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oobject: 'daily user-ranked gadget lists'
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

Alain Robert, known as Spiderman, climbs the tallest buildings in the world, without ropes. Last summer he famously scaled Frank Genry's new tower for the New York Times, in Midtown Manhattan. Here is a list of video footage of him climbing a dozen different structures.

12 videos of spiderman climbing real skyscrapers

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

Here is a roundup of collectible boomboxes, currently being auctioned on ebay. The mannerist nature of 80s ghetto blasters could not be more different from today's minimalist trends in consumer audio gear, lead by Sony and Apple. Because of this, these devices now look obviously obsolete and different and are starting to become collectors items. Ugly, but interesting, and representative of their time, some are perfect examples of pointless feature driven design, something which still plagues software.

12 monster 80s boomboxes

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

Some of these are very high end audiophile speakers and others are those that we think are well designed from a product point of view. Extremely well designed or extremely well engineered.The Kef Muon's are an unbelievable $140,000 while others are as low as $100. Our favorites are the 1960s Quad Electrostatics which are unlike anything ever made since and go nicely with a classic Quad 33 and 303 Pre and Power Amp.Its somewhat unfair to vote on something that is to be listened to and not looked at, so vote with your gut.

17 most extreme speakers

The ability to print incredibly complex custom objects on demand through the use of computer-aided rapid prototyping techniques will transform product design.Here are some of the most amazing current examples of digital fabrication through techniques such as stereolithography, selective laser sintering, 3D printing and fused deposition modeling. Vote for your favorite.

20 3d printed products

Electric tattoo machines are based on a modified version of an engraving device invented by Edison, which had a 2 coil vibrating mechanism similar to an old fashioned electric doorbell. Samuel O'Reilly added a needle and ink reservoir to this to create a dedicated tattoo device in the 1890s.The particularly fascinating thing about these items is how their design has evolved towards the Victorian retro technology aesthetic that has now become fashionable elsewhere, however the beautiful machines designed by designers like Bernhard outclass many of the products design labeled Steampunk.The Bernhard machines are so magnificent, they warrant a list all of their own.

tattoo machines

Lookout towers are often more dramatic pieces of architecture than tall buildings because they only have a single floor – the top one. This means that they can be very skeletal and the design is all about a dramatic staircase. Here are some of our favorite examples,accidental architectural gems, like mini Eiffel Towers used for watching everything from forest fires to smugglers.

lookout towers

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

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 idea of uniform is that you all look the same, yet there is an ornathological variety of ceremonial military parade outfits, with as many brightly colored feathers. The images chosen here range from the Italian Carabinieri who are allowed to wear aftershave and sport outfits designed by Valentino, the French Foreign Legion’s sappers who have to have long beards and wear leather aprons and carry axes, 7 Dwarves style, Iranian police who look like criminals, Russian women soldiers who wear mini skirts, now that Putin has reinstated the infamous May Day parades and Greek soldiers whose traditional unfrms are similarly feminine. We added the UK Queen’s husband at the trooping of the color. Wearing a 3 foot high bearskin hat may be a familiar image, but its’ no less weird.

12 bizarre military parade uniforms

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)

Unintentional comedy is one of the consequences of Moores Law (that computer power doubles every two years) and almost any claim made in a computer ad more than a decade old. Included here are claims that compared to the Macbook Air that I am writing this on, a computer with 2 million times less RAM will "satisfy your lust for power"; that a computer a thousand times slower will give you "answers fast" for demanding applications and that a computer with several thousand times the volume is "compact and mobile".

16 hilariously unimpressive computer ads

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

The first in a two part list. Here are a series of strange and unusual bus stops, including those with domestic or air conditioned interiors, odd structures and a variety of innovative integral advertising.

bus stops as art

The Wall of Death ride, where centrifugal (or counter-centripetal as physicists tell us we are supposed to say) force allows a motorbike rider to circle a vertical wall is an iconic daredevil attraction that has been preserved by a few dedicated enthusiasts. Traditionally a wooden cylinder provided the circuit for a classic Indian motorcycle, however vehicles such as cars and go carts have been used in tracks that are now often spherical cages.

daredevil walls of death

This is the real business end of $100 oil. An object that allowed Howard Hughes to become the richest man in the world by inheriting the patent. They are the world's most highly engineered pieces of metal. Steel, tungsten carbide or increasingly Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (PDC) toothed drill bits that, in their tri-cone, rotating head form, look like the monster spice eating Sandworms from Dune. Vote for your faves.

13 ferocious oil drill bits

Apple's refresh of the Macbook line this fall is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In terms of design they have continued the trend, which started with the iPhone (see the drilled headphone jack hole on the original model) towards machining directly from block metal. This has lead to the latest Macbooks as being described as having monocoque structures, something which may not strictly be false but which is meaningless in the context.A monocoque is a single piece shell structure, it is a nice sounding word and is often used in marketing literature because it sounds technical. Because of this, and because of the fact that things like commercial airliners are hybrids of frame and shell structures almost anything can be described as such. There is a perfect geodesic truss in the list below which is described as a monocoque shell structure (the opposite), while an ordinary soda can is a monocoque. The use of machining for Apple parts has more to do with tolerances and finish and almost nothing to do with structure, so the term is not relevant.Below we discuss the merits of things which are described as monocoque - but as for the Macbook, not really

Apple monocoque or not

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

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.

Top 10 Moon Rocket Models

The blackboard is a somewhat legacy item that has disappeared from classrooms and meeting rooms, to be replaced by screens and whiteboards, except that is for physicists and Hollywood movies. Walking around CERN and peeking into rooms many still have blackboards covered in equations.In celebration of the Higgs, here are 15 physicists in front of their blackboards. The apotheosis of ‘blackboard craft' is possibly John Wheeler who used to pre-prepare very elaborate boards filled with colored diagrams. In the list I've tried to pick those which have some relevance to the development of the standard model: Feynman; Gell-Mann; Glashow or the eventual discovery of the Higgs, such as Higgs himself or important CERN luminaries such as my personal hero, John Bell, author of what has been called the most profound theory in physics: that if quantum theory is correct, then either things communicate instantly at a distance, or they don't exist when they aren't being looked at or both. Brownie points if you can say what the equations on the blackboards are, in the comments

15 physicists in front of their blackboards

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From legendary conceptual architects Haus Rucker, who created mind expanding fly head like human cocoons and inflatables, in the 60s, to Lawrence Malstaff who does brilliant installations today, including a real typhoon in a cylindrical pod to humans shrink wrapped between to pieces of plastic, with a breathing tube. Here are a range of beautiful, filament like, cocoon structures produced by artists and architects.

Giant projected images on buildings have been iconic examples of futurism since the movie Blade Runner. More recently they have become a lot more sophisticated via projection of animated 3d computer models onto quasi 2 dimensional surfaces such as building facades. Examples here range from the skyscraper projections for Nokia in London, to guerrilla activist projections of Al Weiwei on a Chinese Embassy and the Occupy Wall street ‘bat signal' on the Verizon tower in Manhattan.

Nothing makes architecture quite as gadget like as if it folds up into a kit or a box. Here are 12 examples of rooms in a box by various designers. Many of these are actually purchasable, which is sometimes rare for conceptual architecture. Click through the links for their sources.

For the last decade, Apple have absolutely dominated gadget design, bringing modernism to the masses in a way that architects never did. Yves Behar, the Swiss born (but not Swiss) designer is the first person to really challenge Apple's hegemony, he designed the original Slingbox and Paypal's recent attempt to compete with Square, but is becoming well known because of the superior design of the Jawbone headset and Jambox wireless speaker. Here are our favorite Behar designs.

Flight simulation is quintessentially high tech, the inspiration for Virtual Reality, so I went looking for early examples and found some delightfully quixotic alternatives to modern day immersive environments. These include the wooden mockups of the Apollo capsules, the stunted Link simulator, used during WWII, which looks like a kids ride outside a supermarket and the very early pre-WWI training rig for the Antoinette aircraft, which principally consists of two half barrels on top of each other. But the best of all are the incredible Convair trainer which has an extra cockpit attached to its front and the celestial navigation trainers which are masterpieces of pre-electronic navigational complexity.

Aside from the POV Parkour here, non of these videos involve super human skills, Spidey Senses or Red Bull addiction. I actually prefer the seemingly bland but interesting ones such as strapping a GoPro to a dog, hula hoop, time lapse of the view out of a commercial flight or RC car in Walmart to endless surfing 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.

Such was the propensity for the Soviets to put fighter jets on plinths dotted around the empire that they are sometimes referred to as Migs on sticks. Other people did this, of course. In the US, Phantom jets were a favorite and some of these Migs are in places outside the Soviet Union, like Somalia, where Russian jets were bought. The trend also intended to a variety of other planes such as the particularly ungainly looking Tupelov monument, in this list. But there is something about a Mig on an angled concrete base that is reminiscent of Soviet graphic design, crass and muscular with people leaning forward in earnest. Comic like, but deadly serious.

The telescopes chosen for this list are largely based on how they look, from a design perspective, rather than their scientific importance. Their unusual requirements create interesting structural engineering approaches. However, the Holmdel Horn Antenna is possibly the most interesting from both points of view, its highly unusual shape is like a gigantic ear trumpet sticking out of a garden shed, but it also happens to be the device which discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation - the echo of the big bang. I've included a view beneath the mesh of the gigantic Arecibo dish, just because I always wondered what that space was like. For the rest I've chosen ones which best display the spiky, high tech look of giant scaffolds and space frames or which are attached in impossibly top heavy ways ancillary buildings, like the giant upturned umbrella of the Parkes telescope.

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.

New York's retro futurism is particularly interesting becuase the city itself is an anachronistic view of modernism - an antique skyscraper city. Each one of these proposals is not just a past vision of the future, but a past vision of the future which is now in the past itself.The 15 items here, range from the purely conceptual work of Italian 60s architects, Superstudio, who designed a continuous monument around the earth, crashing through lower Manhattan to Lindenthal's serious proposal for an absolutely gargantuan bridge across the Hudson, with towers bigger than some of the tallest skyscrapers and where the keystone, still exists today.Along with Buckminster Fuller's well known idea for a geodesic dome over mid-town Manhattan, is his lesser known one for an array of huge, cooling tower like housing projects in Harlem, each holding 40,000 people. There are a couple of representative engineering projects showing plans to dam the Hudson or drain the East River and an array of transportation concepts, including Raymond Loewy's idea for a helicopter pad covering Bryant park, 10 storys above ground.Weirdest of all is the proposal for a spherical nuke proof 2nd city, below ground.

Attempts by architects to create utopian communities usually have one distinguishing feature - they are not utopian and they fail. As such, they make great settings for dystopic fiction, such as the slightly kitsch and creepy Portmeirion in the Kafkaesque Prisoner TV series or Seaside, Florida in the Truman show.Some uptopias have been built and failed, such as Soleri's semi-inhabited Arcosanti and some were only half realized, such as Disney's Progress City, which ended up being watered down as Epcot. But possibly the most insane of all is Le Corbusier's utopian vision for Paris which consisted of bulldozing the city of lights and replacing it with what resembles the worst projects in the South Bronx. It says a lot for the profession that the vision of arguably the world's most famous architect was to destroy what is arguably the world's most beautiful architecture.

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.

Bel Geddes is the industrial designer most associated with the streamline style, an aerodynamic form than was as much about aesthetics as wind resistance. These designs actually look better than more aerodynamic forms and as such were used by Geddes for things that didn't have to move at all, such as his streamlined school desk. Geddes started out as a theatrical designer then made a series of model cars and prototypes for trains and planes, including the incredible airliner number 4 - a 1929 proposal for a transatlantic boat plane carrying 450 passengers and an army of staff including a musicians and entertainers. But the other thing that Geddes created was his daughter, who was Miss Ellie in the TV series, Dallas.

I combined two types of concept plan in this list that are very different but share the fact that they show an alternate universe where airports weren't giant fields on the edge of cities.On the one had there are the airports that literally float on water, and although these have become a reality with projects such as Kansai or military aircraft carriers, some of the original designs are for runways floating on rivers right in the middle of cities. Here the concept overlaps with the other type of floating airports: those that metaphorically float above the city on stilts - or over rather than on a river, via a structure like an overhead railroad.These concepts are not as unpractical as they appear, by using short-takeoff, quiet planes, London city airport is very close to the financial center of London and its a shame that aircraft haven't been developed to allow some of these magnificent, early ambitions to have become a reality.

Diving bells were originally just that - an upturned church bell with enough trapped air to stand in while reclaiming things from shipwrecks in relatively shallow water. As such the engraving of Edmund Halley's 18th century diving bell is one of my favorite images on oobject, because it shows gadgetry from an age prior to machines. There's a guy walking around the sea floor in what looks more like a velvet courtier's outfit that a divers suit. This list is a collection of images of diving bells that evoke that same sort of weirdness, as best I could find

Although we previously did a list on diving helmets, the variety of strange diving outfits warranted another list. Having spent hours pouring through these to pick my favorites, it occurred to me that the inspiration for early science fiction robots and space suits, before the age of actual space travel, clearly comes from this pre-space age technology.Deep sea diving equipment needs to be solid and heavy it has a very different aesthetic from aviation and space equipment which needs to be light, so there is a market difference between the look of space things in science fiction, between the 50s and 60s.

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:

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.

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.

Long before periscopes became uniquely associated with submarines, they were widely used to peer over the trenches in WW1. Here are other uses from on board jet aircraft to golf courses, bank vaults and even to look underwater from dry land - the inverse of what we associate periscopes with.

At first glance this lesser known part of the telephone inventor's life seems crazy. Bell became obsessed with pyramids, building towers, buildings, boats, kites and eventually planes made entirely out of little tetrahedrons (triangular pyramids). Eventually setting up the Aerial Experiment Association, he built 3 tetrahedral kite planes where each pyramid frame component had 2 of its 4 sides covered in fabric.His obsession, however, was ingenious and is possibly feasible - that if you could fly a pyramid frame structure then by combining lots of them together you would be adding no more weight per unit of lift, so you could fly a structure of any size.Although only one of Bell's planes managed to fly under its own power, the tetrahedral frame structure was to become a much used component of high tech architecture more than half a century later, giving these images of the Victorian inventors a bizarre science fiction feel.

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