Orrery : A work in progress


With the help of the good folks at Magnolia Editions, I’ve been working on a new celestial clock. But this time, its an Orrey – a mechanical model of the solar system. Below is a quick pre-visualization of what it might look like.

Unlike a traditional orrery, this one is designed to be flat, so it can be hung on a wall, and will display the first 5 planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter.

The complexity of the design has exploded, however, and its becoming a bit overwhelming. Here’s a wire-frame of the illustrator artwork:

Each planet is represented by a ring-gear. Each ring-gear is part of a drive-train that is powered from the center Sun-gear. Five planets means 5 separate drive trains… thus the complexity. Here’s a prototype of the current design. You can see the ring gears for Jupiter and Earth and, below them, the underlying gear-trains that power each of the ring-gears. The mechanism is made of laser-cut plywood:

Here’s a video of the mechanism being test-fitted together for the first time:

Of course, now that I’m at the prototyping stage, minor details such as the laws-of-physics are coming into play. Torque, friction and inertia may scuttle this design, as may the sheer complexity of the design.

Stay tuned…

One Recession Watchdog


Over the last year, I’ve been collaborating with Magnolia Editions on one of their fine-art editions for the artist Enrique Chagoya.

Magnolia’s owner, Don Farnsworth, conceived of the idea of adding animated digital displays to one of Chagoya’s illustrations. The displays show the current national debt and debt per-person and are embedded directly in the artwork itself.

I built the electronics, designed the mechanism and wrote the software that allows the One Recession Watchdog, as its called, to download the necessary financial and census information over a wireless internet connection and display it in real-time. The device also has built-in internet radio and plays audio through a speaker in the back.

Here’s a short video of Chagoya’s final piece, with the florescent display running.

Below is another shot of the back-panel shows the speaker grill, touch-screen control panel and silver reset button.

A bit of the magic revealed. The following shot shows some of the internal wiring and electronics. The device is powered by a Chumby network appliance with modified software and hardware. On the right is the large internal speaker. Visible at the bottom are mounting-plates for the digital displays and the internal cabling. The mechanical components were laser-cut from wood and acrylic and set into a custom bamboo case.

More information is available here.

New Project : Celestia Mark 3


I’ve embarked on a new clock project. This is a baby version of my large celestial clock. Below is a pre-visualization of what it might look like. Its going to be a smaller mantle or wall clock, about 1 foot square. It will be computer-controlled like its big brother, but it will use either a standard realtime clock module to track time or… it will get the time using a GPS module. So, you just plug it in, and it gets the time off the Satellite. I wonder, how much would someone pay for something like this?

Reboot, Restart, Retry…



The Negative Space blog is undergoing an overhaul. In the meantime, there are some pretty pictures here.


    Recent Images

    Orrery Gears with Jupiter and Earth Rings Orrery Gears on Temporary Mounting Orrery Wireframe Disasterous Prototype
    … and Remember:
    Cogito Ergo Doleo: I Think, Therefore I am Depressed.