John Lennon's alien ice cube

On the subject of objects that look like alien technology, I've got a Piet Hein "Super Egg" drink cooler, too.

Piet Hein drink cooler

I got it at a decent discount when ThinkGeek were clearing their stock; they don't have them any more, but the cooler and umpteen other "superellipse"-shaped products have been on sale from various overpriced homewares places for decades.

The superellipse is like a hybrid between synthetic-rectangular and natural-circular, as explained in this Scientific American article, which was written by the inimitable Martin Gardner more than forty years ago (I just re-read Fads and Fallacies the other day).

And Mr Hein had a real bee in his bonnet about superellipses. He designed superellipse-shaped salt-shakers, bowl sets, candlesticks, plates... you name it.

(Sorry about the stupid window-within-a-window thing in the links, by the way; that's just the way that site works.)

Piet Hein drink cooler

Despite all the folderol in the Super Egg drink cooler's rather tongue-in-cheek instruction sheet, as far as I can see it does not actually seem to be very good at cooling drinks. The enthalpy of fusion of water ice is hard to beat; a little stainless-steel egg with a mysterious liquid inside just can't achieve much, unless you chill it so far that it'll crust itself up with ice after you put it in your glass.

But it's nonetheless a neat little object, being both geometrically interesting and mysterious-sounding, on account of the liquid that sloshes around inside when you shake it. And it does indeed neither dilute your drink, nor change its flavour in any other way.

(Many sites say the liquid inside the cooler is meant to freeze, but I don't think that's likely to happen at home-freezer temperatures. Perhaps that's what you have to do to get the cooler to work properly.)

Uri Geller was, apparently, given a gold Piet Hein cooler by John Lennon, who (Uri says) spun a brilliant tale about how the object was given to him by bug-faced aliens.

I suppose it's possible that Lennon had a weird hallucination (in this case, possibly even without chemical assistance...), then found the drink cooler lying around.

I prefer, however, to think that Lennon knew exactly what the mysterious object was, and was just taking the piss out of Uri.

9 Responses to “John Lennon's alien ice cube”

  1. Red October Says:

    That looks awesome. Shame it doesn't work well. Is there no cure for ice melting in ones drink? Those horrendously tacky mugs with the frozen stuff in the walls are, well, tacky, and they break, and they take up gobs of freezer room, and so on and so forth.

  2. Stuart Says:

    The only greater mystery than why designers keep making pretty-yet-inferior objects is why people keep indulging them in that pursuit.

  3. AussieDan Says:

    Stuart: I think you'll find that your second mystery is the solution to the first!

  4. FuzzyPlushroom Says:

    I dare say that these are rather cute. They may not cool all that well, but they're a billion times as durable as an olive, which has to count for something.

  5. Erik T Says:

    #1, the ghettofabulous solution would be to put ice cubes in plastic baggies, and put those in your drink.

  6. Daniel Rutter Says:

    You could use a piece of stainless tubing, closed at one end. Fill with water (or salt water, even), freeze, then use as swizzle-stick. You could even curl it around like an electric stove element so you could get plenty of surface area below the level of even a small drink in a wide glass, like the whisky in the above picture.

    (If you started making complicated shapes, you would of course have to take more care to make sure the expansion of the water on freezing didn't damage the tube.)

    Actually, if you only want to cool something like a single or double Scotch, the Piet Hein cooler will probably do a decent job, because there's not much volume of liquid, and you probably don't want it cooled almost to freezing point anyway. I still don't think it'll achieve much that just putting the glass in the freezer wouldn't, though.

  7. kamikrae-z Says:

    @#5 I like it, but what if the bag was shaped like a tea bag!
    Of course, material choice would play an important factor, but I think it could be a winning idea...

  8. Jaymis Says:

    Love the top "holding the reflector" shot.

    [Note the press-handout pic below that, though - it looks as if whoever the Hein people got to take pictures of their products couldn't be bothered putting shiny things in a little tent, either :-). -Dan]

  9. Darien Says:

    Glad you mentioned the Uri Geller story; James Randi's old post on the subject was actually the first time I ever heard of the Piet Hein superellipses, and so every time I see one I immediately think "hey, it's an alien artifact!"

Leave a Reply