Cephalogenic

or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

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Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Science Fiction

I need to start a "What The Hell?" file.

A couple of days ago, Boingboing posted a piece about this device:


Isn't it lovely? It shows the motions of the planets around the sun (which is not to scale and in any case which has been removed from the device in this photo, the better to show off the workings).

WTH? number one: Why is the device called a "Planetarium-Tellurium"? First of all, it's not a planetarium, which is a theatre, not a machine. Second, there's no such object as a tellurium, any more than there's an object called a boron or a neptunium, because tellurium is an element of the periodic table, used in semiconductors and such. There doesn't appear to be any tellurium in the Planetarium-Tellurium, either, at least not in any significant amounts (it's mostly titanium). So was someone mistaken, or is someone extremely pretentious, or what?

WTH? number two: how could people write articles on this watch-fanatic website or on this one and not once use the word "orrery"?

Because an orrery is just what the device pictured is: a mechanical device that shows the positions and motions of the planets. The maker can call it a planetarium, or a Planetarium-Tellurium, if he wants, but it's still an orrery.

I just...I really don't get it. It's like writing about trees without once using the word "tree".

(The word "orrery", by the way, is suggestive of a compounded word; it looks sort of like "orbit", truncated, plus the common word ending "-ery", as in "bakery" and "rookery". Amazingly, it isn't; the device was named after the Earl of Orrery, who received one from instrument-maker John Rowley, who got the idea, and possibly the design, and possibly the original model, from its maker, George Graham.)

2 Comments:

Blogger Frank said...

I've seen words akin to "tellurian" used to describe the Earth and things of the earth. I think it derives from the Latin "tellus."

Sunday, August 26, 2007 4:10:00 AM  
Blogger Elaine said...

Very Interesting

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 5:15:00 PM  

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