This animation is assembled from A. M. (Arthur Mason) Worthington's drawings of .15 inch diameter mercury droplets falling from 3 inches onto a glass plate. Some of these were drawn as early as 1876, using a nearby spark for very brief illumination. The thirty drawings (see source scans
, from his 1894 The Splash of a Drop
) are at different phases of the splash, separated by about 1/600 sec., using machines that could repeatably produce a drop and vary the timing of the spark. He refined his equipment and techniques over several decades, eventually moving to photography.
Worthington, a physics professor, wrote and spoke eloquently about his methods, observations, and the physics behind drops and splashes, much of which is summarized in his 1908 book A Study of Spashes
From The History of Stopping Time #1: A.M. Worthington, Ernst Mach and Doc Edgerton
"They are perhaps one of the first revelations on the quiet residence of energy in something as simple as a drop of water or mercury. Much in the same way Robert Hooke revealed the microscopic universe to unsuspecting readers, so too did Worthington, in his way, reveal the explosive world of small, fast, and lost events. Worthington’s style is of course exceptionally restrained and free of exclamation, even while describing the first time any human has witnessed these events, like so: “…watching the changes of form of drops of various liquids falling vertically on a horizontal plane…the whole splash takes place so quickly that the eye cannot follow the changes of form…” This report, “On Drops” follows Worthington’s own earlier effort of 1876 and 1877 “A Second Paper on The Forms Assumed by Drops of Liquids falling vertically on a Horizontal Plate” (Proceedings of the Royal Society, 174 and 177), chronicles his brilliant adventure in the newly discovered world of fast time—a world he was pretty much creating as he moved along."
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"If the engine doesn't work, we'll just be a permanent monument to the space program.
" — Pete Conrad
speaking to copilot Alan Bean
just prior to liftoff from the lunar surface during Apollo 12
(stereo pair, cross-view)
I started fixing up a nice stereo pair that Alan Bean took during Apollo 12. The photos/scans are good quality, but there is an uneven flair in both photos that is difficult to remove properly. I like the composition, a wide open plain in the background with unusual geological detail (a tiny crater, not unusual on the moon but very unusual on earth) in the midground and suface dust and rocks in the foreground that look great in stereo.
What did Alan Bean see?
In reading about the history of the photo I found that Alan Bean, in 1981 after quitting his astronaut gig, turned to painting what he remembered of the moon using the mission's photographs for reference. Just a few years ago, in 2006, he painted a scene based on this photo. It's interesting to compare his painting with his photo.
Comparison of the AS12-49-7318 photo and Al Bean's painting "AstroOptiMax" (inset).
The most striking difference is the cropping of the scene in such a way to emphasize the astronaut, minimizing the astonishing fact that they were tiny and alone on a vast landscape. The hand of man is literally and figuratively at the center of the painting. Even the reflection of himself, in Conrad's visor, is relatively enlarged, though the scale of other features are well proportioned. He raised Conrad relative to the horizon, as if it was shot from a lower vantage point. And he leveled the horizon, as if they were on a flat plain, while the photo shows that they are on a large even slope — unless Conrad and the photographer Bean had a significant list in low gravity.
Comparison of photo and painting helmet detail. The painting's photo has been roughly coregistered and linearly warped (with shear) to match the photo, based on ~10 visually corresponding control points.
I wonder if the gold reflective coating on the visors resulted in an apparent blue cast to the astronaut's visual impression. Most of Bean's paintings use a palette skewed toward blues.
More info about the photos and painting
From a short (3:06) interview of Alan Bean
about his motivation for painting space program themes, and the role of humans in space exploration:
"The human spirit is the most important element in all exploration."
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