Monday, 21 May 2018
Karl, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, Found Bessler’s Wheel was Easy to Understand.
When I began my biography about Johann Bessler, I had already completed several years research into his life, acquiring many documents, as well as much additional information from historic records, and I decided to publish everything I had found, concentrating on evidence provided by Bessler himself, and as much as possible from witnesses. I hoped to provide enough of an incentive to persuade others to seek Bessler's solution.
I believe that Bessler fully intended to sell his machine if at all possible, but he seemed right from the beginning, to think that he might have to accept post humous acceptance, which is why he left as an alternative enough clues so that some one later, after his death, could still discover his secret. To that end I was certain that Bessler would not have included any lies about his machine although he definitely wrote ambiguously at times. Lies could be challenged by a purchaser of the wheel, after the event, and Bessler sought acceptance to higher social circles, through the sale of his machine. Lies, would not help either in the sale nor its aftermath.
As for the evidence of the eye witnesses, obviously they could not see inside the machine but they did their best to provide descriptions as accurately as possible.
It has therefore puzzled me from time to time to see many valiant, determined efforts to replicate Bessler's wheel, while undoubtedly making erroneous assumptions or just discounting some evidence that we can assume was accurate, in order to complete their designs as they saw them, or according to their pet theories.
I refer, for instance, to the frequent declaration that Bessler's wheel had eight weighs. Where did this figure come from? There is the letter to Sir Isaac Newton in which Fischer von Erlach describes the "sound of about eight weights landing on the side towards which the wheel turned". But this refers to the Kassel wheel, capable of turning in either direction and requiring a gentle push in either direction to start rotating, and which gradulally accelerated to full speed. Fischer spent at least two hours with the wheel and could only say that there were about eight weights. We can only speculate about the examination, but I'm sure Fischer attempted to define exact;y how many weight he could hear landing, and yet he couldn't be precise, which suggests that there was a lot of distracting noises occurring at the same time.
Let me explain why this eight weight assumption is wrong; let us return to Bessler's first two wheels which were only able to turn in one direction. They were able to begin rotation as soon as the brake was released. Not only does Besssler tell us that these two could begin to rotate spontaneously as soon as the brake was released, but we also know that many spectatorres were encouraged to screw a bolt in and out to slow or bring the wheel to a halt, by simply making the end of the bolt rub against the side of the wheel, and unscrewing it to release it to allow it to regain full speed. The wheel did not require a push to start, it started spontaneously. But why did Bessler invent a wheel which could turn in either direction? To answer the accusations from some people that the wheel must have been wound up. Bessler believed that the two directional wheels would answer that criticism.
He set out to design this two way wheel and it has always seemed to me that the first and most obvious solution might be to set two wheels, linked together on the same axle, to see what would happen, but with one set to drive the wheel in the opposite direction to the first one. Obviously this would remove the spontaneous start, but perhaps a push might set them of spinning, and depending on which direction the push was given might provide accelerating rotation.in that direction.
But here is another assumption which Occam's Razor would appear to rule out. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is. So when I see people ignoring the simplest explanation for the design of the two way wheels, by suggesting some clever mechanism which would allow both directions from one set of weights I'm extremely sceptical. Why complicate what may be a simple solution to the two way wheels?
The eight weights applies to the two-way Kassel wheel; some weights may have been padded to remove or reduce the sound of their impact; this means there may have been one more for eac direction; this could add up to five weights for each direction, not four. Bessler even admits to adding felt on his earlier wheels to deaden the sound they made. For someone today to be designing a one-wheel with eight weights is therefore illogical; designing a two-way wheel before you've designed a successful one way wheel is also illogical.
In my opinion the one-way wheels required five mechanisms. The two-way wheels require five mechanisms for each direction. This is something I have established to my own satisfaction, but that is not to say that some other configuration requiring more weights is not possible, but for me its a case of Occam's razor again.
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