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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

Escape pods are a ubiquitous element of science fiction but surprisingly rare in real life. The ones I found are largely for high speed jet fighters or ships, submarines and oil platforms, but my absolute favorite is the patent drawing for a gigantic detachable commercial pod in a regular commercial airliner which floats passengers gently to the ground via an array of parachutes. In the massively unlikely event that this ever is realized, I will fly forever with any airline that adopts it.

12 real escape pods

Something went very wrong in the 18th century. A 100 year long attempt to wear the most ridiculous artificial hair involved dandies sporting macaroni and culminated in Marie Antoinette’s utterly mad ship wig. The last vestige of this is the bizarre tradition of British and colonial judges who continue to don 300 year old clothing in a profession which is supposed to be rational.

preposterous 18th century wigs

Here is a collection of lamps, lights and chandeliers made from everything from car parts, umbrellas, bicycles, tableware, old globes, tape measures and speaker parts.Hopefully this will whet your creative appetite.

19 great diy lighting ideas

These are possibly the most impressive gadgets on earth, beautifully complicated, polished stainless steel instruments that employ electron, x-ray, and ion probes, often in combination with depth profiling techniques, for surface analysis. They are the instruments featured on the covers of science lab and university brochures and are exactly what I want for my birthday. Vote for your faves.

12 ultra complex surface analysis systems

If you want to build a Steampunk – Victorian – Dr. Frankenstein lab in your garage this weekend, here are some suggestions of where to ‘get that look’. Suggestions always welcome.

12 diy frankenstein lab items

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WTF is that? #18

March 1st, 2010 #link


This object has some relevance, considering recent news. What is it?

5 Responses to “WTF is that? #18”

  1. nathan Says:

    its the internal dampener in the taipei 101
    ~ i recognised this too fast

  2. Bryan Says:

    Guessing seismometer

  3. Mark Says:

    It’s a seismic dampening weight for a high-rise building.

  4. George Says:

    It is a seismograph.

  5. Gaijiniji Says:

    I believe this is a pendulum used in the top of a skyscraper to counteract the buildings sway from high winds and earthquakes. Im guessing the building is Taipei 101?

  6. admin Says:

    @mark @gaijiniji yes indeed its the massive earthquake damper in the Taipei 101, which weighs more than 700 tons.