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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Just like the Empire State building the Burj Dubai is opening after a crash, only it is twice the height. Here are our picks for a visual record of the construction of the world's tallest structure, from its 200 foot deep foundation to a video from the crows nest at the top of it's spire.

construction of the burj dubai

The first early warning systems were large concrete dishes which focused the sound of incoming Zeppelins towards listeners wearing stethoscopes, during WW1. Today's nuclear attack early warning systems are largely satellite based infra red detectors and airborne dishes, mounted on planes and helicopters. They have made a vast array of geodesic domed, Cold War radar installations obsolete, where they remain abandoned in some of the most isolated places on earth such as Greenland and Northern Canada.

early warning systems

Before there was Lego, there was the Erector Set. This was an altogether different type of toy that resembled genuine engineering construction with trusses and girders, rather than plastic, primary color pixelated, objects.Although Erector Sets are sold today, they are re-branded versions of a different toy. The original Gilbert sets were made from 1913 till 1967 and are an iconic toy for gadget aficionados that can be picked up relatively cheaply on Ebay. Here are 10 favorite vintage kits that are currently for sale.

vintage erector sets to buy

Tourbillon watches are the most expensive in the world often costing $500,000. They became fashionable in the last decade as non-forgeable status symbols for billionaires, but that is now being threatened by Chinese imitations.The style of these devices is baroque in the truest sense, but becuase their aesthetic derives from the rational world of mechanics the style jars and they are, to my mind, as grotesque and kitsch as their diamond encrusted counterparts in the luxury watch market.After facing the existential threat of digital which made accuracy cheap, the Swiss watch industry turned to making high end jewelry either directly with diamond encrusted gold watches or indirectly via those that fetishised complex mechanics for the sake of it, such as these. Ironic, since the origins of Swiss watch making came from the ban on jewelry in Calvanist Geneva.These tourbillon (whirlwind) watches are the most extreme example of complex analog mechanics, the most expensive clockwork items in the world, costing between $100,000 and $500,000, they all share a rotating escapement which theoretically leads to better accuracy (even though that does not compare to a $50 swatch).This mechanism is very difficult to make and fascinating to look at, so most tourbillon watches directly expose their intricate mechanics, which originally only the Swiss could make. Recently, however, Chinese watch makers have brought tourbillon watches to market, for a tenth of the price, threatening their cache as a status symbol which is difficult to fake.

12 tourbillon watches

A bus stop is perhaps the simplest form of shelter and therefore the simplest form of architecture. As such it is a surprisingly rich area for design innovation, from complex organic concrete shell structures to minimalist glass and steel modernism.

bus stops as architecture

The earliest ejector seats were designed to save your life, but broke your back. Today the ultimate ejection seats are described as zero zero seats able to operate at zero altitude and zero airspeed. Ejection seats are interesting because they are the most extreme form of a commonplace design item - a chair.

12 ejector seats

Antarctic architecture provides imagery of the closest thing that people will be able see to a moon base, within their lifetimes. The extreme nature of the environment combined with its bizarre statelessness, provides the location for a freezing architectural expo, with each country having its own icy pavilion.Since the early days of wooden huts, the architecture has converged on a style which consists of a pod on legs, somewhat reminiscent of Thunderbird II's cargo bay or the Space 1999 freighter. In addition large scale experiments such as the south pole telescope or ice cube neutrino detector (which is technically a telescope at the north pole since it watch for particles which have traveled through the earth) provide equally interesting accidental architecture, in that their designs are purely functional.


I normally try and avoid military stuff unless there's an ironic design twist, and there is here. Somehow, these crude, mechanical ‘remote control' rifles, used for shooting over trenches manage to emasculate the phallic nature of guns and turn them into something worthy of Rube Goldberg himself. Nevertheless, they are for killing people sneakily, something to remember, while admiring their weirdness.

12 periscope rifles

Lighthouses are extreme and iconic buildings. Remote, intrinsically conspicuous and built to withstand extreme environments. For this list I've picked some interesting lighthouses themselves, such as the transparent latticework hyperboloid structure by Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov or the haunting abandoned soviet nuclear powered polar lighthouses. In addition I've chosen some interesting elements from the giant fresnel lenses lamps to the traveling libraries that the predecessor to the US coastguard used to pass around to lighthouse keepers to keep their sanity.

the extreme architecture of lighthouses

Despite being a qualified architect, IKEA furniture assembly quite often defeats me. Hence this list of self assembling objects, from computer memory to swallowable medical procedure components to chairs, particularly appeals. Perhaps Sweden should have a dedicated research institute geared around the discipline.

videos of self assembling machines

The launching of a ship after smashing a bottle of champagne against its bow is an iconic ritual. It is also one of the few things in life which is still impressive despite being relatively slow. Shown here are videos which are interesting because of the ships fame, sheer size or quirkiness of the launch, including those where huge waves drench onlookers. Our favorite is the time lapse submarine launch in a floating dock.

12 videos of ships being launched

Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's. I've picked 15 of my favorite items, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the LE 1 electrostatic speakers from 1959. They were built around Quad technology and influenced Apple's large screen displays.

15 dieter rams classics

Manikins used for dental training are either deep into uncanny valley (creepy) territory if they try and look at all realistic, or just plain terrifying in their more abstract incarnations. A lot of this is just becuase (a) people are very good at interpreting faces and anything face-like seems possessed, (b) dental manikins have to bare their teeth so often have bizarre expressions. Anyhow, they are quite interesting, particularly the vintage metal ones which are a nastily grotty and beaten up.

12 dental training heads

The history of the pressure suit from its origins in the 30s for high altitude pilots to space missions is one which perfectly encapsulates (no pun intended) all of the aspects of product design from craft to science. Aesthetically, the first pressure suit, created by the aviator Wiley Post in 1934, looks more like a deep sea diving one, just as deep sea diving inspired the fictional aesthetic for robots and space men, until the space race. But the Post suit is where the two design styles diverge, culminating in the Apollo mission suits which were produced in craft fashion by the seamstresses of bra manufacturer, Playtex after their proposal outperformed those submitted by engineering contractors.Pressure suits don't need to be air tight, apart from the helmet, because human skin is, they just need to be tight to stop your skin swelling. Those worn by pilots are usually different from astronauts, who also have to wear external layers of reflective insulation (separated by intermediate layers of non heat conducting material, exactly like modern loft insulation) and a protective skin against micro-meteors and abrasive dust. As well as all fabric pressure suits, there are rigid or partially rigid ones, such as some of the moon walk prototypes or space walk (EVA) ones which are hybrids of a rigid torso and flexible limbs. EVA and moon walk suits have a life support system as a backpack, while astronauts often carry theirs like a suitcase, as a backup in case cabin pressure fails.

pressure suits

The styles here represent the prosperity of the post war years when the cold war space race influenced the concept of modernity. GM and Ford created a range of space age aircraft design inspired prototypes .The Corvette Sting Ray, is perhaps the culmination of this period, with Corvette stylist, Bill Mitchell's XP-87 forming the basis of the classic Sting Ray, one of the few cars in history to go into production without losing something of the impact of the prototype.

the golden age of american concept cars

There is nothing more creepy than the charred remains of a moth eaten victorian doll with rolling eyes and moving limbs. That is the premise for the Oobject's Halloween list, videos of the most creepy automata in action.

top 12 videos of creepy automata

Really complicated, and really expensive swiss watches are called grand complications based upon strict criteria.These are often based upon the gravity compensating tourbillon mechanism that isn't strictly needed for a wristwatch but is insanely complicated so people build them to show off their skills as watchmakers.This is the kind of gadget that gazillionaires with enough taste to avoid diamond encrusted ones buy when they fly into Geneva. They look very James Bond - except that they cost ten times as much as his humble Rolex or Omega, often costing more than $100,000 each.

8 most complex watches

Heavy lift ships can carry loads of tens of thousands of tons, including oil platforms, other ships and even dry docks. The are often semi-submersible so that they can sink below the water line to let their cargo slide off. The sheer size of their cargo often looks impossible, as these items suggest.

12 ships with impossibly large cargo

One of the negative things about technological progress is when something that was originally intricate and mechanical becomes a ubiquitous piece of cheap technology. This happened in the 70s with watches and more recently has happened with cameras.A modern day spy camera is not that interesting, but the miniature ones here are, similarly the wide range of hardware solutions create much more design diversity in early cameras, from the giant 900lb box camera to the bizarre miniature ones developed for carrier pigeons, from gun like trigger activated shutters to a propeller powered film advance mechanism for a camera mounted below an early aircraft.

12 unusual cameras

A gallery of giant ears. Before electronic RADAR, acoustic listening devices were like giant mechanical ear trumpets which could locate sounds and even calculate distances by bouncing sound waves in exactly the same manner that SONAR works in water. Ear trumpets themselves were only fully replaced by electronic devices in the middle of the 20th Century, because of their conspicuous nature, they were often hidden in anything form beards and wigs to table ornaments.

15 incredible listening devices

Since Le Corbusier, celebrity architects realized that they needed to get a look, to be an icon. But being anal retentive this often resulted in the slightly reticent gesture of sculptural eyewear, like a miniature building hanging on your nose. Philip Johnson had Cartier make a copy of Corbusier’s glasses for himself in 1934, thus cementing the trend for architects in architect glasses.Here are a dozen famous architects and their specs, with a description below of what their glasses say about them.

12 architects with architects glasses

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Category: 'contraptions'

There were justifiable fears of being buried alive, before modern medicine could safely identify the difference between certain types of paralysis or coma and being dead. Fears which were exacerbated by fiction such as The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe. As a result a bizarre range of contraptions were invented to signal having been buried alive, from bells, whistles and even a spring loaded ejector coffin which might actually kill other people from the shock of seeing an interred body spring out of the ground in a cemetery.Added to this were ranges of hermetically sealed iron coffins and a device to prevent grave robbing consisting of a booby-trap subterranean torpedo.For more of these, check out:

I normally try and avoid military stuff unless there's an ironic design twist, and there is here. Somehow, these crude, mechanical ‘remote control' rifles, used for shooting over trenches manage to emasculate the phallic nature of guns and turn them into something worthy of Rube Goldberg himself. Nevertheless, they are for killing people sneakily, something to remember, while admiring their weirdness.

Complex dangerous machinery isn't the first choice for a home-brew project, unless you are rural farmer, apparently. Some of these look like remnants of a cargo cult, and most of them received stern warnings from the relevant civil aviation authorities to not even try firing them up, but a couple actually flew.

Mechanical horse are interesting because they straddle the gap between the era of the internal combustion engine (we still notionally benchmark our cars relative to horses through horse power) and that of bone & gristle.

One of the most odd objects we’ve ever seen these items are sometimes confused with spy gadgetry, but the truth is stranger. Jailers’ keys were apparently filled with gun powder to create a primitive gun that could be detonated if there was any trouble when opening a cell door. We found several original versions that back up this claim, dating from the 17th century and of various complexity.

Teasmades possibly represent the nadir of industrial design, combining Rube Goldberg, or more appropriately, Heath Robinsonesque unnecessary mechanic complexity with technological denialist styling and often capped off with horrid little lampshades.Appropriately enough, these diabolical devices were pioneered by a brand called Goblin, and were rendered obsolete after unfashionable UK Prime Minister, John Major’s wife Norma confessed to having one in Downing St. Sadly, someone is making them again.

Solar cookers are reflectors which focus sunlight enough to heat food, but they are a simple eco-friendly gadget that happens to look interesting and comes in a large variety of interesting forms.Because solar cookers are shiny and look like satellite dishes, they have a particularly futuristic appearance which often creates an extreme contrast with the surroundings where they are used, as some of these testify.

Flea circuses share one thing in common with combine harvesters. They are something that you hear about lot as a kid but rarely see. Popular since the 1600s till the late 19th Century, there is something fantastically creepy and Victorian about them, since they were cheap entertainment for the poor and the best performers were human fleas. Despite the mythology, flea circuses are real, and some still exist. Here are some pictures and videos to prove it.

From commercial kits such as the Chaos Toy or Spacewarp, to the world's largest ball run, the 70 foot high Energy Machine in the Hong Kong Science Museum, these complicated contraptions are a classic form of Rube Goldberg Machine.Here are a collection of videos of some of the worlds most impressive ball runs in action, including the Mark Bischoff machine that was recreated for Anthony Hopkins' obsessive character in the movie Fracture, to one built for a one-off ending to Sesame Street.

Beautiful working model Stirling engines are a favorite of the Steampunk style, because these efficient engines use external flame heat as an energy source, combined with Victorian brass or steel mechanisms.But they have an added benefit, in that their workings are entirely intuitive and help people easily understand the principals of cylinder engines in things like cars. Here are a collection of videos of some of our favorites, some, but not all, 'Steampunky', in action.

Here are a range of videos of some bizarre automated drawing machines, from an instrument that draws mushroom clouds from the dust from nuclear test sites, a large industrial robot used to automatically draw what it sees and a variety of increasingly odd contraptions.

The point of this list was to find interesting fountain designs that are truly modern, something that is rare, since fountains are luxurious, flowing and decorative by nature.For example Rome's Trevi fountain may be a masterpiece, but trying to recreate classical splendor today always looks awful and kitsch. The horrid water display at the Vegas Bellagio is a case in point, opulence without craft. In fairness, its designers, WET design have produced many other much more interesting designs which balance fun with restraint. Here are some of our favorite designs, from computer controlled fountains such as the wonderful animated version at Detroit Airport to Chicago's celebrated screen based Crown fountain

Gym equipment has a habit of making people look stupid, like that weird guy on TV with the pony tail and the abs machine. These machines are the zenith of fitness absurdity - teaching you to swim on dry land, anywhere. Handy if you are an Olympic swimmer holed up in a hotel room, waiting to be airlifted into Beijing when the smog clears.

Our top burglar alarms include an array of guns with trip wires or trigger mechanisms, designed to scare off thieves, including the hellish looking device from a London dock warehouse, a clockwork 19th century doorstop burglar alarm, and a device from the 1930's which dialed an emergency number and played back an alert message from a gramophone record. Vote for your faves.

Bicycles are very efficient machines, more efficient than legs! Here are some of the more bizarre bicycle powered objects from a washing machine, to a bulldozer, a centrifuge at NASA and even a rollercoaster.

Brain devices tend to look interesting an unusual, from passive, insect like EEG caps with trailing wires to interactive Brain Computer Interfaces. These devices range from largely useless toys to profoundly impressive technology used to control things such as prosthetic limbs. Here is an eclectic mix of our favorites, vote for yours.

From giant wind blown animal sculptures to an armored mechanical shark. The number of possible entries in this list is huge. Here is a selection of some of our faves, vote for yours.

Named after the famous cartoonist, Rube Goldberg machines are unlike ordinary gadgets in that they are deliberately inefficient, taking the maximum number of steps to achieve a goal. Last years winner of the Rube Goldberg competition took over three hundred steps to squeeze a glass of orange juice.To truly appreciate RG machines you need to see them in action. Here is a list of videos of our favorites. Vote for yours.

Ever since Evel Knievel attempted to jump Snake River Canyon, by sitting in a rocket powered bomb, dressed like Elvis, Darwin Awards contenders have tried to create inappropriate rocket powered items. These days we have YouTube to show us 10 thousand varieties of rocket powered skateboard. Here are our favorites, vote for yours.

A gallery of giant ears. Before electronic RADAR, acoustic listening devices were like giant mechanical ear trumpets which could locate sounds and even calculate distances by bouncing sound waves in exactly the same manner that SONAR works in water. Ear trumpets themselves were only fully replaced by electronic devices in the middle of the 20th Century, because of their conspicuous nature, they were often hidden in anything form beards and wigs to table ornaments.

Time Machines come from two places: Ebay and movies. They also come in two varieties: hat with wires and vehicle, depending on whether the trip is physical or metaphysical.A notable exception is in the machine used in the TV show The Time Tunnel where the black and white spiral induces the effect of an acid trip to the extent that it doesn't matter that it is neither a hat or a car.