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For sale: Swiss Scrooge McDuck swimming pool/vault full of shiny coins


If you've ever dreamed of owning a bank-vault mounded high with shiny coins in which you can bathe like Scrooge McDuck, now is your chance. A Swiss bank-vault filled with 8 million Swiss 5-cent pieces is up for auction. The vault was made in 1913 for the Schweizer Volksbank. The coins -- 15 tons' worth -- were used in a 2013 installation in which they were dumped in a public square, with no security, as an exercise in public trust. The coins and the safe are presently in Basel. You will have to relocate them.

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Cubli: motorized reaction-wheel cube that can balance and walk on its edges and corners

A clever combination of motorized reaction wheels, sensors, processors and software allow the 15cm^3 Cubli to balance on its corner or edge, and to stabilize itself in the face of disturbances, or spin on its corner. It can also ramp up its wheel speed, brake them suddenly and use the angular momentum to leap up onto its corner from a flat rest, then fall onto a proscribed side, and leap up -- walking, in other words.

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Skull/face paste-up wrapped around a sharp corner


Street artist Maldito Juanito installed this perspective-driven paste-up in Geneva. It wraps around the corner of a concrete pillar, and depending on your angle of approach, you see a boy's face, a skull, or a half-boy/half-skull. (via Kadrey)

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Life imitates art: Swiss police brutally crack down on squatters who inhabit fake "art favela"

Richard sez, "The Swiss riot police have taken a page out of the Turkish authorities' book. After occupiers ('critics'?) responded to the 'irony' of Tadashi Kawamata's cafe/boutique in the form of a favela by occupying it, moving in and throwing a down-home favela house party, the Swiss police forcibly evicted them from the art installation using real, unironic tear gas and batons."

Polizei räumt Favelabesetzung auf dem Messeplatz

Drones toss and catch inverted pendulum

Ever see flying robots doing stuff that you never suspected flying robots could do? I have.

First, a state estimator was used to accurately predict the pendulum’s motion while in flight. Unlike the ball used in the group’s earlier demonstration of quadrocopter juggling, the pendulum’s drag properties depend on its orientation. This means, among other things, that a pendulum in free fall will move sideways if oriented at an angle. Since experiments showed that this effect was quite large for the pendulum used, an estimator including a drag model of the pendulum was developed. This was important to accurately estimate the pendulum’s catching position.

Another task of the estimator was to determine when the pendulum was in free flight and when it was in contact with a quadrocopter. This was important to switch the quadrocopter’s behavior from hovering to balancing the pendulum.

Second, a fast trajectory generator was needed to quickly move the catching quadrocopter to the estimated catching position.

Third, a learning algorithm was implemented to correct for deviations from the theoretical models for two key events: A first correction term was learnt for the desired catching point of the pendulum. This allowed to capture systematic model errors of the throwing quadrocopter’s trajectory and the pendulum’s flight. A second correction term was learnt for the catching quadrocopter’s position. This allowed to capture systematic model errors of the catching quadrocopter’s rapid movement to the catching position.

Video: Throwing and catching an inverted pendulum – with quadrocopters | Robohub (Thanks, Kate!)

Switzerland is one gigantic booby-trap

Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG has been exploring the bizarre world of Swiss self-destructing infrastructure, documented in La Place de la Concorde Suisse, John McPhee's "rich, journalistic study of the Swiss Army's role in Swiss society." It turns out that the Swiss Army specifies that bridges, hillsides, and tunnels need to be designed so that they can be remotely destroyed in the event of societal collapse, pan-European war, or invasion. Meanwhile, underground parking garages (and some tunnels) are designed to be sealed off as airtight nuclear bunkers.

To interrupt the utility of bridges, tunnels, highways, railroads, Switzerland has established three thousand points of demolition. That is the number officially printed. It has been suggested to me that to approximate a true figure a reader ought to multiply by two. Where a highway bridge crosses a railroad, a segment of the bridge is programmed to drop on the railroad. Primacord fuses are built into the bridge. Hidden artillery is in place on either side, set to prevent the enemy from clearing or repairing the damage...

There are also hollow mountains! Booby-trapped cliff-faces!

Near the German border of Switzerland, every railroad and highway tunnel has been prepared to pinch shut explosively. Nearby mountains have been made so porous that whole divisions can fit inside them. There are weapons and soldiers under barns. There are cannons inside pretty houses. Where Swiss highways happen to run on narrow ground between the edges of lakes and to the bottoms of cliffs, man-made rockslides are ready to slide...

The impending self-demolition of the country is "routinely practiced," McPhee writes. "Often, in such assignments, the civilian engineer who created the bridge will, in his capacity as a military officer, be given the task of planning its destruction."

Various forms of lithic disguise (Thanks, @MagicPeaceLove!)

Cheese-flipping robot patiently rotates gruyere

K0re on YouTube had a genuinely wonderful day in Switzerland that included the HR Giger museum, lashings of absinthe, and a good deal of time in the company of a machine that patiently rotates wheels of cheese.

I wanted to see the Giger Museum and Bar in Gruyeres about an hour away from Montreux.

The driver Pascal suggested the cheese factory and took me on a mini-tour of how they make gruyere and how the cows are treated, etc. after an afternoon of absinthe and grotesquerie.

Cheese Robot (via Kottke)

Cory in Zurich tonight

Quick reminder: I'm speaking in Zurich tonight. It's a free event at 8PM at the Kunstraum Walcheturm, hope to see you there! Cory

Swiss gov't study: downloading leads to sales, so we're keeping it legal

The Swiss government commissioned a study on the impact of copyright-infringing downloading. The independent study concluded that downloaders use the money they spend to buy more legitimate entertainment products. So they've concluded to maintain Switzerland's extant copyright law, which makes downloading for personal use legal. It's a rare victory for evidence-based policy in a world dominated by shrill assertions of lost jobs and revenue, backed by funny-number "statistics" from industry-commissioned researchers.

The report states that around a third of Swiss citizens over 15 years old download pirated music, movies and games from the Internet. However, these people don’t spend less money as a result because the budgets they reserve for entertainment are fairly constant. This means that downloading is mostly complementary.

The other side of piracy, based on the Dutch study, is that downloaders are reported to be more frequent visitors to concerts, and game downloaders actually bought more games than those who didn’t. And in the music industry, lesser-know bands profit most from the sampling effect of file-sharing.

The Swiss report then goes on to review several of the repressive anti-piracy laws and regulations that have been implemented in other countries recently, such as the three-strikes Hadopi law in France. According to the report 12 million was spent on Hadopi in France this year, a figure the Swiss deem too high.

The report further states that it is questionable whether a three-strikes law would be legal in the first place, as the UN’s Human Rights Council labeled Internet access a human right. The Council specifically argued that Hadopi is a disproportionate law that should be repealed.

Swiss Govt: Downloading Movies and Music Will Stay Legal (Thanks, Frederic!)

Cory in Zurich next week

I'm coming to Zurich next week to do a series of high-school lectures in connection with the German edition of Little Brother, and while I'm in town, I've scheduled a free lecture, organised by local free culture and Creative Commons activists. It's at 8PM on December 6, at the Kunstraum Walcheturm. Hope to see you there! Cory

Custom, giant junkbots made from old car and truck parts


Marco sez, "My elementary and middle school friend Tom Samui from Switzerland makes these custom sculptures out of recycled car and motorcycle parts."

He and his team have been perfecting these sculptures over the last ten years. Once a month they go to a junk yard and cart away a truckload of old car and motorcycle parts. The pieces are cleaned and sorted by type; nothing is thrown away. All pieces are welded together, polished and varnished with special anti-rust lacquer. It takes about 400 hours of work to complete a large sculpture. The details and the quality of the work can be seen especially on the deer and the American Indian on the horse by clicking on the images (below).

Whether you have a drawing, a photo, a model, an idea; he can make almost any object in any size between 3 feet (1 meter) and 26 feet (8 meters). If the sculpture is smaller than 3 feet (1 meter) the minimum order is 20 pieces. The larger pieces can be taken apart into up to 10 pieces and can be transported to almost anywhere in the world. Production time for custom pieces is two to three months.

CUSTOM SCULPTURES