Colors and Patterns: Tiffany Glass Panels

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I’m sure that it was the colors and patterns in stained-glass that first attracted me to them as a child.  I enjoyed those hours in church when there was stained-glass to study. Pictures of the disciples, of Jesus carrying a lamb, and Paul’s conversion gave life to my Sunday School lessons.  My grandmother’s quilts with their colors and patterns also kept me focused as I memorized their lines and etched their names on my memory.

This trio of stained glass panels are owned by the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas and are displayed in their American Art exhibit. They were crafted in the Tiffany Studios in 1905. Per the display description,

At the turn of the 20th century, Tiffany Studios became renown for pioneering the use of opalescent glass in a range of luminous colors, patterns and textures that revolutionized the medium of stained-glass windows…This window was likely a specialy commission for a residence, where it would have been installed on a stair landing to let in changing color and light as the sun moved throughout the day.

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The details are exquisite and reflect the craftmanship associated with the Tiffany Studios. I wondered if this commission was for installation in a new home or perhaps a gift from a husband to his wife and would love to know more of the story and see a picture of it in that house. I can just imagine an elegant woman with upswept hair in a soft Edwardian dress pausing with her hand on the newel post and admiring the light illuminating these delicate iris as she climbed the stairs.

 

Kugel ball

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I’m not a scientist and certainly don’t understand physics.  But I love things like this!

The kugel ball is a perfectly balanced sphere that weighs 5000 pounds yet rotates freely. Pressurized water flowing between the ball and the sphere supports the weight and allows the ball to be easily rotated. Trust me, I don’t understand it!

And, just to note, kugel is German for ball or sphere.

Foucault Pendulum, Somewhere In My Memory

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The capabilities of the human mind never cease to amaze me.  And, sometimes my own mind and its ability to remember things from long ago surprises me. On my recent trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science  we stopped for a few minutes to watch the Foucault pendulum. The pendulum swung back and forth, moving evenly around the circle, knocking over two of the domino like markers every 15 minutes.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Even as we stood there watching I had the thought, way in the back of my mind, that this was not the first time I had watched a pendulum moving around a circle.

I was full of questions about how this thing worked. My nephew, the engineering student, patiently explained how it worked and answered my questions.  I understood that the pendulum was fixed and it was really the rotation of the earth that was giving the appearance of movement.  But I couldn’t grasp what was keeping it moving so evenly. Yet, I still kept thinking, “I know all of this, I’ve seen this before” somewhere deep in my thoughts. We waited for it to knock over two markers and we moved on to other exhibits.

After we got home I did my homework (which I should have done before the trip) and discovered that there is a magnet surrounding the cable at its top. As the pendulum reaches the middle of its swing, it closes a circuit that activates the electromagnet and pulls the cable away from the center position. At Houston’s latitude (30° N.) the pendulum will move halfway around each day and knock down all of the pins.

As I was reading about this pendulum and Leon Foucault, the inventor, the thought that I’ve seen this before became stronger.  I kept putting it in the  Griffith Observatory that I had visited as a sixth grader on a Girl Scout field trip.  After a little internet searching I found what my memory was telling me – there was a Foucault pendulum there and it was exactly as I remembered it!

The fact that I could remember this long ago event was entertaining, but what made me laugh was remembering my thoughts that day that all that science stuff didn’t make any sense to me.  The planetarium enchanted me because I liked astronomy (still do), but the rest was lost on me.  But, maybe not.  I think my brain stored up all that data for me to pull out one day when something in my memory triggered it!

The Foucault pendulum is amazing and so is the human brain. The song Somewhere In My Memory from the Home Alone movies keeps playing in my mind!