Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Colourful London: From Camera Obscura to Albert Einstein Made of Wax

Story by
Brigita Zutere

Exploring the world is a great opportunity to observe the beauty of the nature and different phenomenon all around us. This story is going to take you to United Kingdom - a place where natural philosophers, great astronomers and world famous scientists come from. A very keen traveller - Brigita - Alumni member from UL SPIE Chapter had a wonderful chance to visit a few places closely connected to optics, as well as a particular place where the time starts - the Prime Meridian, based at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.

Standing on the historic Prime Meridian of the World

Brigita shares her trip experience: “It is usually easy to get to the Royal Observatory via the local train, unless there are not some big events with thousands of people and crowded streets. After a while, walking down the streets of Greenwich and following the signs, I reached the Royal Observatory Park. While climbing the hill, I observed the beautiful surroundings, as it was the beginning of the spring, the trees blooming everywhere with the nice, fresh spring scent. Finally, I reached the top of the hill and the majestic Royal Observatory.”

Sweet prize for the long hiking 
Interestingly, there have been a number of camera obscuras at Greenwich, dating from the late 17th century till mid-19th century, when John Flamsteed (1646 –1719), the first Astronomer Royal, lived in UK. He catalogued over 3000 stars. Nowadays, the Royal Observatory Greenwich camera obscura is located at a small summerhouse in the Meridian Courtyard. I entered a small dark chamber through the curtain where a panning mechanism was installed, and there it was - one of the biggest optical inventions! Fortunately, that was a very sunny day, so I could see the power of the optics at its best. Such a great possibility to use this tool and to be able to view the Queen’s House and the River Thames when participants of the London Marathon 2017 were running along.

View from the Royal camera obscura 
One of the must-see places is the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum: one of London's best tourist attractions displaying the waxworks of famous and historic people, as well as scientists. While being there, it felt like I could turn the clock back for a while and stay side by side with Sir Isaac Newton (1642 –1726) who was one of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution. Uhh, one of those priceless moments of my lifetime!

M.Sc. B.Zutere and Sir I.Newton playing with optics
Then, a few steps further I faced the author of the world's most famous equation E = mc2, the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect" - Albert Einstein (1879 –1955). That was a day that charged me positively.

Just a regular afternoon: me chilling with Albert
A place I would definitely love to attend is a Science Museum which is visited by around 450,000 young people on educational trips or benefit from its outreach programmes each year. That definitely will be included in the to-do list for the next UK tour.

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