Tag Archives: #STEM

As precise as a Roman water clock

The ancient Romans shaped the modern world as much through their way of thinking as through their military ambition, most notably their need for precision in all things. At night, when sundials were of no use, the Romans harnessed the power of water to measure time.

On display in the exhibition, Ancient Rome: The Empire that Shaped the World is a water clock made of wood and brass.

Historians believe the earliest known time-measuring instruments of this kind were Clepsydrae and used by the Ancient Greeks. However there is evidence that they existed even earlier in Babylon, Egypt and Persia around 1600 BC.

The 12-hour water clock divides the 24 hours of the day into two periods. An intricate device with numerous chambers, it keeps the water flow constant and is calibrated to take into account the different hours of sunlight in winter and summer. The terms ante meridiem ‘before midday’ and post meridiem ‘after midday’ are still in use today.

See this and many other objects from the ancient Roman empire that shaped our modern world and marvel at their long-lasting legacy.

Presented by the Cairns Italian Festival and The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum, Ancient Rome is showing until 7 August, 2022.

Australian Armour and Artillery Museum
2 Skyrail Drive, Smithfield, Queensland
Open 7 days, 9.30am – 4.30pm

Tickets to see Ancient Rome include free entry to the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum, the largest private collection of tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery in the southern hemisphere.

Tickets can be purchased online and at the Museum.

The Cairns Italian Festival continues with a wide range of events from 28 July – 6 August 2022.

Photo courtesy of WA Maritime Museum. Ancient Rome: Epic Innovators & Engineers, June – October 2020

Did you know the Romans invented concrete?

Concrete and the road-building technology used to build the Roman Empire’s famous roads are just part of the ancient civilization’s astonishing legacy.

It is remarkable how people who lived 2000 years ago have influenced our science, art, engineering, architecture and culture and also our ways of thinking.

From 8 June the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum, Cairns, will host the internationally acclaimed interactive exhibition Ancient Rome: The Empire that shaped the world.

Travel back in time when massive construction and large scale technological innovation led to the largest globally-integrated economy the world had ever seen. Be prepared to learn something new and unexpected about ancient Rome, contemporary society and human nature.

Highlights include:

  • Six metre long timeline spanning over 1000 years from Republic to Empire
  • Learn about military strategy, unprecedented logistics and communications
  • Get up close to gladiators’ armour, swords and shields
  • Discover the secrets of the Colosseum

The family-friendly exhibition is presented by the inaugural Cairns Italian Festival and the Museum.

Tickets to Ancient Rome include free entry to the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum, the largest private collection of tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery in the southern hemisphere.

8 June – 7 August 2022
Australian Armour & Artillery Museum
2 Skyrail Drive, Smithfield, Queensland
Open 7 days, 9.30am – 4.30pm

Tickets can be purchased online and at the Museum.

The Cairns Italian Festival continues with a wide range of events from 28 July – 6 August 2022.

Photo courtesy of WA Maritime Museum. Ancient Rome: Epic Innovators & Engineers, June – October 2020

How was Easter celebrated in the Roman Empire?

Many of our religious celebrations and secular holidays can be traced back to practices and traditions in Ancient Rome and earlier cultures. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that it was Emperor Constantine (272 – 337AD) who decided when Easter should be celebrated.

In the Christian religious tradition, Easter marks the crucifixion of Jesus, the son of God, on Good Friday and his resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday. Although there is speculation among historians about how the Jewish festival of Passover became the basis for the Christian festival of Easter, the intriguing connection is no coincidence.

The Exodus, when God liberated the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, is said to have taken place sometime between 1450 and 1270 BC. The annual festival of Passover (Pesah/Pesach) has been celebrated in March or April ever since. This means that it would have been a long-held tradition when the new religion of Christianity came along with the birth, and death, of Jesus.

Emperor Constantine, who was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, felt that Easter should not be linked to a festival belonging to a different religion. He decreed that Easter should take place on the first Sunday following the first new moon in Spring – which is why Easter varies every year, sometimes at the end of March and in other years, towards the end of April.

Justinian I (left, holding a model of Hagia Sophia) and Constantine the Great (right, holding a model of the city of Constantinople) presenting gifts to the Virgin Mary and Christ Child (centre), mosaic, 10th century; in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. © Joel Carillet—iStock/Getty Images

Learning should be fun!

Education experts and historians may be able to shed some light on what stage in the evolution of Western civilisation we started to think that learning is a serious affair and somehow separate from playing

This distinction is as misguided, and as unhelpful, as the distinction between the processes that lead to scientific discovery and those that are deployed when creating art.

In the late 1990s, the Harvard Business Review reported on trends that saw businesses stage experiences that would engage customers in their target markets in novel ways in order to sell more of their goods and services. The appeal of immersive experiences and interaction that the business community learned from the world of theatre and theme parks would become known as the Experience Economy.

The packaging of multi-sensory experiences, however, is nothing new to the cultural sector.

Those working in museums, science centres and galleries understand that visitors are curious creatures, seeking an opportunity to learn, be inspired by an encounter of an aesthetic kind, or enter a world different from their own for a brief period of time.

In these ways, a visit to a place of learning offers us the same joy of discovery that travel provides us. 

In the case of the internationally renowned Da Vinci Machines exhibition, visitors travel back in time to the Renaissance when innovation and creativity in the arts enabled a scientific revolution. By interacting with the functioning models constructed from Leonardo’s drawings, visitors gain a rare glimpse inside the mind of the genius polymath.

There are many ‘a ha’ moments in this exhibition and the Discovery Centre Bendigo has scheduled a number of events that will enhance the experience and make it even more enjoyable and memorable. These include Mona Lisa and Merlot to have fun as you learn to paint your own masterpiece, and Taste of Italy to learn about the history of Italian Renaissance art as you sample wines from acclaimed Heathcote wineries.

A young visitor learning how ball bearings reduce friction, a principle of science that is integral in the efficient functioning of machines to this day. Photo courtesy of Discovery Centre Bendigo, March 2022

The role of imagination in science

Albert Einstein may, or may not, have said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

A century ago the American philosopher, logician, mathematician and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce wrote that inductive and deductive reasoning on their own never led to a new idea. He warned us that by analyzing the past, and crunching numbers to predict the future, we are doing nothing more than extrapolation. If we stick to measuring what we can already measure, we cannot create a future that is different from the past.

Since Archimedes, we have taken comfort in following the Scientific Method; namely systematic observation and experimentation, inductive and deductive reasoning, and the formation and testing of hypotheses and theories. What has been less understood is the role of the imagination in science.

Without imagination, science would never ever have existed. Imagination and innovation are key to achieving change.

As the past few years of the Covid-19 pandemic, a global climate in crisis, and political upheavals have demonstrated, our understanding of the world, and our role in it, needs to change. We turn to our heroes Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo Galilei to celebrate how their imagination and creativity enabled them to see things differently. They understood that everything is connected to everything else, made it possible to see the invisible, applied knowledge from one field to another to generate new knowledge, and had the courage to not give up if their experiments failed.

We have so much to learn from them.

Photo: Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary, Waikato Museum, Hamilton NZ, 2021

Critical Thinking, Science and Art

Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens (1509 – 1511) is a who’s who of influential philosophers, mathematicians and scientists spanning 2000 years of Western civilisation.

With Plato and Aristotle as the central figures, the iconic fresco has come to symbolise the connections between art, philosophy and science. Framed by the impressive arch and dwarfed at the feet of the marble statues are Pythagoras, Euclid, Ptolemy, along with a “cameo” self-portrait of Raphael himself.

Creativity and innovation require what in modern times have been separated and labelled as science and art.

Critical thinking and problem-solving are as much prerequisites in the field of arts practice as they are to scientific inquiry.

The iterative nature of the scientific method relies on the imagination. Breakthroughs in science seem to happen out of the blue, but they never are. They are the result of deep thinking, acute observation, meticulous measurement, and rigorous experimentation.

This realisation now seems revolutionary but 500 years ago Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo knew it. Galileo too couldn’t have made his breakthrough scientific discoveries without it. Over 2000 years ago Archimedes taught us the importance of inventing experiments to test hypotheses.

The School Of Athens by Raphael Sanzio da Urbino is located inside the Stanza della Segnatura on the second floor of the Vatican Palace, Rome.

Leonardo’s funny bone

It is a little-known fact that Leonardo da Vinci worked in entertainment. Of course, the industry didn’t exist in the Renaissance, but da Vinci was a skilled musician and he created and played quirky and beautiful musical instruments. There are many written accounts of the elaborate theatrical props that da Vinci invented as well as staging that made actors appear and disappear as if by magic for his wealthy patrons.

Da Vinci’s ability to imagine and sketch dragons and other fantastical creatures with wings was key to his genius. He was commissioned by Pope Leo X to create a mechanical lion for the amusement of Francois I, the King of France. The fearsome-looking automaton would propel itself onto the stage. When the King struck it would open its mouth releasing lillies, the King’s floral emblem.

Other accounts tell of actors dressed as angels with wings entering the stage by hidden ropes creating the illusion they had flown from the heavens, much to the delight, awe, and wonder of the guests of the court. Even the sketch of the bicycle, found in the Codex Atlanticus (1478-1519), was thought to have been not so much the precursor to the two-wheeled vehicle but a stage prop.

Visitors to the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville Florida can see for themselves how entertainment, and specifically the art of comedy, was reshaped during da Vinci’s times.

On 28 October MOSH is hosting a special event with Jacksonville-based comedians.
Tickets include entry to The Da Vinci Machines & Robotics exhibition.

Leonardo da Vinci, Fight between a Dragon and a Lion. British Museum

Galileo’s legacy

Can you imagine what the world would be like without science, global telecommunications or modern medicine?

Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) the Italian scientist, astronomer and mathematician is best known for his fearless and pioneering work in science, physics and astronomy. Considered to be the ‘father of modern science’, Galileo challenged the beliefs of the time and paid a high price.

With his powerful telescope, he was able to demonstrate the theory held by Nicolaus Copernicus and other scientists that the sun is at the centre of our universe, not the Earth. He was tried by the Roman Inquisition, forced to stop teaching and publishing his ideas which were considered heretical, and kept under house arrest until his death.

Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary is the world’s first interactive exhibition on Galileo’s groundbreaking science, influential discoveries and inspirational life. The exhibition opened at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand on 19 June.

The story of how Galileo’s discoveries four hundred years ago shaped our modern world is told through the themes of Astronomy, Simple Machines, Gravity, Motion and Time, and Military and Inventions. The section on Experimental Science is dedicated to examining Galileo’s extraordinary legacy.

Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary. Photo courtesy of Canterbury Museum, Christchurch

For details on the exhibition visit; www.artisansofflorence.com/exhibitions/galileo-scientist-scholar-visionary/

The father of modern science

The moon landing, space exploration, satellites and global telecommunications, telescopes, navigation at sea, medical instruments that measure heart rate and even the clock…None of these would have been possible without the discoveries of Galileo!

‘Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary’ is now open at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch NZ. There are more than 60 experiments and inventions by the “father of modern science”.

Learn how Galileo’s fearless and pioneering work in Science, Physics, and Astronomy four centuries ago has shaped our modern world. 

Installation view of Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, Visionary (2021). Photo courtesy of Canterbury Museum

The nature of genius

What do the world’s greatest thinkers, scientists, artists, and visionaries have in common?

Archimedes of Syracuse, Leonardo Da Vinci and Galileo Galilei drew on the scientific knowledge of their times. They observed, measured, and imagined. They challenged widely accepted and long-held beliefs and created new knowledge. Each of them tested their hypotheses and adjusted their theories. Their discoveries changed the course of history.

We have the privilege of touring the iconic machines and exhibits based on the groundbreaking works of these geniuses. In the process of creating our exhibitions, the Artisans make discoveries of their own and unravel mysteries that bring us closer to understanding the nature of genius.

Not many of us will ever have the impact on the world that Archimedes, Da Vinci and Galilei have had, but we can learn from them.

In the words of the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer:

Talent hits a target no one else can hit;
Genius hits a target no one else can see