Saturday, January 2, 2016

STEAM, Sketches...and sighs...

18 pages. That's all it took for me to geek out today.
Well, 18 pages, double-sided and folded in half for a grand total of 72 pages, to be precise.

Each of them covered in sketches and Italian script, written backwards from right to left, so they can be read most easily only when reflected in a mirror. If you haven't guessed by now, these documents were penned by none other than left-handed Leonardo Da Vinci.

This Codex Leicester is a set of documents purchased for just over $30 million dollars, and is considered one of the most valuable in the world. Full of Da Vinci's thinking, pondering, and scientific theorizing, they are a wonder to behold and apparently the only one of his manuscripts in North America. I was fortunate enough to see them today at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Written between 1506 and 1513, Da Vinci's writings in this folio are predominantly about water, but he pontificates on astronomy, geology, engineering, why the sky is blue, why shells can be found on mountaintops, and the art of diverting and channeling water pressure. He even compares the earth to the human body: soil = flesh; rock stratifications = bones; tufa stone = cartilage; water = blood; ocean = heart (explains a lot, that one); and volcanoes?...none other than the heat of its soul.  Passion, intellect, and sketches. It's like a Leonardo lottery.

Take a look.

Proof positive that art helps solve problems! These images (L)
(I know they're small--sorry!) show pile drivers and pulleys
that use a human counterweight. The right side ranges from his
thoughts on why shells can be found on mountaintops to sketches
for bridge-building ideas at the bottom.

On the left are Da Vinci's musings and theories on the force of water--weakened by air, strengthened when channeled
through pipes. There is a lovely little bubble at the bottom of the page--yes, I'm enthralled. On the right are all
kinds of sketches of flowing water around various obstacles. Again, a delicious interplay of art and science. 

Ok, so I can't get over how prolific his writing is, and can't begin to imagine just how much fun he must have
had while drawing and writing. Here he shows the earth and moon in similar orbits, and in the sketch in the bottom
right corner he perceives that the darker area of a crescent moon is actually illuminated. It just looks darker
because the crescent sliver is so bright.

Did I mention that he wrote all of this between 1506 and 1513??
An Italian linguist I am not, so can I just quote from the translation? Thanks.

Here goes:
"I say that the blue which is seen in the atmosphere is not its own color but is caused
by the heated moisture having evaporated into the most minute, imperceptible particles, which the
beams of the solar rays attract and cause to seem luminous against the deep, intense 
darkness" of the heavens. 
And according to science, he nearly nailed this, although it's now known that air is what
scatters the light, rather than water. But still, can you imagine his mental faculty to figure
out these things?

"I find it breathtaking", she said, geeking out. (while on vacation, no less) (AND on a Saturday)
This was a fascinating little piece of technology. By scrolling
over the document with a built-in lens, this Codescope
translated, transliterated and paraphrased Da Vinci's writing.
With the transliteration tool, readers could see his backward
writing, in English and Italian!

Da Vinci certainly has a lot to teach us about persistence and that buzzword "mindset". Heck, he probably created that idea, too. Observations and testing hypotheses were his game, and he loved
the challenges, as evidenced by his quote: "My concern now is to find cases and inventions, gathering them as they occur to me." The epitome of "Renaissance Man", there are so many things to say about him, but I'm limiting my #DaVinciFanClub notes to this Codex alone today. Perhaps, like me, it will ignite some Leonardo-like curiosity and send you on your way to do some of your own research on not only the Master of Sketches and Science, but also inquiries to help understand and improve the world!

And hey, be thoughtful about which direction you write your notes!

How about you? Any other fellow admirers of Da Vinci and his work in my blogging audience? What are some fun facts you know about Da Vinci? Please share!

PS--a wee bit more #SketchCandy for your pleasure....sigh...