What I learned this week, June 5, 2020

I have a new obsession – Marble Machine X

Somehow I stumbled upon this guy and his band – Wintergatan. Starting in 2014 he started building a hand cranked machine that could be programmed to play music by bouncing thousands of steel marbles (ball bearings, actually) off of a vibraphone and drum set. When he finished it – he realized it was too unreliable and delicate to move. His dream was to tour with the thing and perform all over the world in front of adoring crowds.  So, several years ago, he embarked on Marble Machine X – a project to build a better machine – one that used all modern technology (CMC routing, 3D printing, TIG welding, CAD drawings and such) and a team of engineers from all over the world to make an amazing, complex, beautiful, practical (more or less) music machine.

It’s all documented on Youtube:

He puts out a new video every Wednesday, and has for years.

He’s up to number 128

 

Here is a link to a playlist of all the episodes.

I started at the beginning and now I’m hooked. I don’t know how I missed learning about this the last few years – but now I can’t wait for it to be finished.

 


 

Intermediate Axis Theorem

OK, take a tennis racket. Put a little piece of tape on one face. Then hold it by the handle, tape up, and flip it in the air, doing a 360 rotation front to back, like you were flipping a pancake (maybe) and catch it again by the handle after one revolution. The piece of tape  will still be up, right?

Wrong….


 

3D Printed Curta Calculator

When I was in college a friend of mine had a precious possession – he had a Curta mechanical calculator. I was amazed. The Curta is an amazing, complex little machine that uses incredibly precise and complicated gears and stuff to do mathematical calculations. It was invented by Curt Herzstark who did a lot of the design work while a prisoner at the Buchenwald concentration camp. After the war he formed a company and manufactured a hundred thousand or so of the machines in two different designs. Up until the invention of the digital calculator it was considered the best portable calculating machine.

I was amazed at the one I saw in college and have always wanted one. Unfortunately, they sell for thousands of bucks when they come available (most still work today as well as they did when they were made up to sixty years ago).

The other day I came across this amazing video of Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) receiving a modern, three-times scale, 3d Printed working Curta in the mail.

The best part (even better than the amazing machine itself) is the nerdy glee that Mr. Savage exhibits now that he has the precious item. I wish I could get that excited about something.

 


I know I’ve linked to this video before. Tough, I’m doing it again.

6 responses to “What I learned this week, June 5, 2020

  1. I stumbled across Wintergatan a few years ago, and kept watching those videos obsessively. Then, somehow I lost the link and forgot about him. Thanks for the post — it’s the most fascinating thing in the world. Well, maybe not the most, but it sure is cool.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.