Week 3: Considering Instruments

Without instruments, many of the modern tools we use today wouldn’t exist. The scientific tools we use today are largely based and developed upon by previous models. At the Museum of Natural Science, it was incredible to see what tools people used to use in the past. It seems like a lot more understanding of how the tool worked and the science behind it was necessary in order to be able to use it.IMG_0299

Today, we have computers and other tools that make what people in the past did easier. We don’t need sundials to tell how much time has passed or need to calculate latitude and longitude in order to tell where we are. In order to use the tools, the user had to be knowledgeable on what it was they were trying to do because there was nothing like Google to help them figure out how to work a tool if they didn’t know how.

Users were specialized or informed on how to use the tool. From a modern day perspective—or at least mine, at first glance, the tools looked like pieces of art and it seemed fascinating at how intricate each instrument was in order to accomplish something like position in relation to the sun. Looking at them, I could see pieces of a puzzle, but not know how they fit together.

It amazes me to think how educated the inventors had to be in order to develop such things. All of their knowledge then added to the instruments we use today. By their initial findings on how to calculate things like time, latitude and longitude, modern day’s society was able to create objects like clocks and the GPS navigation system.

Back when those instruments were first invented, it seems like they weren’t just used a tools, but as ornaments—for example, the astrolabes.  It’s something that, even when not being used, can be enjoyed, which is much different than many of the instruments today. Instruments of the past have a feeling of antiquity, while there is nothing special about a modern day one—other than being new and expensive.IMG_0302

One of the most fascinating things is how instruments have changed over time. Stonehenge was erected using simple tools and yet it is a masterpiece of building. With such simple tools, they must have possessed an expansive knowledge of their tools and stones—how to lift great weights and place the stones in specific manners. Not only that, but the stones align themselves with the sunset and sunrise.

Instruments have become more and more complex—able to do more as they advance in technology. Looking back on the tools people used before, it’s a wonder how science and innovation have grown to what they are today. So many of the instruments we use to today are influenced by those of the past. Without them, we wouldn’t have the tools we have today.

It’s only from constant understanding and research that instruments are able to advance in their respective fields. Instead of perhaps dragging stones into place, we have cranes that can lift objects into place with one person at the helm instead of hundreds. Instead of calculating by hand latitude and longitude in order to determine location, we have computers that already have that knowledge installed into them.

IMG_0308Visiting Stonehenge and the Museum of Natural History was nothing short of an eye opener. I feel like a lot of the instruments that we use today are ones that can easily be taken for granted. Today, we have computers, cell phones, cars, etc.—thing that in the past, might have seemed unimaginable.


One thought on “Week 3: Considering Instruments

  1. HI Alison,
    I really like your finding that many of these old instruments are like works of art -and that they had aesthetic (ornamental) value as well.

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