The Thousand-Yard Model in a London park

British Science Week is March 11 to 20:

That’s actually a link to just one event in this Week, a walk of the solar system, based on my Thousand-Yard Model. But from the page about the walk you can easily click “Home” to survey all the other information.

The walk will be in a pleasant London space called Fortune Green.

Fortune Green

Contrary to what the Science Week website says, the walk isn’t just on March 11 and 18 but on 12 occasions from March 12 to 20, so for more accurate information see its own page.

It is the brain-child of Peter Abrahams, who lives next to Fortune Green. He told me last September 30 that “After the lunar eclipse [of Sep. 28] I started thinking how to explain it to my five year old grand-daughter, not a major problem with balls and lights and lying on the floor. But then I thought about explaining the solar system and thought of laying it out on the Green and that is how I came across your article.”

He proposed to the Friends of Fortune Green that it be done in the spring, and they went on to make it part of British Science Week, which is like a Pleiades of starbursts all over the archipelago.

British Science Week map

The guided walk is free, but limited to a manageable number, so you’d better book to avoid disappointment. There may also be a visit to the nearby Hampstead Observatory.  Tilly and I are going to get to London for it on March 19.

The guide will be Mark Jacobs, a member of the local astronomy club, who (I can’t help mentioning) lives on Agamemnon Road. Others have helped, getting schools interested,  and producing information boards (which may become permanent) at each planet.

One of Peter’s inspirations was that a Belisha beacon is just at the right position to serve as the Sun – and the right size too, eclipsing the Sun when seen from the model’s Earth – and large and bright enough to be seen from the model’s Jupiter. You know what a Belisha beacon is?

Belisha beacon

Britain’s Science Week should be an easy target for you to hit, being (March 11-20) a ten-day superweek. Appears Britain has taken another step into decimalization. – Not really (I imagine that the Week has grown so successful that it’s had to be extended), though there was once a proposal by an eccentric Brit for a metric calendar of millidays, centidays, decidays, decadays, hectodays, and kilodays to sweep away the old Babylonian seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, and years (see the “Calendars” section of The Astronomical Companion.)



9 thoughts on “The Thousand-Yard Model in a London park”

    1. Yes, this is among the notes I keep on the various other models, 27 so far. The scale of the 1997 Ithaca model, 1:5,000,000,000, is one of the few fairly close to that of my (1969) model, which is 6,336,000,000, or in metric version 6,000,000,000. One time a gentleman named Mitch Batoff asked me to send copies of my Thousand-Yard Model pamphlet to be given as door prizes at a convention in Ithaca in memory of Sagan.

    1. I know of the Colorado one; below is my note, which may need correction. I’ve made a memo to study the Pverstreet and Gorosh film later – feeling swamped at present.

      Someone told me of seeing a scale model at the University of Colorado at Boulder, asked whether it was based on mine. By telephoning I managed to get a description of this model, which had been completed in 1986, and consisted of a gold-anodized aluminum sun near the Fiske Planetarium and black-anodized bronze plaques spaced along a route through the campus, each with a raised-relief planet (a hemisphere?) and an engraved description. The scale was 1 to 10,000,000,000, rounder but smaller than my 1 to 6,336,000,000, so that the earth would be slightly more than a millimeter wide.

  1. I do The Thousand Yard Model every year with sixth graders at a school in Sebastopol, Ca where I teach Astronomy for three weeks. We start in the back field, go right through the main hallway of the school right across the street and down High Street. I try to give the kids a bit of a botany lesson at the same time, with all the plants in the neat yards of the residents. I let the kids vote at Neptune whether we walk to Pluto or not, usually we do.
    This year when we get out there we will all wonder how much further will the walk be if and when “planet nine” is discovered.
    Thank you for this wonderful teaching tool, it’s perfect and makes the distances real for all of us.

    1. I also keep a list, or rather narrative, of performances of the walk, which often have lovely modifications and additions. And you’ve made two excellent ones: the botany alongside the astronomy (from planets to flowers, a leap of scale), and the voting on whether to include Pluto (a dramatization of that very debate). So, for my note, Colorwheel, could you tell me your name? By email if you’d rather not broadcast it in the blog.

  2. Wow! Most interesting. When I visited a friend in Zurich, Switzerland in 2004 for the first of the pair of transits of Venus, we walked a similar solar system tour somewhere there. We made it out as far as Saturn, quite a hike I must admit. It’s amazing to think how much space there is in outer space
    And as far as a decimal time system, I’ve thought of one as well, but our 12 months per year, two 12 hour cycles in a day, (something mystical about the number 12) seems to work rather well and I’ve often discovered that if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it

    1. I keep a list of other versions of the planet walk, don’t know of the one at Zurich. I did learn of one in Switzerland, at a place called St.-Luc in the Valais region. According to my note: “This was designed by Jacques Zufferey, inaugurated 1989, 6 kilometers long, starting from an amateur observatory reached by a funicular railway, and winding around a mountainside at 2,300 meters, within view of the Matterhorn. It had two scales: for distances, 1 to 1,000,000,000, but ten times larger for diameters, 1 to 100,000,000. So the earth was a 12.7-centimeter sphere 150 meters from the sun. The sun was not a sphere but a 14-meter-wide sun-dial.”

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