experimentation took hold. Science by "that sounds like a good argument." This, therefore that. The logic is unassailable.

I kinda wish the scientific method had taken root earlier in history, and we as a species had applied it a little more broadly. It's not perfect, but it's better than Quasi-Reasonable "Logic."


"This, therefore that," still goes on today in observational journal articles and in the discussion section of experimental science articles. Not to mention research proposals.

However, even in the 1600s, you needed substantiation to be taken seriously by your peers. Lack of scientific evaluation was more due to the limits of technology than flawed logic. If nobody has invented the conventions for 'good sampling,' and if nobody agrees on when to reject an hypothesis, if the importance of repeatability is not recognized due to just these factors... then you can't really institute the scientific method. Before any of that could fall into place, people had to guess-- that was the methodology involved in developing the scientific method.
posted by zennie at 11:10 AM on July 20, 2009


Maybe before the notion of empathy or common sense did, then. "You'll get used to the angel air" is ... I suppose it's a type of experiment in that after seeing a shipful of dead people he'd probably no longer be able to continue. He was most definitely putting the cart before the horse when it came to "no pull on the internal organs, therefore they won't need to eat" bit. That's one of those things I just ... in the 1600s people thought that it was possible not to eat? *blink blink blink* I could see that concept being held by some fringe whackos, but someone in any kind of science? That's something that would require a heck of a lot of substantiation, once you'd heard about starvation.

There's a lack of the doubt required to make it a real experiment in the sense of the scientific method. Call it institutionalized humility, but it's at least a germ of "hey, this might not work out." Planning on sending folks up in your airboat on the assumption that they'll stop needing food and calling it an experiment is a bit like calling a kid with an M-80 a demolitions expert.
posted by adipocere at 1:25 PM on July 20, 2009


I think there's also a chance that he was pulling people's leg on the eating and breathing thing, perhaps because he had NO IDEA how to get all those supplies on board, much less an oxygen system.
posted by chronkite at 1:44 PM on July 20, 2009


He was most definitely putting the cart before the horse when it came to "no pull on the internal organs, therefore they won't need to eat" bit. That's one of those things I just ... in the 1600s people thought that it was possible not to eat? *blink blink blink* I could see that concept being held by some fringe whackos, but someone in any kind of science? That's something that would require a heck of a lot of substantiation, once you'd heard about starvation.

Well, we're talking about someone who lived when scientific pursuits were, on the whole, leisure activities for persons of means. The very definition of "science" was different then; a science was any activity that involved the study of physical nature. This is carried over in the title, "PhD," doctory of philosophy.

Back then, believing someone can create a flying machine (let alone visit a heavenly body) was even more Out There than believing lack of gravity could suspend human metabolism. People understood that 'what goes up comes down,' but the driving forces of metabolism wouldn't be grasped for another hundred years. (Hah... or yeah, he could have been yanking their chains.)

I agree that it's quite absurd what people will believe, but today's cutting edge theory will always look like either a breakthrough or quackery a few decades from now.
posted by zennie at 2:05 PM on July 20, 2009


It is amazing to think that the vacuum of space hadn't been discovered yet, so he thought it quite plausible to take some kind of open ship to the moon. Too bad it isn't like this!

But within his lifetime the vacuum was discovered, and he then realized that his ship wouldn't work.
posted by eye of newt at 9:17 PM on July 20, 2009


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