Cool Stuff


This timelapse compilation is incredible.  Be sure and watch it at full screen.

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Now I am homesick.

(HT Gizmodo)

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The question came up recently asking what are the most beautiful machines ever made by man.  So, I thought I would post my list.  I did not chose these machines because they are the fastest, strongest or best performers in their fields.  I chose them because they spark an emotional, sensual, visceral reaction at the base of my brain — They are beautiful.

You will notice that the list is skewed toward transportation.  My personal aesthetic sensibilites undoubtedly contribute to this bias, but I also think that vehicles occupy a sweet-spot in industrial design.  They are durable enough that the effort to make them beautiful is worthwhile and yet not so expensive or purpose built that utility completely overides other considerations.  This list also specifically includes machines and not man’s other creations such as clothing, architecture or purely artistic works.  Those may have to be the subject of another list sometime.

Think I missed something?  I’m sure you’ll let me know.

10.  Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic

We start the list with a pretty exclusive beauty.  Only four were made, and only two survive today.

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9.  Oil Refinery at Night

There are a number of refineries along I-15 in North Salt Lake.  I use to drive past them every day on my way to work.  In the early morning with the fog rolling in off of the Lake and the waste gas flaring, they were amazingly beautiful.

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8.  Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing

The potent radial engine out front combined with the smooth curves and delicate lines so ably capture the strength and elegance of the Art Deco aesthetic.

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7.  J Class Yachts

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

– John Masefield

There is just something about the image of a ship, sails taught and running before the wind, that captures the imagination.  And I don’t think any other ship comes as close to the pure expression of the ideal.

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6.  Macbook Air

Pictures do not do justice to any of these machines, but especially this one.  The smooth lines and simplicity are compelling.  I still have to fondle it everytime I go into an Apple store.

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5.  Supermarine Spitfire

The inclusion of this most iconic of aircraft needs no justification.  However, (because I know it will come up if more than one person ever reads this) I considered and intentially left our the P-51 Mustang.  While the Mustang is undoubtedly a more capable aircraft, it is nowhere near as beautiful.

. . .

4.  Mac Motorcycles Peashooter

I love motorcycles, and there a lot of them that could have made it onto this list.  But this offering from Mac Motorcycles so perfectly reflects an elemental motorcycleness that it had to be at the top (even though it hasn’t actually been made yet).

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3.  Harry Winston Opus X

This watch is exquisite even in these still photos, but you really must see the movement in motion to appreciate the true genius of the design.

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2.  Nemesis NXT

An aeronautical siren — a creature so beautiful and so sinister that even though you know it wants to kill you, you can’t help yearning to touch it.

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1.  Astin Martin DB9

This car balances a sublime harmony between elegance and animal athleticism.  Plenty of sports cars look fast, but this one exudes power and sensuality like the love child of Mac Truck and a Lotus Elise.

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Honorable Mentions — because 10 is never enough.

1934 Chrysler Airflow

(I had this at number 10, but the curves on that Bugatti . . . )  We like to romanticize beauty as universal and enduring, but it sometimes shows itself to be driven by cultural norms.  The flowing lines of the Chrysler Airflow push all the right buttons for me, but its initial reception generated all the enthusiam of a Milli Vanilli reunion tour.

I love this picture of the Airflow next to a Union Pacific M10000 streamliner

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General Dynamics F-16 Falcon

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Louis XIII Fowling Piece

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BMW R1100RS

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“Mallard” LNER Class A4 4468 Steam Locomotive

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I found this idea fascinating. 

I was thinking recently, one day we might run out of new images. Let’s take the current standard for high quality images, 1080p hi def video. It’s surprising to realize that that frame contains a finite number of possible images. I thought it would be interesting to figure out just how many, so I wrote a little Python expression to do the math. The total number of pixels is 1920 horizontally x 1080 vertically = 2,073,600 pixels. There are 256 possible intensities of red, green and blue for each pixel, so that’s 2563 = 16,777,216 possible colors. To figure out how many possible images there are, we need to raise the second number to the power of the first, so 16,777,2162,073,600 = 1.5 * 1014,981,180 possible images. That’s a pretty big number – it’s almost fifteen million digits long. Printing it in 10 point Monaco would take over 2,700 pages of paper. Scientists estimate that there are 1080 atoms in the observable universe – a tiny number in comparison.

However big it may be, the fact that the number is finite is a surprising thing to realize. It means that every possible image has a unique ID number.

Given enough time this machine will display every possible picture within this array of 64 x 64 black & white pixels.

What makes this interesting is that among those pictures will be those of all your ancestors and descendents, the first words of every book that will ever be written. The true digital face of God.

It brought to mind Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant short story The Nine Billion Names of God.

“This is a project on which we have been working for the last three centuries — since the lamasery was founded, in fact. It is somewhat alien to your way of thought, so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.”

“Naturally.”

“It is really quite simple. We have been compiling a list which shall contain all the possible names of God.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“We have reason to believe,” continued the lama imperturbably, “that all such names can be written with not more than nine letters in an alphabet we have devised.”

“And you have been doing this for three centuries?”

“Yes. We expected it would take us about fifteen thousand years to complete the task.”

It’s all in there, every possible image.  There’s an image of me sitting in front of my computer just as I am right now.  And there’s an image of my Great, Great, . . ., Great Grandfather hefting up the megaliths at Stone Henge.  And there’s an image of my Great, Great, . . ., Great Grandson basking on the beach under the alien sun of Fhloston Paradise.  Even if it didn’t, or doesn’t, happen.

Don’t worry too much though.  At a TV frame rate of 30 images per second, even the super low resolution 64 x 64 black and white version would take 359,676,102,360,200,472,965,684,305,166 years to watch from beginning to end.