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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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.

10 flea circus contraptions

If Apple is all about the product which then sells itself, then Ron Popeil’s Ronco was the exact reverse. Popeil took the kinds of things that work well with a hard sell: knives, peelers, dubious hair loss products that looked like spray paint, created a new twist rather than an invention per se and made them from cheap materials. These were then the subject of the archetypal infomercial, progenitor of the term O-matic and popularizer of the phrase ‘as seen on TV’.Popeil represents the quintessential salesman and as a result is seen with affection rather than derision, an iconic part of American popular culture and capitalism. Her are 9 videos of Popeil products.

9 ronco gadgets

Several star architects such as Herzog and de Meuron and Rem Koolhaas have produced building designs that have jutting out and cantilevered components that give the overall impression of a giant game of Jenga. The New Museum on the Bowery in New York, is the latest addition to this genre of minimalist deconstruction. But the most interesting Jenga building is an obscure, former Soviet ministry in Georgia, which is quite mad.

12 real life jenga buildings

Bat houses are like slimline bird houses on stilts. It seems that bats will slither into folder sized slots, and a phone box sized house will carry tens of thousands of bats. Something to think of, if you want to annoy your neighbors. Along with the houses are some artificial bat caves, built by bat men and bat women, such as the Dorset Bat Group.

16 bat houses and bat caves

Fixed-gear bicycles, without gears or brakes were created for the controlled environment of a velodrome. This environment could not be more different from hilly San Francisco or car ridden New York, but their appeal as being both stripped down and minimalist as well as requiring considerable risk and commitment to learn to ride has made them fashionable in hip neighborhoods of large cities, such as New York's Williamsburg.This has lead to an interesting morphing of a classic post-war track bike design, to city fixies which inevitable become like beefier road bikes to be ridable and more recently to celebrity endorsed and/or fashion branded, limited edition products.The stunningly beautiful 1950's Cinelli, Italian team bike, best represents the classic track bike and the solid titanium saddle and merlin frame captures the road-bike-in-denial urban fixie (albeit, without the current vogue of sawn off straight handle-bars). The fashion house branded versions include graffiti artist, Futura's Colnago track frame, a Kid Robot bike a Fuji and Obey fixie and the surprisingly nice Nike AF1. The fashion bikes are particularly odd, because they are created by designers rather than bike enthusiasts and mix and match components purely on the basis of how they look. In this sense the transition of fixies from track to urban messenger to fashion designer is a continuous trend away from ergonomics to superficiality.Vote for your faves, ours is the 59 Cinelli.

the genealogy of fixies

Zoetropes, Phenakistoscopes and Praxinoscopes were the machines that formed the basis of modern day movie making. Here are some movies of these amazing machines in action, complete with some great modern interpretations.

Movies of moving picture machines (videos)

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

There is a saturation point where individual pieces of graffiti become a texture, when things are absolutely covered in graffiti. This tends to happen in places that are charged with emotional energy, such as the Berlin wall, however here are some less well known places. From the throne of England which is covered top to bottom in hundreds of years old carved graffiti and equally aristocratic Harrow School which features a wood paneled classroom where every inch is covered by pupils who have carved their names, including Winston Churchill to pop culture shrines such as U2's former recording studio and Elvis' Graceland and not so pop Oscar Wilde, whose grave is covered in kisses.

graffiti covered

Burning man, which currently rages in the Nevada desert, is Mecca for art cars. America is the capital of modified cars, since rules about what you can do to your car and it still be street legal are less stringent than most other developed nations. Custom vehicles are a cultural expression of individuality.There are many categories of art cars, but our favorites are where a mundane, ordinary vehicle is completely covered in a single material or item. Here are some of our faves.

12 object covered cars

What are the essential gadgets to carry around every day? The first in a series where various people describe their current or ideal stash. Today its Oobject's turn. Vote to rank our choices.

Oobjects perfect gadget bag

For high speed chase scenes or a low speed horse back rides, the film industry's cameras occasionally have to go mobile and when they do, they rely on specialist high tech. cars and trucks.Usually wearing intimidating matte black paint (to reduce glare) these vehicles are often engineering wonders, employing after market performance upgrades, elaborate electronics, exotic materials and even gyro-stabilizers to keep a subject in frame. With companies like Pursuit Systems, AP Cam Cars and a handful of others fulfilling Hollywood's high speed needs, the vehicles they create are rarely seen but hard to overlook.Here are some of out favorites including the amazing Go system, used for The Bourne Supremacy.Curated by Chris Hull

12 movie industry camera cars

Bank vaults comprise the most impressive fortresses ever built. Their giant mechanical doors are supreme gadgets, as large as a truck but built with the precision of a Swiss watch.Working vaults range from the New York Federal Reserve with 5000 tons of gold beneath Starbucks on the corner of Nassau St. to the giant doomsday project seed bank vault in the Arctic. Reconverted vaults are used for an amazing array of items such as underground farms, dry cleaned garment stores, wine cellars, radioactive material storage and restaurants. There are even bank vaults which have survived nuclear explosions in both Nevada and Hiroshima. Here is a collection of some of the most celebrated or unusual vaults in the world

bank vaults

To celebrate I am Legend, here is a chart of our favorite abandoned technology. Disused military equipment, famous aircraft bone yards, derelict lighthouses, fun fairs subway systems and railway locomotives.

17 abandoned technology sites

It seems that for maximum impact, upside down houses need to be cartoon versions of what a building should be, pitched roof, symmetric, central door.

12 upside down houses

When I was a nipper… boy's pockets were filled with bits of old string a couple of bits of candy and perhaps a penknife.Now, apparently you could find anything from a DVR to a miniature helicopter in there. As part of a series about everything small, here is our pocket sized chart. Vote for your faves.

8 cool pocket sized gadgets

The interesting thing about luxury trains is that they share a common and unintentionally ironic style - that of a stationary, fragile, cut glass and velvet, Victorian brothel interior moving at more than 60 miles and hour.

10 luxury trains

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.

Mechanical Animals

Watching robots get more and more sophisticated over half a century of commercials is fascinating. Trends evolve from the erector set inspired Mr Machine and terrifying Garloo to cute 70s robot buddies, through the Japanese dominated 80s and hip hop and rave culture inspired 90s.

toy robot commercials through history (videos)

Top500.org have just released their updated list of the worlds most powerful supercomputers. In June all of the top 5 were in the US, now only 2 are, with India, Sweden and Germany appearing.Here's an interesting thing, you can make it into this list for less than the cost of a family house in Manhattan.The fact that a Swedish Military computer is at number 5 indicates that either the Swedish military require the world's most powerful computers, or they are just unusually unsecretive, and that there are many machines we don't know about.Here are the top 15, with pictures of the actual machines, where they have been built. Although the IBM Blue Gene has a simple and striking case, only the Barcelona Computer Center and Leibniz Rechenzentrum are contained in rooms that are at all impressive. Vote for which ones you think are worthy of note.

15 top supercomputers

The history of photography starts at the human scale, with the first picture of a face in 1838 and moves in both directions, culminating in the WMAP cosmic background radiation image in 2003 and the first complete image of a molecule in 2009.

First images from atoms to the universe

Nail houses have become emblematic of the accelerated rate of development in China. They are buildings whose owners have resisted selling to developers and which remain standing in the middle of new construction all around, like stubborn nails which can't be beaten down with a hammer. Here are 9 examples including ones in the US and Europe.

9 nail houses

Despite the title of this list, several of these housing projects were designed by some of the world’s most famous architects and lauded at the time. The undeniable squalor of 19th Century slums combined with modernism to produce and attempt to clean things up and create a crystalline utopia. The end result was often an anti-septic vision of hell, a place devoid of organic spaces and evolves social interaction.The architectural crime that started with Corbusier’s insane proposal to demolish the historic center of Paris and replace it with something like the worst of the South Bronx and culminated in the White and Black racially segregated human silos of St Louis's Pruitt-Igoe, continues to this day and even as middle class, owner-occupied dwelling such as those in Hong Kong. Its principal feature is de-humanizing alienation. Vote for your worst…

15 housing projects from hell

After the furor over the potential Koran burnings last week, I had a look at the precedents, which it seems are everywhere, from Harry Potter to the Bible. For thousands of years, all religions and ideologies have been burning each others' texts.

14 other examples of book burning

A gallery of incredible streamline design. No other period in product design is more important to American history than the Streamlined period. Here are our favorite gadgets and vehicles from the Sky Captain World of Tomorrow.Ironically the streamlined shape is less aerodynamic than it looks. It came from the high speed steam trains designed by people like Raymond Loewy or cars by Norman Bel Geddes (the father of the actress who played Miss Ellie in Dallas) and still exists in kitchen and bar-ware and the 40s style Airstream trailers which escorted the Astronauts off the Space Shuttle today and still look futuristic.

24 Sky Captain gadgets & vehicles

oobject header image

Category: 'medical'

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.

From double amputee, Aimee Mullins, who modeled for Alexander McQueen on a pair of beautiful hand-carved wooden prosthetic legs made from solid ash to amputee soldiers who would not have survived without advances in combat medical care and who are returning to active combat at a rate which is 7 times higher than a generation ago (2% - 16%) to athletes such as Oscar Pistorius, whose carbon fiber prosthetics help him compete at a level which calls into question the separation of 'special' athletic competition, the way we view prosthetics and disability is changing. 3d printing, advanced composite materials are enabling this from an aesthetic and design standpoint as much as the more obvious technical advances through electronics and bio feedback systems.

For no other reason than these things look slightly disturbing here a re a variety of devices to measure bits and pieces of your head, for quack or legitimate purposes or just to hold it still.

Today, prosthetics are a world apart from these pre-digital age examples, using advanced robotic and cybernetic technologies and tools such as 3-d printers for mass customization. As such vintage prosthetics often have the particularly strange look which is both creepy and fascinating and accompanies technological obsolescence.Early prosthetic limbs date from ancient Egypt and Rome, however examples from the middle ages appear more regularly, being made of armor. The were later replaced by non articulated wooden prosthetics, of the caricature style normally worn by pirates. The tragically large number of amputees in the Napoleonic Wars led to the development of the 'Clapper', named after the sound made by its articulated toes which were controlled by artificial tendons. This prosthetic became the model for the 'American Leg' which was developed during the American Civil war. Wooden prosthetics were heavy and were not improved on till the development of lightweight alloys, during the first World War.

Until very recently, dental surgery appears to have been carried out with carpentry equipment. In fact, quite literally, since early dental drills were adapted from woodworking equipment. Here are some of our favorites ranging from the beautiful to the macabre.

The external fixator is a device which creates an external scaffold to holds bones in stress, allowing for regeneration of otherwise unfixable fractures. The technique was pioneered by a Russian, Dr. Ilizarov, but didn’t reach the West until the 60s after it as used to heal an Olympic athlete.These images are incredible, and they represent medical ingenuity complete with cyborg-like gadget fetish appeal. Although they are a celebration of the ability to heal people, they are, however, applied to people who have suffered terrible trauma. Something which shouldn’t be forgotten. The images which we have chosen are non squeamish, however the sites which are linked to show medical information which can be.

Just how much of the human body can you replace or augment: seemingly everything apart from the tadpole like remnants of the brain and spinal chord.Bionic eyes, ears, hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, hands, feets, legs, arms and skin are now real science rather than concept designs. For this list, we have gathered together as many real devices including commercially available products rather than concept designs or imagery that appeal based on gimmick value. The one exception is the tooth and ear cellphone implant which is feasible today.An interesting idea is how the notion of a cyborg might change (often imagined as fusion of mechanical and electronic technology with human biology), since many of these devices use technology that is itself principally biological, such as stem cell lines in the bioreactor liver or artificial skin.

Phoropters, the gadgets used by opthalmologists to test your eyes look like the most spectacular binoculars you have ever seen.The traditional complex mechanical versions are technological works of art made by lens makers such as Bausch and Lomb and have the design quality of a classic vintage Leica camera. Only now are these marvelous gadgets slowly being replaced by simpler looking, wireless, digital versions which relay data to a computer for image analysis.

The distinction between early anatomy lecture theaters which dissected the dead and later operating theaters, which attempted to cure the living, is blurred. Both were used for teaching, in broad daylight where lecturers clothes became stiff with blood and the air thick with germs.With highly unusual steep raked galleries these were literally theaters, and the name has stuck. The earliest rooms were often heavily decorated such as the beautifully restored 16th Century wood paneled anatomy theater at the University of Bologna to the crudely utilitarian 19th century dedicated operating theater at St. Thomas', London.

Manikins (the alternate spelling, mannequin, is usually used for the store window variety) which are used for medical training are extremely interesting devices with accurate and working anatomical elements. This list is larger than usual since the number of interesting items meant that we kept on looking.

No descriptions for this list, just rows of interesting false teeth. vote for your faves.