Tag Archives: LIS Staff Interest

Armstrong Treasure Hunt: Wimshurst Machine

Written by Mike Lally ‘18

If one were to walk around Bicentennial Hall, one could see strange contraptions, ranging from one foot high to three feet all, behind glass that appear to be large discs with mallets attached.

Wimshurst Machine

Could these bizarre items be unusual clocks? Perhaps they were used in auditory demonstrations. After all, couldn’t the mallets bang on the disc as a musical instrument? No, the purpose of these machines was not to create sound, but electrical charge.

A device such as this is known as a Wimshurst machine. Invented in the 1880s by James Wimshurst, they belong to class of machines called electrostatic generators. Unlike other apparatus that create an electrostatic spark, a Wimshurst machine does so using induction rather than friction.

The two insulated discs rotate around, often by a mechanical crank, passing by neutralizer bars and brushes. Charges are induced onto the discs and collected onto the combs near the surface of the discs. The charges increase exponentially until the dielectric breakdown voltage of air is reached. When this occurs, a spark is created. The jars are Leyden jars, an early type of capacitor, and act to increase the accumulated charge.

This machine, although able to show the effects of electrostatic charges, can be put to other uses.

https://archive.org/details/mnb_03-16-1934-01np

Professor Ernest C. Bryrant demonstrating how to operate this Wimshurst machine to students in a physics lab (c.1934).

By connecting it with a chain to an electrostatic orrery, such as that in the 5th floor display of BiHall, one can observe the charges actually turning the orrery. Indeed, there are quite a few electrostatic machines that are within the Middlebury Antique Science Collections that could be connected to a Wimshurst machine for amusing and educational demonstrations.
Wimshurst machines at Middlebury College can be found on the 5th floor of BiHall and in Armstrong Library.

Weekly Web Updates – July 31

We’ve added the Mathematica Toolbox plugin to WordPress, which allows you to embed animations and graphics from that application. We have also added the Seriously Simple Podcasting plugin, which lets you create podcast feeds that will work in iTunes and embed playlists of your podcast in your posts. This replaces the TSG Podcasting plugin, which can no longer be enabled.

Updates

Fixes and Tweaks

  • If you are using the FlatOn theme in WordPress and set your homepage to be a single page, rather than a list of posts, the theme will now display that page without all the boilerplate content that the theme used to add.
  • Users of the L&ITS Wiki are now able to delete pages.
  • When viewing a single event in the Arts section of the Middlebury Drupal site, the featured image no longer wraps below the sidebar. Additional fixes made to the ArtsMail newsletter, removing the Google Tag Manager code and moving body content back into the short description.
  • Annual update to the Language Schools interest form to enable an additional graduation year.

Ongoing Work

  • Creating a new website for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
  • Building out the configuration of our CAS servers in Chef, which is a configuration management system. We have already completed this work for our Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki, GO, Omeka, and the Course Catalog services.
  • Upgrading the Drupal sites for the Davis programs, Dining Menus, and Museum of Art to Drupal 8.

WebPrint Update: Vendor Patch Applied

ITS staff installed the vendor’s patch to our WebPrint services this past weekend and print jobs have been processing smoothly since that time.  We are optimistic that this resolved the earlier instability issues experienced by many.  We thank everyone for their patience during the troubleshooting process and apologize for any inconvenience.

As we move into the busiest phase of our language programs when the printing volume increases substantially, please note that opening and printing documents directly from labs, public computers, and faculty office spaces result in the fastest and most reliable printing (see option 1 at http://go.middlebury.edu/howtoprint).  Documents in cloud storage can be easily opened and printed from any networked computer, as can documents sent to yourself via e-mail.

Weekly Web Updates – July 24

We’ve made several chances to the front-end performance of the Drupal cluster to reduce page load times. All static text files served, including favicons, are now compressed before being inserted into the front-end caches. Additionally, we now instruct client browsers to store the CSS and JavaScript files produced by Drupal for up to two weeks, rather than only five minutes. New URLs for these files are generated when we clear the site cache, which happens any time we deploy an update, which will cause browsers to fetch the new files. Images served by some high-level pages on the MIIS site were also optimized.

Updates

  • Drupal token_language 8.x-1.x-dev
  • Drupal viewsreference 8.x-1.0-rc2
  • WordPress BadgeOS: 1.4.8.3.
  • WordPress BBPress 2.5.13
  • WordPress enable-media-replace 3.1
  • WordPress wysija-newsletters 2.7.11.1
  • WordPress post-expirator 2.3.1
  • WordPress post-types-order 1.9.3.3
  • WordPress  the-events-calendar 4.5.8.1
  • WordPress social-icons-widget-by-wpzoom 3.0.0
    WordPress members 2.0

Fixes and Tweaks

  • The “short description” of all events in the Arts section was moved to the body field so that the short description can be used to override the body for the ArtsMail email newsletter, which also had its template updated and a new view created to make it easier to assemble.
  • Added a [mailchimp URL] shortcode to Drupal so that MailChimp campaign embeds can be added to the site.
  • Moved the MiddSafe Advocates information to its new location in the Health and Wellness Education site and set up redirects for the old URLs.
  • Fixed an issue were the Drupal login page would sometimes break if it thought it should display a carousel.

Ongoing Work

  • Creating a new website for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
  • Building out the configuration of our CAS servers in Chef, which is a configuration management system. We have already completed this work for our Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki, GO, Omeka, and the Course Catalog services.
  • Upgrading the Drupal sites for the Davis programs, Dining Menus, and Museum of Art to Drupal 8.

Weekly Web Updates – July 17

Updates

Fixes and Tweaks

  • Fixed an issue with timezone conversion on the Arts Calendar listing views caused because dates and times are stored in the database as ES/DT but converted to GMT when used in comparisons, causing some events to appear in the wrong months.

Ongoing Work

  • Creating a new website for the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
  • Building out the configuration of our CAS servers in Chef, which is a configuration management system. We have already completed this work for our Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki, GO, Omeka, and the Course Catalog services.
  • Upgrading the Drupal sites for the Davis programs, Dining Menus, and Museum of Art to Drupal 8.

Armstrong Treasure Hunt: Quadrant Electrometer

Written by Mike Lally ’18

While organizing and cataloging the Science Antiques Collection Wendy and I came across a wooden box, standing about a 18 inches high and 10 inches deep.

Elliot’s Quadrant Electrometer

Inside was a mechanism that appeared to be a brass structure inside what can only be described as a birdcage. The item slides out of its carrying case on a wooden platform, which can be removed and the piece therefore is able to be lifted out of its home.
This is a Quadrant Electrometer, made by Elliott Bros. of London in the 1880s. It is a form of an electroscope, which allows more absolute measures of electrostatic potentials. This measures the presence and magnitude of a charge. When a device is attached to the contacts at the base of the machine, the needle floating inside points to the magnitude of the potential.
This machine would have been used within a classroom setting, with students learning about electrostatics. Additionally, the aesthetic qualities of this object indicate that along with its practical use, an artistic use emerges as well. One can imagine such a machine sitting in the parlor room in the late nineteenth century, guests staring at the item while its proud owner explains the machines use and provenance, yet admiring the beauty of object.
This and more aesthetically pleasing scientific instruments can be found in the 5th floor display in Bicentennial Hall.