What’s tall, bright and measures temperature?

galileothermometer_300X700As a one-time engineer, I am particularly interested in how things work — especially pre-industrial objects that I can weave into the cultures I create for the fantastical worlds I write about.

I have, for instance, two Galilean thermometers standing on my bookshelf. These are elegant cylinders filled with a clear liquid in which float multiple glass balls filled with liquids of different colours. The amount and type of liquid inside the floating balls determines their buoyancy, which changes with temperature… and thus the position of the floating balls in the cylinder provides indication of ambient temperature.

As thermometers, they’re not terribly accurate of course, since they’re dependent on 1) perfect calibration and 2) the thermal conductivity and responsiveness of the glass and liquids… but the balls do move up and down in the cylinder as the room warms up and cools down.

Cool, huh? And pretty.

This type of instrument was invented by scholars in the 17th C, based on the principles of buoyancy discovered by Galileo. As such, I feel perfectly justified in adopting these for one of my fantasy civilisations one day… maybe even in the one I’m writing now!

Foe a more detailed description of how they work, see Wikipedia (and no doubt plenty of other sites).

Galilean thermometers are my inspiration of the week. What strange objects of interest do you have around your house? Why do they call to you?


11 thoughts on “What’s tall, bright and measures temperature?

  1. I am the Queen of Clutter, so to pick a single object as inspiration would be difficult. Actually, I get a fair amount of inspiration from Pinterest – though I should probably be ashamed to admit it. I like to work from a visual image, and if I get stuck on what a character would do, I look at their picture and it helps. It also helps me to flesh out my characters, to add dimension to them, because real people have little idiosyncrasies that I might not think of on my own.


    1. I’m starting to think there’s a conspiracy to get me onto Pinterest… I haven’t so much as dared look at the site for fear of getting sucked in. I sooo do not have time to lose myself in photo boards… But every time someone mentions them I get a little bit close to succumbing…


    1. You’re no doubt very wise. Although I try very hard to minimise the clutter, sometimes it creeps up on me. And then there’s the dusting! Ugh.

      But I do like having objects of inspiration around me. So far I’ve shared two, I think… more to come in time 🙂


  2. The only thing I collect is books so I don’t have anything as beautiful as your thermometers to inspire me. Like Liv, I find lots of inspiration for a variety of things on pinterest. (Yes, this is a conspiracy to get you on there.) I give myself a time limit because it can become a time suck, but I like shifting my brain into absorbing the visual after I’ve spent time writing. It’s oddly refreshing.


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