Wednesday 25 February 2015

Did Bessler use invisible ink?

Someone emailed me the other day suggesting that Johann Bessler might have used invisible ink either under his portrait, in Maschinen Tractate or even in Das Triumphirende or one of his other publications.  My first reaction was instant dismissal of the idea, but later I thought it might be interesting to investigate what was known about such things at that time just to see if it was even a possibility.

Surprisingly there is plenty of evidence that the subject was widely understood and used in particular by those in high office.  No lesser person than Mary Queen of Scots while in prison plotted to over throw Queen Elizabeth I and used invisible ink in her letters to her co-conspirators to convey her wishes.

The history of invisible ink goes back more than 2,000 years and was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The first record of it comes from Pliny the Elder in the first century AD, who mentioned using the milk of the tithymalus plant as an invisible ink in his Natural History. Invisible ink continued to be used during the Renaissance; statesmen used it in their letters, and Ovid references the practice in his Art of Love. Giovanni Battista della Porta, an Italian polymath, developed a formula for invisible ink.  Many others, including Roger Bacon and John Dee, were familiar with its use.

For our purposes one of the most interesting facts is that Prague was a hot bed of ciphers and codes and the constant ethnic tensions between the Jesuits and the Jews who lived there resulted in the need for secure communications between those on opposing sides who still wished to consult each other and invisible ink was a common method used.

Remember Bessler's account of his time in Prague when he conversed with the Jesuit priest:-

"You seem to be a clever, skilful and strong young fellow, and if you're interested we could join forces together with God, in the hope that He would let us make this discovery. Now as it happens, I know a wise man who, on proper reflection, could well help us, and it would be a good idea if you were to go to see him frequently, as it is no longer really fitting for me to do so, because I've been seen too often recently going into the Hebrew quarter, creeping to see some Rabbi or other. It doesn't take our Brothers long to sniff such a thing out! Since you and I seem to be at one in these matters I think you will be a perfectly satisfactory substitute for me on these journeys - we'll keep the whole thing a secret, shall we?"

It has always seemed to me that the two priests used Bessler for their own purposes besides helping him with his search for the secret of perpetual motion.  Later he wrote of the Rabbi:-

"He also taught me hieroglyphics, the language of Nature and the writings of the Angels."

Interestingly, in 1705 a mysterious female German alchemist seems to have been the first person to identify bismuth-cobalt as a valuable substance from which to make invisible ink. This alchemist was also the anonymous author of three books, including one with the alluring title 'On the Key to the Cabinet of the Secret Treasure Room of Nature', which included a discussion of the changing bismuth-cobalt colours.  That book title seems to ring closely with Bessler's 'language of nature', and given his extremely open and curious mind I am certain that Bessler was taught, or taught himself, the art of making and using invisible ink.

Given his obvious interest and extensive use of several different kinds of codes and his self-evident determination to provide many clues, some of which I know refer exclusively to the design of his wheel, it seems perfectly possible, after all, that he might have used invisible ink somewhere.

So it's not impossible that he might have written on some pages in invisible ink.  Unfortunately I no longer own an original manuscript by Bessler so any research into the possibility will have to be done by another.  I'm undecided about its use by Bessler, but I decided to fly a kite, to see if anyone thinks there might be something in this idea.

(To fly a kite, is a term used in politics in certain English-speaking countries to describe a tactic, whereby a politician, usually through the media and often by way of an intentional leak, raises an idea to gauge the general and public reaction to it.)

NB The mysterious female alchemist was thought to be Dorothea Juliana Walchin.  Her findings were supported by George Ernst Stahl (1659-1734) a well-known German chemist and physician.  I mention this because there was a lot of research being carried out at that time into the use of dies for writing, printing and painting - and invisible ink.



Wednesday 18 February 2015

Bessler a Fraud? Prove it.

When our old friend Herman Helmholtz presented the original formulation of what is now known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, beginning with the axiomatic statement that a Perpetual Motion Machine is impossible, he was referring to the idea that a machine that had no external source of energy would run out fuel very quickly and stop.  Such a concept was and is obviously impossible. We, on the other hand, often, mistakenly in my opinion, use the words Perpetual Motion when referring to Bessler's machine, despite the very strong evidence that it acquired sufficient energy to run continuously as long as it was operating within a gravitational field - an external energy source and therefore not a Perpetual Motion machine as such as was discussed by Helmholtz.  He was describing a closed system.

This habit of calling Bessler's machine a perpetual motion machine is like putting our collective heads into the lion's mouth.  We are asking for our ideas to be shot down in flames, because as Helmholtz said, no one had ever invented such a machine therefore they must be impossible.  (Sorry about the mixed metaphors!)

That idea, that Perpetual Motion machines are against the laws of physics, has stayed with us, and it is a seemingly insurmountable wall that has included the Bessler type of machine.  For the purposes of this blog I shall refer to Helmholtz's Perpetual Motion as PM and Bessler's  as PM+G. In other words 'Perpetual Motion with the aid of Gravity'.  I came to this conclusion while trying to understand why everyone else on the planet knew with utter certainty that Bessler was a fraud.

Since Bessler's day people from all over the world have strived to duplicate his wheel, so far without success; and yet there are still only two reasons given why the claims must be false; one is that such machines break the laws of physics, and secondly, that if such a device were possible someone would have invented it.  To put it another way, PM machines must be impossible otherwise someone would have invented one already. Both points originated from Herman Helmholtz, almost 200 years ago. This reasoning is irrelevant if you accept that Bessler did indeed invent a PM+G machine.  That one fact destroys the second point, but only if you are talking about Helmholtz's PM machine.  The fact that Bessler succeeded obviously means that his machine did not break any physical laws.

Space prevents me from rehearsing the reasons why many people now believe that Bessler's claims were genuine and that he did invent a machine which ran continuously with no obvious external supply of energy. If people wish I can briefly go through them in a future blog, but all the information is out there especially on the besslerwheel forum, which you can find at There is more than enough evidence to show that he discovered a way of using falling weights in his wheel, therefore he used the force of gravity to drive his machine.

We are all aware of the many experiment carried out over the last 300 years to try to find the source of energy he used, on the assumption that there must have been some external energy supply, and yet not one single source has been found which would supply enough energy to duplicate the output of his machines.  It is quite clear that it was gravity and not one of the other more unconvincing sources suggested.  In which case if we assume that Bessler was honest it must be possible to make use of gravity without breaking the laws of physics.

There is no good reason why gravity may not be so used, and the idea - the premise - that gravity cannot be so used is wrong,  It is said that 'if the premise is true, then the conclusion must be true', but the reverse is also true, if the premise is wrong then the conclusion must be wrong.  When Helmholtz stated that PM machines were impossible, he was right, but he was not suggesting gravity driven machines were impossible, he wasn't even discussing them. 

The whole house of cards was started, even before Bessler's time, because no-one understood the force of gravity, and any and everything which suggested that something was a perpetual motion machine was lumped together with the PM+G machines as well as the more obvious PM machines whose secret of construction were still being sought despite the obvious fallacy in their design concept.  Despite my many attempts to reprogram people's thinking, the impossibility of PM+G is still lumped to together with PM and, as Mike Wech wrote,'Some things in life become ingrained in your psyche. You can't shake them no matter how hard you try. They're tattooed inside your skull, lying dormant, 'til the moment you need to draw from them.'

Knowing this I am absolutely certain that the sceptics will not accept this possibility until someone produces a working model demonstrating the use of gravity as a fuel and probably not even then.

However I don't see why we should do nothing about their demands - we are doing our best to prove Bessler's claim - so I say, if they are so sure that Bessler was a fraud, why don't they duplicate his wheels and the tests they underwent, but using only the materials and technology that was available then? They cannot use gravity because they say its impossible, but surely someone could have managed to build a fraudulent version in the last 300 years, if his was a fake - and if it was possible? 



Saturday 14 February 2015

Our Archaic Measuring System.

During my research into the legend of Bessler’s wheel I quickly became aware of the many variations between apparently similarly-named weights and measures, across Germany and elsewhere. Eventually I sorted out the correct ones, and I came to the conclusion that all these weights and measure definitions must have originated from some identifiable source and one that provided a means of verifying a particular measurement.  It seems to me that resource which was once identifiable has been largely lost.

The lost resources were replaced by traditions that can seem amusing.  For example in the 16th century the lawful ‘rod’ was decreed to be the combined length of the left feet of 16 men as they left church on a Sunday morning.  I assume that they would be dressed in their best, including good shoes which might have been larger than their normal work wear shoes, to aid accurate measurement.  The rod in question  (or pole, or perch) is a surveyor’s tool, 5 and a half yards, which is equal to 16 and a half feet and that probably explains the use of 16 men’s feet as a rough guide. Another apocryphal tale records that Henry I decreed the lawful yard to be the distance between the tip of his nose and the end of his thumb.

Traces of those lost resources are still evident in some of our commonly used measurements. Degrees for instance; why are there 360 degrees in a circle?  

This question puzzled me as a schoolboy and the answers I have found over the years have been few and unsatisfactory in my opinion.

The usual suggestion is that it has come down to us from the Babylonians and before them the Sumerians, who, we are told, used a 60 base system of numbering.  They thrived some 6000 years ago and obviously had good reasons for using such a system.

It has been suggested that 60 was used for a base because it has so many divisors. 60 is the smallest number for which 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are divisors – plus 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30. That makes it much better to work with than a 10 base, so yes that is one reason but is that really the only reason.  Bear in mind that they also used a 10 based system alongside the 60 base.

The Babylonians and their predecessors were familiar with the seasons and knew the earth’s rotation was about 365 days. They used the 360 day and added the additional 5 later. As we saw above 360 subdivides in so many ways.  Seasons included summer and winter, spring and autumn, 90 days each. They divided the 90 days into three lots of 30, making twelve months of 30 days each - all based on 60.

Each day was divided into two lots of 12 hours because that was the average of the summer and winter day lengths. Each hour was subdivided into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds. Each day is equal to 1 degree of the earth’s annual orbit around the sun so 360 degrees for a full circle made perfect sense. At midday in midsummer the sun was overhead so they could mark the middle of the day as noon, and call after noon, well, afternoon! That gave them 6 hours on either side.  

With all these divisions and sub division, they could measure how far the earth rotated in, say, 1 hour or even 1 minute or a second.  1 day = 360 degree rotation and that is also 24 hours, so the shift per hour is 360/24 = 15 degrees /hour and 1 degree = 4 minutes.  Today we know that each degree of latitude at the equator equals nearly 69 miles; each minute of latitude equals just over 1 mile; and each second of latitude equals a fraction over 100 feet.

You can see that the 360 degrees that the earth moves can also be used to measure the angle of arc but the Sumerians also knew that the perimeter of a hexagon is exactly equal to six times the radius of a circumscribed circle, in fact that was probably another reason why they chose to divide the circle into 360 degrees.

I mentioned the ‘rod’ in connection with 16 left feet – why the left feet?  Perhaps it was common knowledge that, contrary to popular belief, the left foot is 80% of the time, the larger foot and 80% of the population is right hand dominant. Anyway, getting back to the rod, the rod is useful as a unit of length because whole number multiples of it equal one acre of square measure. The 'perfect acre’ is a rectangular area of 43,560 square feet, bounded by sides 660 feet by 66 feet long – clearly another pointer to the base 60 system. 

The Sumerians gave us base 60 and thus the analogue clock.  Time is measured in hours, minutes and seconds, all base 60.

Minutes of arc (and its subunit, seconds of arc) are also used in cartography and navigation. At sea level one minute of arc along the equator or a meridian equals approximately one Nautical mile (1.151 miles). A second of arc, one sixtieth of this amount, is about 30 meters or roughly 100 feet. The exact distance varies along meridian arcs because the figure of the Earth is slightly oblate.

Positions are traditionally given using degrees, minutes, and seconds of arcs for latitude, the arc north or south of the equator, and for longitude, the arc east or west of the Prime Meridian.

There is so much more to say about these ancient measuring systems, but there are some who have suggested that the rotation of the earth was only 360 days in ancient times, and was forced into a larger orbit by the close bypass of large asteroid.  This would explain the Sumerians choice of the 60 base even better and there are other related factors.  Perhaps the alterations in orbit might have led to a re-jigging of the distances I mentioned above to a more precise and accurate total.  So each minute of latitude might equal exactly one mile, and each second of latitude equal exactly 30 yards.  This knowledge would provide a constant source of verification of various measures.

One more thing; before the UK went decimal we were used to some old coinage.  12 pence to one shilling, 240 pence to one pound, four crowns to one pound - a distant echo of the 60 base numbering system?

So the old resource which allowed the precise determination of, say 1 foot, or 1 yard, by anyone, then they must have measured the earth, which begs the question if in fact the above is true, how did they know the earth’s size – exactly?


Thursday 5 February 2015

John Collins is 70 today!

I'm seventy years of age today and in this year, I'm determined to show a proof of principle wheel or how to configure one - and soon.  I am confident that I have the whole solution and it has only taken me 55 years to get here!

I was about 15 when I first read an account of the legend of Bessler's wheel and I spent much of my youth doodling designs which I now know were way off the mark.  When I was about 30  I came across the same book I had read when I was 15 and it re-inspired me to look again into the mystery of Bessler's wheel. I remembered my own scepticism about the assumption that Bessler was a fraud and why, and I determined to get to the truth.  The book was the famous, 'Oddities', by R.Gould and it has served to re-inspire me over the years.

I sought original documents from all over Europe and the USA.  It took years and even when I had copies I couldn't read any of it because it was mostly in German.  I knew I would eventually get it all translated but I did not realise how expensive a task that was going to be.  In the end I advertised in a local paper for someone who was prepared to translate 18th C. German documents for free.

I had about eight replies and although I gave samples to all the respondents, only one stood out. Mike Senior with degrees in 18th C. German - and ancient Greek, astronomy and botany of all things!  He also reads Latin and can quote verbatim from memory, from the ancient Greek texts - and of course speaks fluent German. He is a member of Mensa and regularly has letters published in various science magazines.  Mike has done all my German translations and when he asked me if I wanted a literal translation or did I prefer something more readable that conveyed the spirit of the what the author was trying to say, I chose the latter.  I never realised at that time how Mike's words would be pored over, criticised and sometimes dismissed as inaccurate.  We had no way of knowing that future researchers would seek out clues from the very words used and perhaps I should have stuck to the literal, but it is what it is.

I'm pleased that so many people around the world now have Bessler's words, drawings, thoughts and clues and I hope that they will soon lead to the solution.  The worst thing would be for his work to be lost and for another 300 years pass before the solution was found again.  I really don't think that is going to happen!

So I'm of going out today with my wife and two daughters to celebrate my 70 years and then tomorrow I shall return (at last) to work on my Besslerwheel and finish it!



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