Dec 23, 2014

Jim Donnelly and the Mechanical Paradox Orrery

I forgot to post the article I wrote about Jim Donnelly who makes 18th century scientific demonstration apparatus in his own machine shop. His story was very inspiring and reminds me how life can give us opportunities to discover what we love and get more and more involved with it despite any reticence we might have. Here's the article, Conversation Orbits. And here is Jim's web-site if you want to get directly to the business of viewing Mechanical Paradox Orreries, Napier's Bones, and more.

One of my favorite sections was cut for space reasons about how Jim and his circle of friends inspired eachother's learning. They each have their own shop and would occasionally use eachother's tools. "There’s a special artifact of that process...” Donnelly says, “ The synergy of the different needs and skills of this little group of people have contributed to our collective ability to do more than we ever imagined was possible” 

I love that quote. For the technically inclined the specific story he used as an example was how "Mark wanted to use my mill to make circuit boards, that involves cutting very thin lines into copper.…well Mark really pushed the envelope for what my machine can do and then he stumbled across the idea of adding a high speed spindle to the mill so we could turn a bit much faster. That led to a whole new chain of learning about how you cut metal in small dimensions which has revolutionized what I can do in the shop, that’s partly where the Napier’s bones engravings come from." 

It was also wonderful to be reminded that we never know what amazing things our neighbor's might be up to unless we ask. I waited on Jim at the restaurant I work at. I never would have known he builds orreries except he came in one day with a large, extra nerdy looking book that I had to inquire about. I hardly ever see people with books anymore, much less sciencey-looking books. I'm so glad I asked and then had the opportunity to share his story with the community.

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