Leonardo and the Engineers of the Renaissance

Posted by jerry on April 30th, 2004 — Posted in History, Technology

Now here is a seriously good site – it’s a pity the slide shows are all in Italian – perhaps I could learn it during the downloads (Italian servers seem very slow) but it’s well worth the wait!

This site is an online museum display of renaissance engineers’ work housed at the Museum of the History of Science (Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza) and the site is divided into three main entry points: Filipo Brunelleschi; The Sienese Engineers and Leonardo da Vinci. The 3D modelling is good and there are excellent descriptions of Leonardo’s flying machines (as well as his robots, crossbows, machine elements, etc etc). There are again hints that towards the end of his life, Leonardo focussed on fixed wing gliders and hints that a student of his may have actually flown (and crashed, breaking his leg). As for Leonardo’s helicopter, while there are the usual gripes about the inadequacy of human power, it clearly points to the helicopter being derived from a well known flying toy that appears to have been around for about 100 years before Leonardo’s time. So the principle must have been okay, just a poor power-to-weight ratio.

Also, having designed a steam cannon, and several pumps – it’s a wonder that he didn’t come up with a viable steam engine as a motive power. It seems to be a case of all the elements but lacking the one concept to link them together. Other forms of power were seriously considered, such as clockwork and water power – but it seems that was one that got away lest the industrial revolution happen 250 years earlier than it did!


more music

Posted by jerry on April 25th, 2004 — Posted in Music

Well, after a bit of work we have a couple of tracks together – here’s a live recorded track to listen to 🙂 Let me know what you think – it’s a couple of Irish reels called Paddy Fahy’s No1 and Gravel Walk… more like a run really!

[I have removed the recording so it doesn’t clog up slower servers – hope you enjoyed it while it was there. I’ll be uploading some MP3s of thethe band on our soon-to-be-established web page – JE]


learning tunes

Posted by jerry on April 25th, 2004 — Posted in Music

Finally found the music to a tune that has been driving me nuts for months – Green Gates reel – I keep hearing it in my head to the point where I have been able to pick out the broad shape of the first part of the tune, but not close enough to be able to do a pattern search among the ABC notation sites and some great Irish music collections online, such as O’Neills Music of Ireland and Allens Irish Fiddler And my favourite tune finding site: The Session.org And last night i found the tune – with the sheet music. Big learning binge this weekend with me learning “The Musical Priest” and “Star of Munster” reels.

Must get back to recording tomorrow. Today was the garden – I’ve been extending the garden watering system so that the whole garden gets watered.

Leonardo da Vinci – renaissance engineer

Posted by jerry on April 23rd, 2004 — Posted in History, Technology

Leonardo was certainly one of the greatest engineers of his time, but he was one of quite a number from whom he clearly learnt a lot. What he did accomplish was a good record of the engineering achievements, both his own and those of fellow engineers of the period – remember copyrights and patents weren’t as stringently enforced in those days – so, for example it seems clear that Leonardo borrowed fairly heavily from his contemporaries and immediate predecessors, such as Brunelleschi. And a wonderful exhibition of his work and that of his near contemporaries has been put together over several years showing a good cross-section of the achievements of the time in mechanical engineering, fluid dynamics and a whole host of conceptual groundwork for the achievements of our own time.

Brunelleschi was famous as the young engineer who solved the problem of how to build a big cathedral dome without central scaffolding (the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence cathedral). Along the way he devised cranes, very similar to today’s tower cranes, for shifting the stone blocks into position with considerable precision. Some excellent sketches survive of Brunelleschi’s cranes – detailed enough for working models to be built.

Brunelleschi\'s crane
Brunelleschi’s crane

But possibly Brunelleschi’s greatest achievement was in the organisation of the logistics flow and workforce organisation that enabled construction to take place within a relatively narrow physical urban area and to enable construction to meet scheduled deadlines – on time and on budget – unlike so many renaissance cathedral projects! Check out the exhibition site – it’s well worth a visit


mac virus fears unfounded

Posted by jerry on April 21st, 2004 — Posted in New media, Technology

A big THANK YOU to The Barrow in The Australian IT for setting the record straight on a supposed Trojan horse virus that allegedly masquerades as an mp3 music file and targets macintosh computers running operating system 10 (OS-X).

Phew – us mac users can play mp3s again safely! Last week the press was full – and I mean full of commentary as they talked about the dangers of a virus that attacks mac OSX operating systems – now these machines have been blissfully free of virus threats for about three years now – good old robust unix-based system! So it was with some trepidation that I began to read of a trojan horse supposedly uncovered by an anti-virus company (hmmm now THAT should have been a warning in itself – like in whose interests is it to advertise a new virus if not an anti-virus company?). Anyhow it all turned out to be much ado about not very much 🙂

It seems there was a piece of software that ran as an application but looked like an MP3 music file was actually completely harmless. Apparently the software involved was real – a proof-of concept showing that it was possible to create an application that was both an application and a legitimate music file – all in one. The problem was that he named the application virus.mp3 – and that’s when the fun started. After mentioning the software on a bulletin board, it seems some enterprising anti-virus company did a bit of ‘sexing-up’ of the information and promptly cried wolf – without the software ever leaving the lab in which it was created! So it hasn’t spread, it is not in the public arena and it is incapable of malicious activity. In short – IT IS NOT A VIRUS DUDE! And this is further confirmed in Mac News Network

Jerry (Canberra, Australia)