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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

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

For some reason cities around the world are scrambling to build massive Ferris Wheels in the name of modernity. Which is odd because this is old fashioned technology and not much improved. The biggest wheel in the world is less than twice the size of the very first one in Chicago. Ultimately however, what is disappointing about the biggest Ferris wheels in the world, from Beijing to Berlin is that they are boring. Here are our favorite less ordinary Ferris Wheels.

10 unboring ferris wheels

I've picked the most interesting selection I could find from the worlds largest gatherings. The largest anti war protest was in Rome in 2003, against the Iraq war, where more people gathered than for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj. In fact, Sao Paulo's Gay Pride festival is roughly the same size as the Haj, with 2.5 million attending in 2006 and the Haj isn't even necessarily the largest gathering in Islam, with 14 million people attending the Shiite Arab'een in Iraq. Religious ceremonies dominate, with a Papal mass in Ireland in 1979 resulting in a third of the population (1.25M) gathering in a single field, but paling in comparison with religious gatherings in India, including the Kumbh Mela which drew an unbelievable 60-70 million people over 45 days in 2007, making it the largest gathering in history.

images of the worlds largest crowds

The earliest wrist watches were made for soldiers, where fumbling around for a pocket watch was dangerous. The very earliest examples were from the Boer War, however the idea caught on in the first World War.Some of these watches were actually designed to be worn around the leg (for airmen), and many have the distinctive protective grille that gives them a medieval look.

9 earliest wrist watches

f the industrial revolution was typified by Northern England's dark satanic mills, the Chinese manufacturing revolution consists of of more subtle kind of hell: antiseptic, shadowless, pastel colored assembly lines.The most striking thing we noticed when putting together this list was the uniformity of color, typically green floors with hospital blue appearing here and there, and highlights of yellow or pink, drowned in uniform fluorescent lighting that would make a drug store feel like a candle lit bistro.Some of these images are from the Toronto photographer, Ed Burtynsky's great photo essay about Chinese manufacturing, however others are from publicity shots for the factories themselves. The publicity photos unknowingly reproduce the same clinical blandness.

chinese factories

BASE jumping is much more interesting than ordinary skydiving, for us, because it involves architecture. Here are some videos of people jumping off notable structures, such as Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Nervi's influential Pirelli tower in Milan and the enormous Burg Dubai. We have also included a jump off the end of a blade on a wind turbine (because they are beautiful structures) and an indoor jump inside a cathedral like, converted airship hangar. The Macau tower bungee jump is notable because its a similar height to the Eiffel tower and is a legal amusement ride that anyone can pay for. Our favorite, however, is the jump off Calatrava's Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden. Although Calatrava can sometimes appear willful in his focus on structure rather than space, revealing himself to be more of a creative engineer than an architect, the Turning Torso is his best work to date. Similarly the jump itself is spectacular, involving two parts: jumping from a plane onto its roof and then from the roof to the ground. In the rather obscure and narrow overlap between extreme sports and architecture this is a definitive piece.

jumping off notable architecture (and surviving) videos

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 design of ski jumps is interesting because it is the most extreme form of a playground slide. It has recently produced excellent pieces of modern architecture from Zaha Hadid and MR2 but equally impressive are the bizarre temporary ski jumps at baseball grounds and football stadia.

10 ski jumps

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

Before rendering, 3d computer models are displayed as wireframes, which have a particular aesthetic. Several artists have tried to capture this in real life, with surreal models of things that aren't really there. I also threw in Gaudi's classic upside down catenary arch model of Sagrada Familia, for its sheer prowess.

9 real wireframe models

Giant centrifuges are used to test whether fighter pilots or astronauts can deal with extreme G forces, pilots having 3 chances to survive a 15 second 6G test to be able to qualify. Here are some videos of the results of the effects of these tests up to 10G and on a range of suspects from pilots to Iron Maiden's lead singer.

12 centrifuge gforce test videos

Here are some examples of things we put in space that came back down. They went up shiny and futuristic and what came back looks like medieval remains.

space junk

A tank has an iconic shape and when it deviates from that it looks strange, despite the fact that many of these alternative forms are equally viable. They include designs that are based on steam tractors, tricycles and cannon and ones where ordinary tanks are adapted for different tasks such as mine clearing. In the latter case, the Progvev T is particularly weird, where the gun has been replaced by a reverse mounted Mig fighter jet engine, in order to clear mines by blasting them with an afterburn.

12 strange tanks and armored vehicles

Scoping this list was more difficult than finding the items - I've tried to keep to electronic devices, the first transistor radio rather than the First radio, and products that were actually sold such as the Dycam Model 1 digital camera rather than the Fuji DS-1P.My favorite here is the first web server, it was one of 2 NeXT machines bought for Tim Berners Lee and nobody knows which one (they both survive) was the first to serve a web page. The NeXT was a beautifully designed machine that Steve Jobs built to show what a personal computer should be, after being ousted from Apple. Berners Lee specifically needed a NeXT to be able to build the web and had difficulty getting approval.You could argue the first web server is merely the machine that happened to perform a first role, rather than a device designed for a purpose, but the fact that Berners Lee needed the NeXT to be able to develop the web quickly and elegantly, shows that sometimes the development of the first example of something predates it actually being used for the pioneering purpose for which it is suited.

12 earliest models of gadgets

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.

12 bizarre pedal powered things

Up to the 19th Century mentally ill people were sometimes chained naked in squalid conditions in places like London’s Bethlehem hospital which became synonymous with chaos (its name being contracted to bedlam) and where tourists would pay to see the freak show. Then came the extreme rationalism of the Kirkbride plan which created a very unusual form of architecture for asylums throughout the Anglosphere that was used until the 20th Century. As a result of their demise, most are abandoned ruins today, giant, rotting testimonies to a bygone era of clinical Victorian discipline combined with neo-Gothic extravagance.The Kirkbride plan consists of an enormous a symmetrical staggered wing, like a bird made out of lego. Men are on the left and women on the right in wings that radiate from the main entrance for increasingly violent or incurable patients. Early mental institutions where patients had to pay for their own incarceration would also vary in class (rich to poor) on the y axis. The staggering of the wings ensured the flow of air through each, purging them of diseased vapors perhaps, such was the Victorian obsession with fresh air, from outdoor Tuberculosis wards to seaside promenades and piers.

insane asylum plans

Whenever you see a picture of the ancient pyramids of Giza the view behind is of endless sweeping sands rather than the smog heavy skyline of downtown Cairo. Here we’ve collected some of the least flattering and depressing views of famous monuments or places, from the Stonhenge car park to the Starbucks in the Louvre. There are a couple of unlikely ones such as the Acropolis which in some ways is depressing from every angle, having been destroyed while used as a munitions dump, or the more preserved version of Trajan’s column which is hidden away in a London museum, with a janitor’s closet in its base. Vote for the worst.

9 depressing views of famous monuments

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

From Tampa to Dublin to Alicante and Dubai empty condos and villas that were never home to anyone, litter the landscape as a sterile reminder of a party that never was. But perhaps the biggest housing bubble of them all has just been popped – deliberately by the Chinese government who saw that Shanghai and Beijing real estate increases were unsustainable. Over the last month, Beijing housing prices have fallen at a unbelievable 377% annualized rate, possibly heralding part III of the Great recession following the US banking collapse and European sovereign debt crisis.The most dramatic pictures in this collection are of the empty Chinese city of Ordos, which is a piece of government led, speculative development on a scale unimaginable elsewhere. An entire city waiting to be occupied. Ordos is not a failure yet, but if it is, it will be emblematic.

9 ghost towns of the recession

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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.

Some people take paintball very seriously, and the boundary between harmless fun, unintentional irony and plain creepy is blurred. Here are paintball teams that look like outright militia, and some are. They include a church team in full combat gear a German group that re-enacts LAPD swat team offensives, and three very disturbing teams: a Japanese paintball re-enactment of the Yugoslav civil war complete with Serbian militia uniforms; an US vs Iraq shoot em up in Jordan and a sinister third Reich Team with Eagle T-shirts. Vote them down.

The Saturn V rocket was something the size of a skyscraper could survive being thrown into orbit, undamaged. 40 years after the Saturn V powered trip to the moon, nothing as powerful exists today.Years ago Airfix made a model of a Saturn V which I lusted after as a kid and Revell have now re-released their original 1:96 version and a 1:144 one which is the same size as the old Airfix. We tracked down the best Saturn V models that you can buy or have been built, culminating in auto repair man, Steve Eves' completely insane home built 40 foot high, 1600 pound monster which he actually launched, in April.

Being tall and thin means that one of the common but nevertheless unusual uses of old silos is to house climbing walls. Old silo structures, from underground missile silos to towering grain stores are often interesting pieces of industrial archaeology and make unconventional architectural conversions.

The interior design of Sweden's giant nuclear bunker.In the mid seventies, when ABBA topped the music charts, Sweden was just putting the finishing touches on its giant civil defense nuclear bunker outside Stockholm, called the Elephant.Traditionally neutral Sweden made this a priority due to its close proximity with Russia, but the Elephant is unlike any other cold war bunker - because it looks rather like an underground IKEA.In order to prevent claustrophobia, fake horizons were painted on the walls of recreation areas, with green below and blue above, representing sky and grass. Even lamps were painted yellow to represent the sun. In the business parts of the bunker, such as briefing rooms and control rooms, shades of gray relieved by red were used.Unlike other bunkers which used the same tactics, with murals of mountain or countryside scenes the obsessive schematic nature of the Swedish bunker is like a children's bedroom in hell.Urban explorers have visited and documented the Elephant bunker. Here are our picks from a wonderful set by Bill_R on Flickr. Click through any of the pictures for more.

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.

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