Historical Publications

A collection of some articles by me on various subjects.

The 'Van der Wal' Telescope

Van der Wal telescope drawn by Bugge during a visit in 1777 Right next to the main entrance of the Huygens building (the physics, astronomy faculty) there is a large brass telescope from 1742. It was once the biggest telescope in the world and the biggest of the Netherlands for almost half a century. Unfortunately it was never used scientifically due to various reasons. I decided to write a short piece on it in the faculty magazine because the current student populations seemed to have no idea what it was. The article can be read here. (in Dutch)
        Eureka! - Edition: Oktober 2017, Page: 25
    

Gameboy Camera Astrophotography

Alex with gameboyAlthough not very historical, I managed to observe Jupiter, its moons and our own Moon with a Game Boy Camera. This project is described here. While being meant as a 'weekend project' this topic resonated with the internet and went viral shortly after going online. It has been covered on over 60 news websites in over 12 languages, as far as I have been able to find manually. The most notable sources are Sky and Telescope and Gizmodo.

It has also been featured in 'De Ingenieur' which is a national technical magazine.
De Ingenieur - Edition: August 2017, Page: 64

Rijnlandse Roede

photo by Leidsch DagbladThe Rijnlandse roede is an old Dutch unit of length that used to be the standard in all of Holland and even some neighbouring countries and the Dutch colonies. This unit is exactly 3,767358 meters long. It was interesting to read about the roede as it showed the difficulties of using non standardised units of measure but also the ingenious methods that scientists came up with to try to standardise it. This unit is special to me because it originated in Leiden and the official unit of length was kept in the Old Observatory in Leiden. (After the one on the city hall deteriorated beyond repair. It was also used by Snell for his calculations on the diameter of the Earth and Huygens for his measurements of the pendulum.

I have written an article on the history of this unit and that has been published in the 'Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde (NL) and the Dutch Journal of Physics (EN)'.
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde - Volume: 83, Edition: 03, Page: 10
Dutch Journal of Physics  - 2017-1
Leidsch Dagblad - 13th of January 2017
Knaw website on local measures - here

Einstein's Sink

SinkEinsteins Sink is a sink in the Huygens building of the science faculty of Leiden University. It was an object of local legend where students claimed that Einstein had once used it. I have researched this and found that from 1920 to 1997 this sink stood in the large lecture room in the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory, after which it got moved to its current location in the 'De Sitter' lecture room. The Leiden astronomy association 'L.A.D. F. Kaiser' then held a petition to save the sink and move it to the new physics building.

The petition got around 200 signatures and was presented to the faculty board in April 2015. They agreed with the idea. The sink is currently awaiting a new spot in the new faculty building that is estimated to be completed in 2025. This caught the attention of several local newspapers and two national magazines. My research on the sink has been published in the 'Dutch Physics Magazine' and it has been covered by a historical magazine and two newspapers, it also got some international attention on the travel website 'Atlas Obscura'.

National Magazines: 
 
Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde - Volume: 81, Edition: 12, Page: 41
Historisch Nieuwsblad - November 2015, Page 50

Newspapers:

Leidsch Dagblad:             (19 - 2 - 2015) (21 - 4 - 2015)
Leids Universitair Weekblad Mare:     (12 - 2 -2015) (23 - 4 - 2015)

Websites:

Petition site
Wikipedia (NL) (EN)
Atlas Obscura
Trip Advisor


Huygens' Aerial Telescope

Huygens Aerial Telescope In 2014 I got involved in the unveiling of the newly finished Huygens Telescope replica. This was the worlds only working tubeless telescope modelled after the design of Christiaan Huygens. It was comissioned by Hans de Rijk,a well known Dutch popular science writer and paid for by the money he won with the 'NWO oeuvre' prize in 2008. Prof. Vincent Icke, together with LIS instrumentalists designed and fabricated the telescope. The telescope was eventually unveiled during the first installment of the 'Kaiser Spring Lectures' in 2014. I also wrote an article on the instrument in the Eureka!, the faculty magazine of the Leiden Univeristy exact sciences faculty.
See the newspaper article here (with pictures): Leidsch Dagblad
Eureka! - Edition 47, Page 5

Last update 31/8/2017 by Alex