Saturday, 11 July 2009

Was the mechanism really so simple?

I was working on the mechanism I believe was used in Bessler's wheel, yesterday and it occurred to me that this construction was not as simple as we all believe.

The problem lies in the fact that when you see machinery working it is not always too difficult to understand how it works. You might see an animated schematic of a combustion engine working and understand how it works but few of us would even consider trying to make one. A skilled engineer with all the right equipment might be able to, though. In the same way I think that Karl, the Landgrave of Hesse, the only man allowed to see the interior of the wheel, described the wheel as being so simple a carpenter's boy could make one after studying it for a few minutes. A carpenter's apprentice would have access to all the right equipment and be able to copy what he had seen, but that does not mean it is easy to make; just easy to understand.

This is how I was justifying to myself that what I am building appears to be more difficult to construct than Karl's statement would imply. Bessler himself expressed concern that once seen, his wheel would appear to be too simple to justify the large sum of money he was asking for its secret.

I have concluded that the design is simple to understand once you see it in motion and it looks easy to make but perhaps not so easy to design well without the detail required to make it in the best way possible.

Bessler says he had a dream which revealed to him the answer; I suspect that knowing the principle and making a machine which follows the principle were two different things. Construction of the working wheel time took him many more weeks of laboured improvisation before he succeeded. I know the principle but I didn't think of it unaided and I am not as skillful as Bessler was and neither am I working as intensively as he did so things are unfolding at a much slower rate than they did with him.

In operation my design does indeed look simple, but it has not been simple to construct. Is it the right design? I don't know and I won't until I've got all of the mechanisms attached and tested. The only thing I know is that they do work according to the principle of the wheel's operation, as I understand it.


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