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  1. Michael says:

    The picture shows a version of the old chinese “sismograph” : i.e. a sort of early warning device. It works as follows : at the first vibrations, the pendulum in the center of the jar moves the lateral links, causing the mouth of the animal on the outside to open, thus releasing the metallic sphere. Then, when the sphere reaches the mouth of the frog beneath, a sound is generated prompting people to run away from the house

  2. Fenris says:

    I believe that it is an early form of earthquake monitoring. When the ground shifts the hanging mass becomes temporarily off center releasing a ball from one of the dragons mouths to fall into the frogs mouth. I believe that it is a chinese design.

  3. Francesco says:

    a chinese earthquake “alarm”

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s an early seismograph, says the description. I seem to recall seeing a picture of this a few years ago–IIRC, it’s of Chinese origin, and the tremors cause one of the dragons to drop a ball into the mouth of the corresponding frog. This would allow the scientist to deduce the direction of the earthquake.

  5. Benjamin Williams says:

    It looks like a cutaway of the Chinese Seismometer (earthquake detector). The ground shakes and the ball drops into the frogs mouth in the direction the earthquake came from. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seismometer

  6. dafydd.livejournal.com says:

    It looks like a cutaway model for that old Chinese earthquake detector. The first sensible link to come up on Google is a Flikr gallery:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaishin/1145121219/

  7. Steve Copley says:

    I’ve seen one of these before… It’s a device for detecting earth tremors.

    The pendulum is pivoted at the top. If it is caused to move by an earthquake, the attached linkages release one or more of the balls from the lion’s mouths around the top edge. The balls fall into the waiting frogs’ mouths.

    The specific balls that are released give an indication of the direction of the earthquake’s epicentre. The tremors will tend to make the pendulum swing back and forth along an axis aligned with the quake’s centre.

  8. Gareth says:

    Seismograph

    Probably the first one…? The label at the bottom probably says “made in china” too..

  9. Patti Schiendelman says:

    Thanks, you guys! My kid is going ask his Chinese teacher about the significance of frogs. :)

  10. Fazel says:

    Its the theorized insides of the first seismograph. I say theorized because we have no real idea how the inside of it worked, people are guessing. This was used by Chinese emperors to detect earthquakes before he got report of them from the Chinese Provence. It allowed him to send aid quicker than he normally would be able to. Also it helped establish the fact that he was a “god” since he knew before anyone else did.

  11. Clayton H says:

    Mechanical tilt sensor from the Xia Dynasty, used in a game system called the WIIIIIIIII!

  12. wackyvorlon.myopenid.com says:

    It made me think of the resograph from Pratchett’s Moving Pictures.

    Pass the banged grains, Gaspode’s hungry again!

  13. Z says:

    Its a earthquake detector. I thought I learned that from bill nye the science guy but I couldn’t find it. I did find a small tutorial to build it yourself on the same principle at 7:20 here:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5278254723906270102&ei=6e_XSMK1Eo_o-AHxobW4Ag&q=bill+nye+the+science+guy+earthquakes&vt=lf&hl=en

  14. Jackie Britton says:

    Text from the Science Museum in London’s website ‘Ingenious’ (www.ingenious.org.uk):

    “The Chinese astronomer, mathematician and seismologist, Zhang Heng (78-139 AD) described the earliest seismoscope known in about 132 AD. Arriving shock waves displace a pendulum linked to a mechanism which opens the jaws of the dragon facing the direction of the earthquake. A ball falls from the dragon’s teeth into the mouth of a toad below to record the event.”

    This looks like the model/replica in the Science Museum’s collection, althought the photograph on Ingenious shows the object from the other (non cut-away) side. I worked there for many years and this used to be on display in the seismology and geophysics gallery.