From crowbar to glowbar

Glowing crowbar

A reader alerted me to this video (which has embedding turned off - click through to YouTube to watch it). His subject line was "Progress in the field of vaporizing crowbars".

(He found it via Hack A Day, where I would eventually have seen it myself, but I've got 234 unread articles in the Hack A Day feed, so it could be a while before I get to it.)

In this video, there is a man.

The man has made a transformer.

Monstrous transformer winding

The transformer's secondary winding looks like a suspension component from a large four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Light-duty hookup wire

You could moor a ship with this stuff.

There is, I must warn you, a certain amount of profanity in the video.

Crowbar sparks

I think it is entirely justified, given that in this gentleman's estimation thirty thousand amps does not qualify as "serious amps".

Screwdriver abuse

Bendy hot screwdriver

"I've got a screwdriver what goes round corners, now!"

Giant variac

I note that the transformer also seems to be running from a variac that makes my 500VA one look very, very inadequate.


The immense current capacity of the transformer causes anything shorting the outputs via small contact points to instantly lose those contact points in a most impressive explosion of sparks. But since the transformer in its present configuration tops out at only about four volts open-circuit, the hazard it (as opposed to its mains-voltage power supply) poses to its operator is only one of burning yourself on hot conductive objects, not electrocution.

"Don't touch anything electrified" is one of those general rules of thumb like "don't put metal in a microwave oven" that are easy to explain to people, but which do not actually apply in every situation.

I still wouldn't want to walk around this guy's house blindfolded, though.

It might cause some damage to the pinsetter

Modern industrial society has provided us with numerous nicely standardised massive objects. Batteries. Golf balls. Beer cans (consume beverage, re-fill with concrete).

And bowling balls.

They're really just asking for it, aren't they?

These bowling-ball and beer-can mortars are being demonstrated during either a very determined celebration of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, or the Battle of Stalingrad.

I find it hard to believe that the person who designed this one's ignition system was sober at the time. (Questions may also be asked about anybody who stands calmly in front of the muzzle.)

At lest they didn't shoot it straight up, though.

(I suppose if that's good enough for the anvil shooters...)

The alarming noises at 1:35 of this video may just be the bowling ball's finger-holes whistling as it spins. Or perhaps the whole thing shattered into a shrieking cloud of polyester shrapnel.

A bit long-winded, but some physics calculations at the end.

The 2011 MythBusters bowling-ball cannon would probably have had similar explanations...

...had this not happened.

Fellow Discovery Channel program American Guns did it in a somewhat less highbrow manner.

And now for something almost completely different:

Bianca Lamb And Her Unstoppable Pastel Death Machine

I've been not writing blog posts while worrying about finishing my next Atomic columns, and not writing my next Atomic columns while worrying about finishing blog posts.

So here are some Fabuland mecha.

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user lego_nabii)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user Uspez Morbo)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user Chiefrocker9000)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user lego_nabii)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user Sir Nadroj)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user sirxela)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user mahjqa)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user ToT-LUG)

Lego engineering miracle du jour


...the Lego Basket Shooter module, from general-purpose Lego-Technic demigod "Akiyuky", whose Japanese blog is here.

Each of the three shooters has individually controllable aim and power, which is what makes the machine's nigh-miraculous accuracy possible.

Via TechnicBricks, here's how it works.

The shooter is meant to work as a Great Ball Contraption module (previously), accepting balls from an input, doing its thing with them, and then delivering them to an output. Only the (surprisingly large percentage of) balls that go through the basket go to the output.

Here's a Contraption composed of 17 of Akiyuky's modules.

8-bit CPU made of Lincoln Logs still pending

It's always Lego, Lego, Lego around here. Lego this, Lego that, Lego movie projector, Lego-ish Daleks. Other construction toys barely rate a mention.

Even the stuff that looks like Meccano sometimes turns out to be Lego.

So here's an operational skeeball machine made entirely out of K'Nex (if you don't count some paper and rubber bands).


If Erno Rubik built a clock

The Time Twister, to the best of my knowledge unrelated to a certain drinking establishment promoted by Cheech Marin, is a digital clock made out of Lego.

That is all.

Posted in Hacks, Toys. 4 Comments »

All important physical principles lead to flame-throwers

The inimitable Matthias Wandel, having fun with the Venturi effect.

On the Gratuitous Creation of Anachronistic Timekeeping Devices

Behold, Marshall Damerell's water clock!

Or, if you'd prefer something a little more shed-ish... are a couple of Tim Hunkin's shots at the idea.

(Tim's a little over-broad in the above video when he says that accurate timekeeping has only really been important since the advent of the railways. Accurate timekeeping for the great majority of people was, indeed, not terribly important until a surprisingly long time after the Industrial Revolution. But accurate timekeeping for ships has been important ever since humans first managed to make boats physically able to sail far from shore. You can tell what your latitude is without knowing the time, but without an accurate clock you can't estimate your longitude, unless there's a known island or coastline in sight.)

As regular readers know, Tim Hunkin was responsible for The Secret Life Of Machines, which you can, and should, legally download for free.