Vegas's Vdara focuses sunshine into a hair-singeing "death ray"


46 Responses to “Vegas's Vdara focuses sunshine into a hair-singeing "death ray"”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a lawyer trying to make a quick buck.

  2. RigelK says:

    Mythbusters. Archimedes Death Ray. Booyah.

  3. narddogz says:

    I’ve been studying the Google Maps satellite photo of this complex. There are several concave / parabolic shaped structures in the area. I would love to see an overlay with their calculated focal points and see if one of them hits the pool area. Also, it would seem that they would have neat acoustical properties as well, similar to the acoustic radar that was experimented with during WWII:

    • crnk says:

      Narddogz,The pool deck is convex, and does not risk having that issue. The NW (Harmon) entrance side was not of concern either: it generally faces more North, and I’d place a guess that any probable hotspot is going to end up somewhere on the big ramping road feature. From my knowledge, there were 2 points of concern. One required a thorough study to check out, and I think that the other only required a brief calculation to determine it had little concern to them.

  4. Michael Smith says:

    Sounds like the perfect place for a soccer match.

  5. crnk says:

    I worked on another building in this project and we ended up producing a series of reflection studies to show how this same effect would impact our building. In the end, there were some very minor changes to ensure this would not be an issue.

  6. shadowfirebird says:

    Dear architects,

    For gods’ sake, learn some physics.

    Thank you.

  7. caipirina says:

    Just came across that very laughable illustration for some local newspaper …

    whoever ‘shopped that one has no idea about reflection angles or WHY it is special that the building shape is concav

  8. monstrinho_do_biscoito says:

    Archimedies death ray!

    i learnt my anchient history from mythbusters

  9. Anna says:

    The Vdara Hotel is not the only building to have issues with reflective glazing cause heat problems for neighboring people and buildings – there were also problems at Disney Hall in LA, and even residential windows can melt nearby vinyl siding. More here:

  10. carljohnson says:

    There’s certainly no other explanation for why things would get hot in the desert.

  11. Halloween Jack says:

    Cast-iron skillet. Eggs. Butter. Cheese.

    When life gives you solar death-rays, make omelettes.

  12. muteboy says:

    There was another case like this where a curved building had a lawn in front, and there was a curved scorch mark across the lawn where the sun fell.

  13. Matthew Miller says:

    I like this part:

    Pintas’ theory is that Vdara’s curved southern wall acts as a parabola to collect and intensify the afternoon rays, which it then reflects.

    Yes, collect and intensify, and *then* reflect.

  14. Chris S says:

    Before anyone fixes it – can they figure out how to use it to reach really distant WiFi access points?

  15. Anonymous says:

    This story is from Las Vegas Review Journal. You’re going to get sued for copyright infringement by LVRJ/Stephens Media and their evil sidekick Righthaven LLC.

    • Dean W. Armstrong says:

      Seriously Cory Doctorow, you need to drop the link because of the Righthaven lawsuits–there is no good reason to encourage the LVRJ to sell their story copyrights to a law firm for the express purpose of suing for copyright violations only after the transgression has occurred.

  16. Stefan Jones says:

    The 600 building in Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores has an effect similar to this. If you stand in the right place in the parking lot you get a super-dose of sun-glare. No where near focussed enough to burn your or set your hair on fire, but still pretty dramatic.

  17. lifeofideas says:

    A little tweaking and they can heat the pool instead of the hotel guests.

  18. Rayonic says:

    Next week they’re going to have Tory Belleci lie in front of it for an hour, and see if he’d actually get “cooked” or merely covered with 3rd degree burns.

  19. CastanhasDoPara says:

    Wow, okay, never freakin’ mind.

    I am but an ant caught in the path of your highly focused death-ray wit, though at a larger scale ’tis but the bottom of a broken bottle, handled by the mischievous child, or in this example GOD.

  20. guernican says:

    “Mad dogs and Chicago legal professionals” doesn’t trip quite as neatly off the tongue, does it?

  21. GlenBlank says:

    This reminds me of the twin towers of Century City, high-rise towers of equilateral triangular cross-section, oriented with points facing each other.

    Apparently, no one ever explained the word ‘venturi’ to the architect.

    Who then also placed a fountain on the plaza between the two buildings, in a spot directly upwind on the frequent onshore-flow days.

    It was kinda like walking through the world’s largest carburetor.

    Basic physics, indeed.

  22. Tweeker says:

    Hes full of it, it was just a plain old everyday case of SHC.

  23. narddogz says:

    If the leaf skimmer is placed in the correct hole in the pool deck at just the right time of day…

  24. acmeaviator says:

    There is a mirrored sculpture here in Cinci on the riverfront that does the same thing. In fact the concentrated sunlight is so hot the city posted warning signs to prevent people from moving into the beam. Of course that just exponentially increased the number of kids who stick their hands into the beam or set fire to bits of grass in it.

  25. CastanhasDoPara says:

    “..acts as a parabola..”

    While we are being pedantic, I just want to say, it *IS* a parabola, you dolt. Perhaps lawyers should get a more rounded education as well as the architects.

    • Church says:

      “While we are being pedantic, I just want to say, it *IS* a parabola, you dolt.”

      I’m guessing that the individual windows are flat. It merely approximates a parabola.

      • CastanhasDoPara says:

        Go get your scanning electron microscope. Now find the “flatest” surface you can. Look at it closely and tell me what you see.

        I’ll wait..

        Oh, ah, a bunch of little balls all tightly packed together. Not very flat is it? No, it’s not. Not completely uniform either is it? And in reality neither are those windows. Nor even the most well engineered mirrors humans are able to make. The lesson here is that this is a matter of scale and perception. At a large enough (or small enough) scale the perception of flatness or uniformity tends not to be so important. Ergo, for all intents and purposes the object in question (as a whole) IS a parabola.

        • Church says:

          “Ergo, for all intents and purposes the object in question (as a whole) IS a parabola.”

          So what you’re saying is that it “acts as a parabola.”

          Hey, I wasn’t the one who wanted to get pedantic.

  26. ackpht says:

    Buildings are designed to look good in conceptual aerial views and in model form, because that’s how they’re pitched to investors.

  27. dmoisan says:

    Years ago, Analog Science Fiction had a short story about a building like this. The building’s windows were designed to tilt in two axes to maximize solar input (or something like that; it wasn’t a strong story premise to begin with and I don’t understand what tilting the windows would do unless you’re cleaning the ones in your unit from the 75th floor…)

    A Mafia capo and his family are in the penthouse next door, below the building. One day, his family is roasted and he barely escapes death by being just a minute late to the door of his apartment, while his assistant melts his lungs with one breath of superheated gas. Molten-glass time in his penthouse in a manner much like blast-furnace accidents. The investigator thinks, could it be a high-power laser?

    I won’t go on; you can already see where this went.

  28. airshowfan says:

    I’ve stayed at the Wynn once, which is similarly shaped, and seen other buildings with big shiny concave sides, and I always remember the Mythbuster episode with all the flat bits of brass reflecting sunlight towards one point. I then wonder whether the building’s windows reflect and converge (i.e. focus) the sun’s rays with enough gain for perceptible heating. After wondering this for a few seconds, I always guess that the curvature is probably not precise enough for a really high gain at any point, that only one floor would be at the right height to focus sunlight at the incoming angle onto the ground at any time (lower floors during sunrise/sunset, higher floors closer to noon), I notice how “scattered” the reflection of the sun is, etc. So I guessed that this kind of thing wasn’t really possible, as neat as it would be. I suppose I guessed wrong.

  29. Anonymous says:


  30. redesigned says:

    yikes, the worlds largest solar oven!
    roast human anyone?

  31. Cowicide says:

    Sounds like someone from Fight Club designed this building.

    We cook your meals. We haul your trash. We connect your calls. We drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us.

  32. skeletoncityrepeater says:

    This recalls the roasted neighbors and blinded passers-by from this story:

    Gehry’s Disney Hall is very beautiful after it was buffed.

  33. Lobster says:

    He’s a lawyer, right? Is he sure it wasn’t God trying to light him on fire?

  34. OldRipbeak says:

    Didn’t anyone look up to see if there was a Gary Larson kid with a magnifying glass?

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