Monday November 28 2016 / Science & Technology - Art & Design - Horology

While not all cities are strongly associated with iconic art or architecture, those that are have powerful bonds: New York City and the Statue of Liberty; Paris and the Eiffel Tower, Rome and the Colosseum, Sydney and the Opera House . . .  and Geneva and its Jet d'Eau (water jet).

Geneva wraps around the south side of Lake Geneva (aka Lac Léman), where the lake narrows as it funnels into the Rhône, one of Europe's major rivers.

Shooting up to 140 metres (460 feet), the Jet d'Eau is one of the world's highest water jets. Over 500 litres per second (130 gallons) shoot through a 10-centimetre (4-inch) nozzle at 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph). At any given moment, 7,000 litres of water rush through the air.

In 2016, the Jet d'Eau celebrates 125 years in its present location, but its inspiration is five years older: Geneva's first Jet d'Eau was installed in the Rhône river rather than the lake, at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices de la Coulouvrenière, now known simply as the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices or BFM.

The Bâtiment des Forces Motrices was designed and constructed to harness the flow of the Rhône to provide water pressure for Geneva's water supply and to power a pressurized hydraulic network primarily for small businesses, many of which were clock- and watchmakers.

The water flow spun turbines that pumped high-pressure water to factories up to ten kilometers away, with the energy powering lathes and machines during the day, many of them making components for Geneva's vibrant horological industry. But at the end of the day when the machines were switched off, the water pressure in the network spiked; so to avert damage, a valve was opened and excess water pressure was diverted into a jet that shot 30 metres into the air.

 While essentially just a safety device, this tall jet of water in the centre of Geneva quickly became a landmark, inspiring the purely symbolic Jet d'Eau that visitors to Geneva as so familiar with now.

But perhaps of more interest to watch aficionados is the fact that at its origin, the Jet d'Eau signalled the time that watchmakers stopped work.


Suggested by
Ian Skellern

Thursday October 6 2016 / Science & Technology - Art & Design - A Little Levity

 Robb Higgs is a British artist who believes that the more effort people put into relating to his interactive art, the more enjoyment his art provides.

The Corkscrew by Robb Higgs

If his premise is true then the taste of the wine poured by his integrated corkscrew/wine pourer contraption must be absolutely sensational because its operation demands considerable effort.

Monday September 5 2016 / Science & Technology

In the past, understanding the world used to be so much easier: mail went by post not by wire; a drone was somebody who bored you, not somebody who bombed you; and robots were big, made of metal, and rusted in water – not small, soft and swimming.

Today email has largely replaced mail, and drones hunt targets from the sky. Luckily, we still know where are with robots, don't we?

Sorry, but no. Robocop has now been superseded by Octobot.

Monday August 1 2016 / Science & Technology

''The Six Million Dollar Man" is an American TV series that ran from 1974 to 1978. Steve Austin, the fictional hero of the series, became the world's first bionic man after having an eye, arm and both legs replaced by bionics offering more power and functionality than his lost flesh and blood limbs and organs.

But while computing power, sensors and technology have all evolved in leaps and bounds over the decades since the series aired, prosthetics − though they have certainly advanced − haven’t appeared to keep pace.

We have self-driving cars, but most robot arms still cannot hold a glass of water . . . or couldn't until the Luke.

Monday June 6 2016 / Art & Design

Nick Brandt has been photographing African wildlife since 2001 and during that time has observed that the animals' natural habitat was being destroyed at an ever-alarming rate.

To highlight this plight, Brandt conceived of a series of huge photographs called Inherit the Earth. To create them he erected larger-than-life-sized portraits of Africa's four-legged inhabitants in landscapes where they once may have roamed but no longer. Rubbish dumps, quarries and warehouses have replaced the wild plains.

Monday May 2 2016 / Science & Technology - A Little Levity

We've all been here, haven't we? Well, hopefully a few of you at least will have shared the following scenario with me in childhood: you have folded the perfect paper plane, which in your imagination soars effortlessly across the room to gasps of admiration (and a tinge of jealousy) from the rest of the room. But, in reality, when you release your plane (with just a little too much force) it flies straight down to the floor with a paper- and soul-crushing thwack, followed by a quickly rising volume of laughter and sniggers.

If only there was a better way.

Monday March 28 2016 / Science & Technology

Think about how we move in rough terrain for a movement: whether walking uphill, downhill, or across hills, we always try and stay vertical because that's how our bodies balance best.

However, we do tend to learn over when going around corners quickly because that keeps apparent forces vertical to our bodies. French company Swincar has now developed an off road buggy that operates in the same way on rough terrain and at speed as our bodies do.

Friday January 1 2016 / Art & Design

When the Eiffel Tower was erected for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, many outraged people averted their eyes from what they viewed as a hideous iron beast. But the construction that once turned away so many is now among the most recognisable monuments in the world.

In Seville, Spain, the challenge of convincing the public was no different but the materials and engineering were: try building the largest wooden structure on earth atop ancient ruins while creating an inviting space for everyone to enjoy . . . in addition to rehabilitating a dilapidated part of town. This was the Metropol Parasol project.

Monday November 2 2015 / Science & Technology

For its era, it was a racing machine of a different ilk, even its name – The Beast of Turin – evokes images of a forceful, grumbling animal terrorising the streets. But just as soon as the rocket-shaped Fiat racer won the 1911 world speed record, it disappeared. And then wasn't seen or heard again from for another 100 years.

That is until it fell into the hands of Duncan Pittaway.

Tuesday September 1 2015 / Art & Design

As summer ends and leaves slowly turn from green to varying hues of yellow, orange and red, we celebrate the warm and earthy colours of fall with photos of some of the most stunningly pigmented places on earth.

Here are ten of the best places on earth to view nature in all of her seasonal glory.

Wednesday July 29 2015 / Science & Technology - Art & Design

A robot that moves, swims, pushes and carries objects might not sound like something so novel. For many, that's what robots should do.

But take that robot and trim it down to the size of a thumbnail, that's something.

And not having to make the robot, but have it fold itself into its miniature robotic form would be even better.

And just for good measure, how about if after completing its mission that the robot dissolved and disappeared?  

Presenting the latest invention from MIT: the origami robot.

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