Archive for May, 2007

Clockpunk Anthology: I Want a Mechanical Echidna

Here is the latest submission for the Anthology project by Meika Loofs Samorzewski. The story was inspired by Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach. Enjoy!

I Want a Mechanical Echidna


The Automata / Automaton Blog

Appearently there a whole blog dedicated to Automatas. Check it out at the following URL:

Replica of Al-Jaziri’s Elephant Clock

One of the readers pointed out that there is actually Al-Jaziri’s Elephant Clock in the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai. Here is the link to the pictures of Flickr. Enjoy and thanks for the link Craig!

Da Vinci @ Wired

The Wired ran a truly fascinating article on Da Vinci a few years ago. It shows that Da Vinci was indeed in a league of his own and sheds light on Da Vinci the roboticist! Here is the link and an excerpt below:

The historical record offers no mention of da Vinci having built a cart. Pedretti, however, unearthed a potential clue. “I found a fantastic document, date 1600,” Pedretti says. “It’s a description of a banquet held in Paris to honor the new queen of France, who was a Medici. On that occasion, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger observed the presentation of a mechanical lion. It walked, opened its chest, and in place of a heart it had fleurs-de-lis.” Pedretti pauses, gathering more papers. “This document, which was totally unknown, says this was a concept similar to one that Leonardo carried out in Lyons on the occasion of Francis I.” It appears da Vinci had engaged in high tech diplomacy circa 1515.

The cart, suggests Pedretti, may have been an early study in an emerging da Vinci sideline. Leonardo, he believes, created animated spectacles centuries before the great age of the European automata of Jacques de Vaucansan and Wolfgang von Kempelen. “The irony of the whole thing is that there is not a single hint in Leonardo’s manuscripts of this greatest technological invention,” Pedretti says. “Imagine to have a lion walk and stand on its legs and open up its chest – this is top technology!” What happened to those pages of drawings that would have revealed the inner workings of these wondrous devices? Perhaps they lie misfiled in some lost archive; perhaps they were destroyed by some church authority in the manner of Albertus Magnus’ mechanical woman, smashed by Thomas Aquinas as a work of the devil.

Half a millennium on, the cart could, says Rosheim, not only rewrite the history of robotics but also bring another da Vinci to light: da Vinci the roboticist. “If it was simply a spring-powered cart, it would not be that big a deal,” he says. “What’s significant is that you can replace or change these cams and alter how it goes about its path – in other words, it’s programmable in an analog, mechanical sense. It’s the Disney animatronics of its day.” The individual parts, interestingly, are not original to da Vinci – gears, cams, and the verge-and-foliot mechanism were all familiar concepts, particularly to clockmaking, the nanotech of da Vinci’s day. Indeed, as the historian Otto Mayr has noted, “clocks and automata, in short, tended to be very much the same thing”; clocks, in 16th-century dictionaries, were considered just one type of automata. But the possibility is that da Vinci married two ideas and created, in essence, a clock on wheels – turning the segmenting of time into the traversing of space – well before anyone else had thought of such a thing. No one could have done it as elegantly, in so compact a package, says Rosheim. “The robot cart is one of the most significant missing links in studying Leonardo. Suddenly, many drawings are making sense.”

Clockwork Insects

The folks over at Cabinet of Wonders have an awesome post on Clockwork insects. It seems that the creator was inspired by the almost Clockwork precision of insects so he decided to combine Clockwork mechanisms with insects. Here is description by the creator of the clockwork insects regarding how the whole thing began (via Cabinet of Wonders via Technovelgy).

“One day I found a dead intact beetle. I then located an old wristwatch, thinking of how the beetle also operated and looked like a little mechanical device and so decided to combine the two. After some time dissecting the beetle and outfitting it with watch parts and gears, I had a convincing little cybernetic sculpture. I soon made many more with other found insects and have been exploring and developing the theme ever since.”

The amazing thing is that you can actually buy these insects at the Insect Lab Studio if you have the money that is since most of the insects cost more than $500 at the site.

I Love Clockpunk


A friend of mine noticed this item, an “I Love Clockpunk” sweatshirt, on Amazon and forwarded the link to me. I had no idea who came up with the idea about the swearshirt but here it is. It seems to be related to the punk genre of music, other than that I do not have much info. Please let me know if someone knows more about it.

Here is the link to the item on

Gun Powder Flask-Sundial Compass Watch

Found via Watchismo– a portable compass watch from the late 16th century. Here is the scoop from Watchismo.

Portable watches had only been around a few decades when this multi-function timepiece was built in southern Germany circa 1590.

Consisting of a round powder flask made of rosewood with inlaid and engraved rosette-shaped ornaments of brass and bone. A small clock with 1-12 hours twice situated on the outer ring. The small funnel of bone is closed with a springy lid made of brass. Below the center under the engraved lid with a transversally placed hinge, there is a horizontal sundial with indication of the hours from six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the evening. A small compass with north-south indication but without correction for the magnetic pole. The string gnomon is stretched by opening the lid and is only valid for one latitude. On the side of the flask, there is an opening to a funnel-shaped small pipe which is placed in the socket and allows for filling up the powder flask. Diameter 10.8cm

May 2007
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Knowing and Doing

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“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” - Leonardo Da Vinci