Monday, March 26, 2007

Mad About Orreries

Few things bring out science nerd/steampunk fetishist quite like the complex mechanical movements of an Orrery. The first known such astronomical clock, The Antikythera Mechanism is believed to have been constructed around the first century BC (some 1600 years before Galileo faced the Roman Inquisition.) The first modern Orrery was created in 1704 by English clockmaker and inventor George Graham.

Only a small number of skilled craftsmen still build mechanical astronomical clocks. One such artisan is Brian Greig. Greig's instruments can be found at planetariums, museums and private collections around the world. Some of his instruments are for sale, ranging in price from $250 to about $15,000.

The Long Now Foundation Orrery (details pictured above) is an eight foot tall planetary display which was dedicated in 2005. The foundation, co-founded by Brian Eno, "was established in 1996 to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today's 'faster/cheaper' mind set and promote 'slower/better' thinking." See the excellent Flickr page on this gorgeous contraption.

Also of interest: The Long Now Foundation 10,000 Year Clock.

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