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At first glance you think, wow a tie camera, a camera in a case, mirror, plant, cigarette packet, cell phone. How cool would that have been when I was a kid? Then you think, hmm …cell phone. Cell phones already have cameras, its a pretty dumb place to put a spy cam.The progress of technology has overtaken the mystique of the hidden camera such that we have been invaded by a million spy cams embedded in wholesale crap.Vote for the silliest. Oh, and do check out the rather great antique watch camera which is from the days when spy cams were actually impressive.

16 odd spy cams

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

Inflatables are an obvious choice for space vehicles and satellites, a small sized payload than can be inflated once up, yet for some reason they aren't the norm.The first passive communications satellites were inflatable spheres, such as the Echo series, which mylar was developed for, and early prototypes for space stations were inflatable. More recently, funding for the inflatable replacement for the habitat unit on the space station was cancelled and a private company Bigelow Aerospace is now the pioneer in the field, having successfully launched an inflatable unit.My favorite in this list, however, is the grid sphere satellite which replaced the Echo ones which didn't stay up long becuase the suns heat would deform them and slow them down. A helium inflated plastic balloon expanded a signal reflecting hollow geodesic mesh, with the plastic then dissolving under the suns rays. The mesh could then stay up for 11 years or so.

12 space inflatables

Want to see some more impressive glass stairs than those at the Apple Stores? Despite the fact that Apple actually has a patent on the glass stairs at some of its stores, their glass staircases are actually not all that innovative. The glass stair at the Carre D art in Nimes is more adventurous and was designed 20 years ago, and Ove Arup have engineered a purely glass stair with no steel fixings.

Transparent Glass Stairs

Aircraft factories are gargantuan, complicated and interesting.The Boeing Everett factory, where the Jumbo Jet was built and the Dreamliner is being built is the largest volume building in the world. It has a floor plan of 100 acres, enough to fit more than a thousand family houses inside, with doors that are the size of football pitches.Included alongside Everett are a variety of factory shots of famous planes from Concorde to the Virgin Galactic space craft, the Blackbird and the B2.The shots of wartime assembly lines, which churned out aircraft at a rate associated with car assembly in environments that look like computer rendering from video games lines, include the famous secret factory at Burbank which was hidden under a fake hillside.

aircraft factories

Our favorite lights based purely upon aesthetics. Vote for your favorites.

13 best lighting designs

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.

15 videos of amazing rolling ball machines

If you believe adverts like these, sugar, Fat, TV, Coke, cocaine, radiation, cigarettes: they’re all actually good for you. Manufactured consent!

9 good for you ads

Photo finishes are made using strip or slit scan cameras. They are an assemblage of slices of something as it passes a certain point, such as a finish line. The same y axis at different points in time rather than different points in an x,y plane at an instant. As such they produce sometimes beautiful or plain weird distortions, from the arched backs and smeared limbs of Olympic cyclists and runners to pictures of aircraft propellers which appear impossibly separated from the nosecone.

12 examples of photo finish photography

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

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.

10 inappropriate rocket powered items

Fingerprint scanners are a dime a dozen these days. But how about devices which can literally grant access by the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you type or write, bite or grip. Here is a chart of state of the art biometric applications, including futuristic devices like portable Game Boys which are ominously called HIIDE (handheld interagency identity detection).

18 futuristic biometric devices

This is a video roundup of currently available or prototyped 3D printers, a gadget which has been sitting on the sidelines for a while, but hasn't become mainstream yet. 3D printing machines are fairly simple in their operation, building any 3D shape, no matter how complex, as a series of contour slices which are hardened as a printer head slides back and forth across. But the results look like magic, real objects, in color, with moving parts, direct from a CAD model. The main reason that 3D printers, still remain a professional niche product, used by design firms rather than end consumers, is that their output is small and slow. In addition, more people know how to create text files for 2D printers than a CAD design, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. As a result of this small market, some of the marketing videos of 3D printers shown here look distinctly old fashioned for such a futuristic product. We long for the day when we will be able to print a full sized chair in ten minutes.

video list of 3D printers in action

Early brick sized cellphones spanned the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s when Nokia was still remembered as the manufacturer of jackboots for the Soviet army. The distinction between carphones and portable cellular phones was blurred and even today the largest cellphone outlet in the UK is called the Carphone Warehouse.Here is a nostalgic lineup of videos of some of these with 2 notable inclusions, the Nokia 9000, which you could use to access a server from more effectively than an iPhone or Blackberry, in the early days of the web and the Iridium, whose demise is one of the few examples of technology regress: there is no longer a truly global cellphone network, but there used to be.

brick sized cellphone ads (videos)

A bicycle makes for an excellent machine even when stationary, something that is shown nowhere better than in the home-brew design phenomenon of bicycles and knife sharpeners. This is a design typology that spans continents and traces back to 19th century pedal powered machines. Here are our favorite examples from around the world.

12 Knife Bikes

Getting out of the way of boats is a perennial problem that results in spectacular engineering, from the absolutely enormous retractable bridge in the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, to the beautiful bridge in Paddington Basin, London, which automatically curls itself into a ball, once a day.

Impressive moving bridges

The monorail perfectly exemplifies that nothing dates like the future, it is a piece of anachronistic technology that is today largely relegated to theme parks and inter terminal airport transit. Although the archetypal image of a monorail is the 1959 Disneyland version, as this list shows, its design history traces back to the middle of the 19th century, with steam driven versions that share none of the futuristic aesthetic of the streamlined post war versions. In this case, although the pioneering system from a technical point of view was the 1952 German Alweg, the 1911 Boyes monorail prototype shows the origins of the futuristic look.

9 Vintage Monorails

A perfect example of nothing dating like the future, the garbage can robot is a retro-futuristic cultural icon. Some of these were cheap props for cheap movies, but others were serious visions of the future. If nothing else they demonstrate quite how imaginative the Metropolis robot that stands the test of time was.

12 primitive b movie style robots

A boat that deliberately capsizes to form a research building, a rotating 25 floor hotel with a floating foundation and a floating nuclear power plant. Vote for your favorite.

12 crazy floating buildings

Included here are notable landings based upon being spectacularly close to high rises (the old Hong Kong airport), very short runways (Saba, aircraft carriers), specific vehicles (the Space Shuttle and Concorde) or a reconstruction of the Amazing US Airways flight 1549 which ditched safely in the Hudson after all engines failed.

videos of plane landings from the cockpit

Although crash test dummies are iconic, there are a variety of different types, dating back to the fifties. There are ones for different genders, age, size and more recently, weight, with fatter dummies to represent the growing trend of obesity. There are different ones for cars, trains, planes, motorbikes and even those used for pedestrian impacts. Here are a dozen interesting examples.

12 Types of Crash Test Dummy

A general store is often no more than a shack with a veranda, peeling paint and a flat gable sign. This humble piece of vernacular architecture is sometimes found in Canada and Australia, but at its heart it is American. The general store, nostalgically fictionalized as Ike Godsey's in the Waltons or Oleson's Mercantile in Little House on the Prairie is part of America's soul that has been eroded, in the real world, by strip malls and Walmarts. Here is a collection of just a few of our favorites. Drill through on the links to explore some of the great finds on sites like Flic

general store architecture

Bunker architecture is often better by accident than the deliberate attempts to create an aesthetic based on massive elements, through brutalism. Paul Virilio famously published a book of some of the more extreme versions of the 12,000 bunkers that formed the Atlantic Wall in WWII and Albania has an incredible 700,000 bunkers in a population of 3M, created by its mad leader, Enver Hoxha. Perhaps the strangest of all are the concealed bunkers that litter the Swiss countryside either as fake chalets or as mountains that literally open up to reveal jet fighters.

The architecture of bunkers

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Architect of the Lego House built for Top Gear presenter James May, Barnaby Gunning, has sent us pictures of the construction progress so far. We'll post more as we get them.

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