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Entries in Machinery (33)


Explosive Holiday

Not all machines are good for us human beings--even when they are dreamed up and designed by geniuses, and are constructed for a specific purpose:



Machines that Make Sense

Flights of fancy sometimes lead to more useful inventions, airplanes being a perfect example. The Douglas DC-3, which went into service in 1936, is one of the most successful aircraft ever to come off the drawing board, and many of them are still operational today.

Let's pay a visit to one of the passengers: seems he isn't saying much--perhaps he suffers from some flight phobia...



Unusual Technology

Esoteric machinery with no real purpose (i.e. devices constructed while on a flight of fancy) have often taken up space here in Miscellanea,  this self-replicating piece of equipment being an ideal specimen:




Hoping to blend in with the locals, these extraterrestrials left their spacecraft at home and used their family car to visit Earth.



Lost in the Machinery

The polymath inventor takes  a bride---the young wife unaware that her vows will trap in her in a sterile world of mechanized behavior.  Overcome by the gears of her husband's reality, she grows ill and passes on, leaving the inventor heartbroken and miserable. Driven mad by her absence, he turns to his toolkit and contrives a sorry replacement in this short, titled The Invention of Love:



Dangerous Combination

The ladies are picking up  their equipment,  so it is time to say our goodbyes to  the shapely auto mechanics who've acted as our guides, and to pay tribute to their efforts in presenting this week's classic car show showcase:



Wide Tracked Vehicles

The biggest of  all landbound moving machines is a tracked vehicle known as the bucket-wheel excavator. Weighing close to 31 million pounds, these excavators are used primarily to extract coal in strip-mining operations. The machine requires only two operators:



Closing the Doors

Having finished the day's work, the mechanical artists wait until the museum curator escorts the last patrons out the door before they break out the booze, Barbies, and ballpoint pens; throwing an impromptu costume party to celebrate the success of the day's event.



Mechanical Interpretation

The museum-goers grow puzzled as they observe the flowing work of  the next art automaton, a display of seemingly meaningless modulated particles that are said to explore the outlying limits of perception.

And perhaps it does (if one perceives with mechanized eyeballs), because the work above depicts the normally mundane and discernable Lamborgini Gallardo Spyder:

Note that the first video was created by StrexxMotionLab and is a rendering of a Gallardo Spyder, however, it is not an interpretation of the second video showing the vehicle. The second clip was provided for a point of reference only.



Automated Animation

The mechanized crowd moves in a slow line from display to display, taking in the various artistic styles of their fellow contraptions. The next machine favors anime, and it deftly demonstrates its talent as it moves about the canvas to produce a quick pop art piece before an admiring audience of electrical appliances.



Mechanical Interpretation

Machines have many uses, and often perform tasks better than humans, but it is rare to see these manufactured entities admired for their artistic abilities. The drawing device, exhibiting its work at the museum today, is an exception, having garnered widespread acclaim for the portraits of its homo sapien creators--images that it renders with dispassionate ease:



Unusual Visitors

With the day dedicated to mechanical art,  the museum curator expected some unusual guests this morning, but he had not anticipated the size differences.  He ran downstairs to the loading docks and opened the double doors, so that his first visitor, Animaris Rhinoceros, could get in.

The above work was created by Theo Jansen.



Bathroom Accessories

Rueben had spent years perfecting the design and months building a working model. Now all he had to do was figure out how to install it:



Saturday Cartoons

When left to their own devices, many machines  watch television in their free time, and most of them generally prefer documentaries. Smaller units are usually content with cartoons, however, and can be left unattended for hours without worry as long as the television is powered on. Let's watch a hybrid of both of these program types ourselves this morning:

The above animation is titled The Ticket Machine.


Secrets of the Past

In October of 1900, sponge divers discovered an old Roman shipwreck filled with treasures near the island of Antikythera, and began pulling up a variety of bronze and marble statues, coins, and other artifacts. The Greek government was informed of the find, and with archaeologists helping them, the divers began to salvage the vessel.  The Antikythera mechanism, an odd device of unknown purpose,  was discovered near the end of  the salvaging operation in May of 1902.  The artifact was catalogued and then filed away.

Based on analysis of the statues and coins, and other common objects such as eating utensils and storage containers, the ship is believed to sunk sometime between 89-76 BC. The immense value of the vessel's cargo and the art treasures it transported has led some historians to speculate that the ship was headed to Rome with loot from Sulla's victories in the First Mithridatic War.

The Antikythera mechanism, to a large degree, remained unstudied. The few archaeologists and historians who did take interest in the corroded object were puzzled about its purpose, and most refused to acknowledge the object's apparent complexity, some going so far as to theorize that it came from a later medieval ship (even though there is no other wreckage in the immediate area).

It wouldn't be until the year 1959, when a comprehensive study of the mechanism was published by physicist Derek John de Solla Price,  that a plausible explanation was put forward (although it would be years before Price's work gained acceptance).  Price theorized that the device was used to track the movements of stars and the known planets, calculated the phases of the moon, had a calendar that was based on a  365.22 day year,  and could be adjusted for leap years.  Subsequent examination has since bolstered his conclusions,  and the artifact is now looked upon as the  first known surviving analog computer. It has also been assumed that similar computing devices were crafted before this one, but have since been lost.

The island of Antikythera rises above the water near the boundaries of the Sea of Crete and the Aegean.



Writing in the Computer Age

A couple years back, I was doing some writing when a nasty electrical storm passed through, and not wanting to get myself electrocuted, I powered down the computer, grabbed a notepad and sat down to write.  But when I picked up the pen,  I found myself staring at the darn thing, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with it---it had been so long since I actually used one at length that I was no longer accustomed to handling it. I decided to read instead.

But, Microsoft, a company that seems unwilling  (or unable) to leave any mundane article circuit-free, has chosen to address that problem as well:

In actuality, the above video provides a vision of computing's possible future.



Computerized Child Care

After reading up on the machine, Jim and Claire decided to go with an IBM Z10 to address the problem of finding a sitter to watch their kids while they were away...



Catching a Lift

Aircraft Day - part 2

The Boeing 747, an airplane similar in size to its relative,  the B-52 Stratofortress, has also been called up on occasion for ferry duty. But, unlike the test aircraft carried by the B-52,  the 747's mechanical passengers prefer to stay on board for the entire flight:

The transport craft is known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), which is derived from the 747-100 series. Two of these aircraft exist.



Mechanical Parasites

Aircraft Day - part 1

Like their friends in the animal kingdom, aircraft are sometimes infested with parasites. The B-52 appears to be particularly vulnerable, having suffered from infestations of  X-15, X-24, and X-32 aircraft.  The Stratofortress doesn't mind too much,  because it knows that despite the parasitical relationship, these smaller aircraft usually bring about mutations that help the airplane species as a whole.

In reality, the B-52 has been used to ferry test aircraft because its size and weight capacity and its stability in flight permits the extra cargo. By ferrying the test plane and then releasing it while the B-52 is airborne, engineers can perform studies on the test aircraft without using precious fuel to get it to the proper altitude.

The first clip shows a launch (and flight) of the X-15, which was used in testing high altitude flight above the speed of sound.  I have been scratching my head as to the identity of the chase plane at 0.33 in the film. It looks a lot like the old F-11, but I can't be sure...

The next clip shows the X-24A, which was used to test unpowered landing. The data gained from its testing was used to help design the Space Shuttle...

This last aircraft, the X-38, was a test design for a crew return vehicle to be utilized to bring the crew aboard the International Space Station back to Earth in an emergency. However, the X-38 project was later cancelled:



Useful Wheels

Although the wheel is looked upon as one of  mankind's greatest inventions,   it wasn't until the onset of  roads that this device was of  much use for human transportation.  However,  its value as a tool was almost immediate---the potter's wheel, for example, allowed craftsmen to produce consistently-formed urns and vases in a larger volume than ever before possible, which in turn, improved a community's storage capabilities and increased trade. Then there are gears, and an early machine that used them, the water wheel. The device used the energy of a river or stream as its power source, and was useful in irrigation and in grinding the grains and cereals produced by the irrigated lands into flour.  The earliest known references to  these water-lifting machines dates back to around 220 BC, though they were likely used much earlier.

The Romans, who were adept at building roads and using wheeled carts (but not to travel in as most citizens went on foot, or if they could afford it, traveled by litter*), made use of the water wheel to perform various tasks, including using it to feed the state's aquaducts:

*A litter was a vehicle without wheels that was carried by attendants, usually slaves.  It provided a more comfortable ride for passengers than the available wheeled carts or wagons.