“In 1911, the Dadaist painter Duchamp and the sculptor Brancusi toured the Paris Aeronautical Exhibition. Duchamp was highly excited by all the new forms on display, the engines, wings and other paraphernalia of flight. The two artists stopped to consider a propeller, with its subtly backswept airfoil blades carved in blonde laminated wood, varnished to a high gloss. ‘Painting is finished,’ Duchamp at length announced to Brancusi. ‘I can do nothing as good as this propeller, can you?'”
(quote from Kevin Cameron in “Cycle World”)
Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No 2
Inspired by beauty around us, we design. This is innate, rewarding and a high calling.
The wheel’s origin and development is a fascinating story told by an easy-to-like former professor of biology at Duke University, Steven Vogel. His just-published book, “Why the Wheel is Round”, unfortunately, is a posthumous achievement. Steve died in 2015.
The wheel is alien to nature. No living thing we can see without a microscope has an appendage that makes a complete 360 degree rotation. Instead, the muscles of virtually all living things, attached to rigid exo- or endoskeletons, create movement by pulling on cleverly hinged mechanisms in relatively short-stroke contractions.
Ironically, human technologies have taken the alien path, employing chiefly rotary motion to grind, spin, lift, drill, turn, create tools, generate power and go places.
“Why the Wheel is Round” tells how this came about.
A Perfect Circle: Linear to Rotary to Linear Motion
The Golden Age of the Wheel For the last 300 years hydrocarbon engines have flourished. They’ve proliferated as linear-to-rotary motion conversion machines, with a piston and crankshaft emulating (in reverse) a muscle and crank handle. A fabulous, relatively recent machine, the motorcycle, converts linear motion to rotary motion…and ultimately, wonderfully, back to linear!
The Orbital ATK team put up their Christmas lights earlier this month. (more…)
On this morning’s ride around Prescott, I reflected, as I often do, on a motorcycle’s strangely powerful allure. My K1300S is more beautiful, more engaging and far better performing than virtually anything with four wheels.
Then I saw this ’59 Stingray Racer concept car on the Velocity channel. Now I want to find a body kit to drop onto my underused ’92 Corvette.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak just wanted to make cool computers for themselves. Then their friends wanted them. The two young Steves built naked circuit boards in Jobs’ garage that cost $20 and sold for $40. Things scaled nicely from there.
In 1903, Bill Harley and the Davidson boys were just young guys that wanted to make their own motorcycles. I’m typing this on an Apple MacBook a few blocks from the Harley Davidson Museum where the iconic brand’s huge 110th anniversary party is just reving up. Success happens.