Physics Colloquium: The Search for two Late-Renaissance Optical Toys

Event Details

  • Speaker(s): James L. Hunt
  • Date:
  • Time: 4:00 p.m.
  • Location: Science Complex, Atrium Wing, Rm. 1511

As science emerged from magic in the late Renaissance, educated people became fascinated with scientific toys and amusements; witness the application of hydraulics to the construction of elaborate fountains. Among these, optical toys held a favoured place because of their mixture of science and the continuing magic of light itself. I will describe and demonstrate two such amusements: one which continues to this day and appears deceptively simple but conceals a deal of mathematical interest. The other, much more complex , has disappeared so completely that its resurrection constitutes a mathematical detective story. However at one time this toy had a considerable influence on the structure of the modern nation state.