Archive for August 20th, 2016

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Pure geekery

August 20, 2016

I had an e-mail recently from my alma mater and it mentioned Bill Hammack, who makes videos uing the handle EngineerGuy. (Check his site.)

Mr. Hammack made a series of videos about Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer, which was a mechanical computer for doing Fourier analysis. Here’s the first of four clips describing how the Analyzer worked and how to operate it.

There’s a book about the machine if you’re interested. And it’s also available in PDF at no cost.

Machines like this have always amazed me when I think of the mechanical creativity their designers showed. Nowadays you can do Fourier analysis with MS Excel but not that long ago (100+ years) just performing the calculations was such a tedious, error-prone task that people invented purpose-built machines to do it.


But the icing on the cake was that I came across Hammack’s video adaptation of one of my favorites, Faraday’s lectures on The Chemical History of a Candle.

Here’s the first of five videos (not counting Hammack’s introductory clip).

As with Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer, Hammack and his collaborators wrote a book about this too (also available for free in PDF).

Or if you prefer the old school, here are Faraday’s lectures in PDF.

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