things magazine

Perpetual motion and urban drifts

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The ArcelorMittal Orbit is a bit like an explosion in a rollercoaster factory, part Tatlin, part Alton Towers. Self-consciously iconic, as all good quasi-permanent follies should be, it demonstrates the final evolution of the ‘pavilion’. It was probably the Barcelona Pavilion that forever tarnished the idea of the pavilion as temporary structure, by being demolished (as planned) in 1930 and then eventually reconstructed in the 1980s as a Modernist fetish object. ‘Pavilion’ is now shorthand for structures that aspire to permanence, in the memory, if not in actual physical space. The Serpentine Pavilions are a case in point; crated up after their short spell in the limelight, for eventual reconstruction somewhere else, as something else. Perhaps a better term for this kind of architecture, from the ArcelorMittal (snappy name) back, would be ‘folly’, a term that has fallen out of favour but which seems to sum up so much contemporary architecture.


Exploring the Queen’s Palace in Kabul, the ultimate urbex? Wikipedia and image / Ford and Microsoft announce Hohm electric vehicle charging partnership, plus the announcement of the Hohm Energy System, a sort of private sector Carbon Trust / Lebbeus Woods on the London Eight, a Peter Cook-curated show of architects and mentors currently on show at SCI-Arc / short films at The Office for Nonfiction Storytelling / Nokia N97 vs Real Life. We get a strong sense that Nokia has been left behind by the current generation of smartphones. Big companies must be a little bit like supertankers – they have to change direction very much in advance so they're in the right place when they need to be. Maybe 3 or 4 years ago, someone at the helm of Nokia wasn't thinking ahead.


As soon as we slate UFO and mystery sites for being not quite esoteric enough, along comes a little nugget via Further, ‘Area 51’s flying gorilla‘, tales from the early days of X-plane and jet testing and more at the Nevada Test Site Oral History Project. Related, the SR-71 flight manual. The U2, incidentally, first flew in 1955. And it’s still going: U-2 Spy Plane Evades the Day of Retirement.


The National Historic Ships Register / Memories of Disintegration / Onomatopee, art publishers / Folksy, etsy, UK-style / the strangely familiar aesthetics of the daily painting: I, II / six seasons of son of a bitch / the Etherpad looks like a promising collaborative tool / Earth Art With Google Maps / related: map-based artworks by Matthew Picton.


The Past is a Mirror of the Future, more on As it is To-Day. Our copy arrived yesterday and it is a compelling argument for short-run print as a means of disseminating the vast amounts of information now available online (‘the weight of previous thought’) / The Thing is This, a mythogeographical trawl through various subjects, including ufology, paranoia and a return to things as carriers of meanings, rather than objects from which meaning can be extracted.


Some online intrigue on the concept of perpetual motion. Reidar Finsrud, a Norwegian artist and inventor, allegedly created ‘a purported perpetual motion machine. According to the available online descriptions of this machine, it consists of a circular aluminum track about 25 inches in diameter. On this track rolls, perpetually, a steel ball. The ball is impulsed by magnets that swing in and out of its path under the control of three pendulums and a number of other mechanisms not clearly described.’ (taken from The Rolling Ball Web: An Online Compendium of Rolling Ball Sculptures, Clocks, Etc.). There are videos online, including this one, which has a certain air of cloak and dagger about it. Besides being the executive desk toy to end all desk toys, what does the Finsrud machine actually do? It violates the second law of thermodynamics, for a start.

Finsrud doesn’t get a mention on the wikipedia perpetual motion page. More information on the Finsrud Gravito-Magnetic Device (Perpetuum Mobile): ‘So what makes this machine run. I don’t think I am able to answer this, the vibration assembly certainly keeps movement going longer than otherwise but I keep coming back to the movement of the central pendulum. There is a subtlety and pureness to the movement that has a logic to it, I can only describe this as being like Pythagoras theory, when the solution is presented there is a naturalness which does not require a proof, it simply ‘feels right’.’

Written by things

March 31, 2010 at 23:32

Posted in esoterica, technology

2 Responses

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  1. great stuff but it show a general consistency in average daily time budgets between different urban areas.!!!!!!

    Beautiful World

    April 7, 2010 at 10:16

  2. I really like to read your blog and thought you might be interested in my blog. The reason I thought you might like it is because I regularly post related articles accompanied by great photos.I would like to do link exchange with ya blog …. if you thinks its suits for your blog let me know by email … here is my url:


    April 7, 2010 at 10:26

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