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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
Charles Sheelers iconic image of the Albert Kahns Ford River Rouge Plant, with its criss crossing conveyors and spire like chimneys, is probably the most iconic image of the American Car manufacturing industry whose future, like Kahns original buildings, hangs in the balanceEven among architects, Albert Kahn is less renowned than Louis. But Albert Kahn is far more important in terms of the influence of his buildings. He is sometimes referred to as the architect of Detroit. Kahn invented the American factory style, taking early European modernism to the place where assembly lines were invented and developing an architectural style that was supremely innovative both in terms of construction and design. The plants he built are in many places around America, but most famously in Detroit, where, lie the car industry itself, some of his most important building lie in ruins.We have two favorite images in this list. One if of the abandoned Detroit Public Schools Book depository, with its once minimalist, clean modernism in absolute and total decay, overflowing with rotting books strewn across its floor. The other image is, of course, Charles Sheelers

the architect of detroit

Creating the illusion that a staircase is floating in mid air has become a recent design trend. It can be achieved using a glass balustrade and hidden bolts, hanging the treads from above, cantilevering the stairs from a concealed beam or by using the structure of a spiral shape to make the entire staircase self supporting. Here are some of our favorites.

12 floating staircases

For sheer baroque complexity of appearance, planetarium projectors are among the most amazing gizmos ever built. They range from enormous machines more than 20 ft. high to a soccer ball sized $300 home version.Their purpose is a bizarre reversal of a large optical telescope, taking an internal view of the the universe and projecting it on a dome, rather than creating a view from peering outside of one, but the aesthetic is somewhat similar. Another curious similarity is how much they look like some early satellites.Our personal favorites are the original Zeiss, Mark I and the truly amazing machine built by the Korkosz brothers for the, appropriately named, Seymour Planetarium.

16 incredible planetarium projectors

The stuffed chick with light bulb, understandably caused some fuss when it was created. Other strange lights here include pear lights which can be plucked out of a tree, paper plane lights lights that look like water dripping out of a tap and a lamp from a spinal column cast.

16 weird lights

Flying helmets are interesting because they demonstrate the rate of technological progress over the 20th century, from primitive, almost medieval looking leather caps to sophisticated cyborg like devices packed full of electronics. They also show different air force cultures, from spartan Soviet styles to individualistic, decorated and painted US fighter pilot helmets.

flying helmets

Pocket sundials can be over 1000 years old, arguably making them the world's first watches - and with no moving parts to break. Typically they were carried by shepherds, where there are a variety of designs, from the French Pillar Sundial to the Tibetan Time Stick.

12 Pocket Sundials

Tensegrity structures are visually stunning and their combination with computer enhanced structures is creating renewed interest for architectural applications.Buckminster Fuller coined the term tensegrity when he saw sculptures by Kenneth Snelson and realized that rigid component geodesics were a special case of perfectly balanced compression and tension. Tensegrity refers to structures where compression members (rods) are only connected to each other by tension members (cables). The end result is that the structures appear to float in air.Despite the fact that tensegrity structures are fantastically efficient, few have been built since they tend to have a single point of failure and need adjustment. Recently however, schemes which combine the intelligence of computing and tensegrity structures have lead to proposals of very large scale structures including sky scrapers.Here are our favorite tensegrity links from around the web. Vote for yours

13 wonderful tensegrity structures

Microphones are a classic gadget because, even today, their design is often based upon Art Deco or Machine Age styling. Here is a chart of vintage and vintage style microphones designed to show how that style evolved and how it is still copied today. Vote for your faves.

24 classic microphones

With the possible exception of the 1972 Munich olympic stadium, Beijings 'Birds Nest' stadium, designed by fashionable Swiss architects, Herzog & de Meuron, promises to be the clear winner, architecturally. Here is a list of all 16 post-war olympic stadia. Vote for you faves.

every postwar olympic stadium

With the notable exception of Apple, America has largely ceased to be a design culture, yet from Art Deco to Mid-Century modern, the US once ruled the world. There is no better example of a quintessentially American product designer than Raymond Loewy, who combined the exuberance of consumer culture with the asceticism of modernism and applied this to elements from pencil sharpeners to locomotives.Like Apples lead designer, Loewy was not from America. He was born in France and travelled to New York after WWI, wearing only his officers uniform and carrying $40. Here are a dozen of our favorite examples of Loewy designs.

12 Classic Raymond Loewy Designs

Included here are regular freeway loads over 100ft in length, which you would probably not want to get stuck behind. However, our favorites are the unbelievably large coker oven trailers which have 160 wheels each, and the specialized boeing transporter, with its secondary cab beneath the trailer, at road level.

8 extreme truck load videos

A perfect environmental nightmare, these hellish looking open faced mining machines have been largely decommissioned. Luckily some are being preserved as they are staggeringly impressive. The Ferropolis in Germany has many of these machines on display and forms an industrial park which host the famous MELT music festival. There have been several images of these floating around blogs, including the infamous pictures of the bucket wheel excavator that swallowed a full sized bulldozer, however we have tried to find as large a variety as possible.

16 giant bucket excavators

Algorithmic architecture uses computers to generate natural looking aperiodic forms that are are a revolutionary alternative to the extreme crystalline regularity of what has up to now been considered modern. The dreary exhibition of pre-fabricated architecture at New York's MOMA, has a couple of examples of algorithmic designs at its entrance, but that is where it stops. On entering it is an mixture of of the dated, High Tech style and dumbed down Mid-Century Modern boxes for Dwell magazine readers. If you really want to see what is happening at the cutting edge of architecture, look at some of these schemes. This list could go on forever. Drill down on some of the links and explore.

Algorithmic architecture

Last night our very, very ,very bad cat had diarrhea, then stepped in it, walked all around the house and trampled all over the bed. Here is a list of the best gadgets to deal with cat and dog feces, including a $7000 device for cleaning out paddocks, which I think we might have to buy.

14 best pet poop gadgets

We could go on about how empty pools, once awash with liquidity and fun are a metaphor for the wreckage left after the credit bust. But then again, there is something cool about empty pools, period. Here are our faves.

abandoned pools

One of Silicon Valleys most famous landmarks, and possibly its only truly monumental one is under threat of demolition. The giant airship Hangar One at NASAs Moffett Field, is one of Americas architectural treasures.Airship hangars were collectively the largest spaces ever built, larger than cathedrals and just as awe inspiring. Vote for your favorite.

12 giant airship hangars

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

Football kit (American football), has changed dramatically over a relatively short history, such that early football helmets look positively medieval and the latest anti-concussion helmets are fully fledged gadgets in their own right.The first football helmet designs were soft shell lattices that resemble those still worn by rugby players. Unlike rugby, however, contact can be made when you don't have possession of the ball, so helmets became progressively more robust and elaborate. Around the 1920s helmets were clearly inspired by Roman army ones, only made of soft leather and occasionally with full face-masks. These 'executioner' helmets are the most sought after collectors items, today.The first metal face masks appeared in the 30s although they did not become commonplace until the 50s, when the modern helmet took shape, eventually becoming a hard plastic or composite shell.

12 football helmet designs

Nothing less than human made lightning. The massive fields generated by resonance between pairs of stepped up induced capacitors create potential differences greater than the resistance of air between the coil and a nearby conductor. This allows fractal currents to flow as the air itself conducts and ionizes.Although Tesla coils are largely created for fun by dedicated enthusiasts, they originally had a real purpose in mind. Tesla figured that he could create a wireless electrical grid and went as far as to build a tower on Long Island that would be its first transmitter. The idea was never realized, however in Russia really large scale wireless power networks were actually tried, as can be seen in this list.Vote for your faves.

16 crazy tesla coils

The sight of a Zeppelin under construction must have been an awe inspiring experience. The hangers that were constructed for this purpose are the largest structures even created and the lightness required for the Zeppelin frames meant that their trusses consisted of sophisticated aluminum struts where each strut was in turn another truss. The overall effect is of incredible complexity and detail, like a gigantic high-tech whale set in a space that resembles a Piranesi engraving of a dungeon with enormous shafts of sunlight lit by dust. Because of their age, this technological look is combined with distinctly archaic elements, such as the gas bags which were made from thousands of cows' stomachs or the scaffolding and ladders which are wooden and rickety.

Zeppelins under construction

From London to Moscow to New York, Chicago, Dubai and Shanghai, almost every single high rise city in the world is seeing skyscraper projects canceled even as they have their foundations laid and start to rise from the ground.Here is a list of the biggest projects that have been put on hold so far. The disappointing reality is that almost none of them have any particular architectural merit, apart from Calatrava's Chicago Spire, perhaps, and reflect a period when architecture firms were too overloaded with work to think very hard about the designs. Vote for which ones you would have liked to have seen finished.

15 skyscrapers on hold

The Oobject Rotten Apple Award. To mark this week's 10th anniversary of the death of the Newton we have picked some of the products from Apple, that we'd rather forget.We could have picked many more from the years when Jobs was in the wilderness and Apple attempted to be market driven rather than design driven, under Sculley. Reactive rather than pro-active. One problem, the gallery would have been a sea of similar, anonymous items. For the Sculley era machines, assume that we mean every product in the range.(update: Apple's earnings are just in and they are blow-out. After hours trading shows that as of today, Apple is worth more than IBM.).Vote for your all time worst product.

19 all time worst apple products

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Category: 'engineering'

Bridge layers have to be about the closest thing in the real world to a Transformer, giant fold up, extendable instantly deployable bridges that are most often fixed to modified tanks. They have been around since tanks first existed, during WW1, and are one of the more bizarre and obscure forms of military hardware. There is also something incredibly circular about a vehicle that carries its own road.

When I was an architect, it was common for structural engineering books to have this image of two people effortlessly supporting a third to demonstrate the cantilever principal of the famous Forth Rail Bridge outside of Edinburgh. When I was looking for this picture, I noticed that the people were different. It turns out that this iconic image is not unique and here are the three variants I could find, making this the shortest (and one of the more obscure) oobject list to date.

The fact that if a nuke is used to extinguish the Deepwater Horizon leak, it will be the 6th time this has been done speaks volumes of how extreme the technological requirements of our fossil fuel dependence.Oil and gas require a gargantuan infrastructure of superlative technology that permeates every level from extraction to dispatch, from hellish looking oil drill bits, drilling rigs that are the size of cities, storage tanks the size of cathedrals and pipelines that rival the Great Wall of China.The extreme environments that this technology operates in require unsinkable boats, skyscraper sized structures in some of the world’s least inhabited places and firefighting tools that include large bombs and fighter jet engines.Pause for a moment and reflect on just how unusual these objects are.

It seems like oil cleanup includes some of the most basic and advanced technologies, from literally hoovering it up, to skimming it and burning it, using oil eating bacteria and swarms of Roomba style oil cleanup bots.