The young John Keats remembered an organized game at his school in Enfield, in which all the boys whirled round the playground in a huge choreographed dance, trying to imitate the entire solar system, including all the known moons… Unlike Newton’s perfect brassy clockwork mechanism, this schoolboy universe – complete with straying comets – was a gloriously chaotic “human orrery.”A quick search yielded evidence that this activity is still conducted today in various schools.
Keats did not recall the exact details, but one may imagine seven senior boy-planets running round the central sun, while themselves being circled by smaller sprinting moons (perhaps girls), and the whole frequently disrupted by rebel comets and meteors flying across their orbits. (p. 113)
Text excerpted from The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. Richard Holmes. Pantheon Books, New York, 2008.