Monday, November 21, 2005

In The Net

Originally uploaded by _william.

Newton was fascinated by "the net," the beautiful purple alloy that he made of antimony regulus and copper. Upon close inspection, one can see that the alloy has a surface made up of small crystals separated by interstices. Newton's predecessor and source, "Eirenaeus Philalethes" - the American alchemist George Starkey - first discovered this alloy and named it "the Net," on the basis of its physical appearance. Like Newton, Starkey believed that most of ancient Greco-Roman mythology was really encoded alchemy. The story that Vulcan, the husband of Venus, caught Venus and Mars in bed, in flagrante delictu, became for him (and for Newton), a recipe for "the Net." According to the myth, Vulcan made a fine metallic net and hung the two lovers from the ceiling for all the Olympians to see. Now in alchemy, "Venus" usually means "copper," "Mars" means "iron," and "Vulcan" means "fire." Hence "Venus" referred to the copper in the alloy, and "Vulcan" to the intense heat used in making it. Since the antimony regulus that is added to the copper is itself reduced from stibnite (antimony sulfide) by the addition of iron, "Mars" (iron) was thought to be present in "the Net" as well. Voila - the whole myth becomes a recipe for "the Net."

__ From "Newton"s Alchemy"

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