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Physalia‘s “Inductance” project was displayed at this year’s F5 “creativity festival”. It consists of an electromagnet levitating a bunch of plastic spheres, each of which has an electromagnet inside! So awesome.

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Er…. I believe this is actually a short art film done by a sfx studio http://f5fest.com/2011/

    No inductance or levitating balls to be seen, just impressive cg work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Er…. I believe this is actually a short art film done by a sfx studio http://f5fest.com/2011/

    No inductance or levitating balls to be seen, just impressive cg work.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is obviously fake prima facae.  If there was an electromagnet in operation powerful enough to lift small items from that big a distance it would consume OBSCENE amounts of electricity and probably rattle the filling in those people’s teeth.  In fact, it would be dangerous to operate in a room which wasn’t meticulously cleared or metal, which this room does not seem to be.

    Also, I find it unlikely they could get the balls to behave that way, objects in a magnetic field don’t float and bob like that without a level of control which I have never seen.

    If this were real, those balls would have to have an immense power source (as even an electromagnet powered by a 9V battery is very, very weak) and each would have to be variably controlled by a sophisticated hall effect sensory which would not only attempt to keep them from either sticking to the magnet or dropping to the floor but have them bob gently and cluster and congeal together.

    In fact, getting a set of electromagnets to do this would probably earn you several Ph.D.’s in computational physics, computer science, and engineering.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Agreed.  Single levitated spheres are pretty simple: eg. the classic levitating globe: 

      http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=levitating+globe&aq=f&aqi=g4g-v6&aql=&oq= 

      A permanent magnet in the globe is attracted to an electromagnet.  A controller constantly adjusts the electromagnet strength based on feedback from a sensor (hall effect) that measures the position of the globe’s magnet. 

      Extending that setup to a system of balls operating simultaneously would be a _VERY_ impressive feat.  Adding power harvesting to the fray, and it would be even more impressive.  But remember… power harvesting for magnetic fields falls off as 1/r^3 or 1/r^4 (IIRC).  The field strengths required for this would be astronomical.  There’s no way the computers in the room could take that.

      I call BS.  But it’s a cool video… makes me sad to think its a hoax.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Agreed.  Single levitated spheres are pretty simple: eg. the classic levitating globe: 

      http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=levitating+globe&aq=f&aqi=g4g-v6&aql=&oq= 

      A permanent magnet in the globe is attracted to an electromagnet.  A controller constantly adjusts the electromagnet strength based on feedback from a sensor (hall effect) that measures the position of the globe’s magnet. 

      Extending that setup to a system of balls operating simultaneously would be a _VERY_ impressive feat.  Adding power harvesting to the fray, and it would be even more impressive.  But remember… power harvesting for magnetic fields falls off as 1/r^3 or 1/r^4 (IIRC).  The field strengths required for this would be astronomical.  There’s no way the computers in the room could take that.

      I call BS.  But it’s a cool video… makes me sad to think its a hoax.

    3. Anonymous says:

      Agreed.  Single levitated spheres are pretty simple: eg. the classic levitating globe: 

      http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=levitating+globe&aq=f&aqi=g4g-v6&aql=&oq= 

      A permanent magnet in the globe is attracted to an electromagnet.  A controller constantly adjusts the electromagnet strength based on feedback from a sensor (hall effect) that measures the position of the globe’s magnet. 

      Extending that setup to a system of balls operating simultaneously would be a _VERY_ impressive feat.  Adding power harvesting to the fray, and it would be even more impressive.  But remember… power harvesting for magnetic fields falls off as 1/r^3 or 1/r^4 (IIRC).  The field strengths required for this would be astronomical.  There’s no way the computers in the room could take that.

      I call BS.  But it’s a cool video… makes me sad to think its a hoax.

    4. Anonymous says:

      Agreed.  Single levitated spheres are pretty simple: eg. the classic levitating globe: 

      http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=levitating+globe&aq=f&aqi=g4g-v6&aql=&oq= 

      A permanent magnet in the globe is attracted to an electromagnet.  A controller constantly adjusts the electromagnet strength based on feedback from a sensor (hall effect) that measures the position of the globe’s magnet. 

      Extending that setup to a system of balls operating simultaneously would be a _VERY_ impressive feat.  Adding power harvesting to the fray, and it would be even more impressive.  But remember… power harvesting for magnetic fields falls off as 1/r^3 or 1/r^4 (IIRC).  The field strengths required for this would be astronomical.  There’s no way the computers in the room could take that.

      I call BS.  But it’s a cool video… makes me sad to think its a hoax.

  4. FAKE FAKE FAKE FAKE FAKE.

    This was called fake when it showed up on boingboing weeks ago, and if you had managed to read the link you posted to http://f5fest.com/2011/ they even say what it is ““Inductance is the making-of for a piece that ill never exist, a behind the scenes with no scenes!”

    Try a little harder please.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh heck, I really wanted it to be real!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Never heard of youtube asswipes?

    1. Scott Baker says:

      YouTube Asswipes would be awesome… you sit there, watching videos on a paperlike screen, then when you’re done you tear ‘em off, clean up, flush ‘em and go about your day.  Brilliant idea, @eschersand:disqus !

    2. Scott Baker says:

      YouTube Asswipes would be awesome… you sit there, watching videos on a paperlike screen, then when you’re done you tear ‘em off, clean up, flush ‘em and go about your day.  Brilliant idea, @eschersand:disqus !

  7. Anonymous says:

    Never heard of youtube asswipes?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Never heard of youtube asswipes?

  9. Danniel Soares says:

    I don’t know wheter it’s CG or not, much less how feasible would be to build a “real one” of such a thing, just the fact that it’s a SFX studio does not imply either way. Before the CG predominance (if it’s really predominant), special effects were all “real”.

    Neither does the text, “a making-of for a piece that ill never exist, a behind the scenes with no scenes” you could do the same of any “fake making-of”, even if the “piece that will never exist” involved nothing but a simple remote-controlled toy car. A “piece that will never exist” does not refer (not necessarily) to the “piece of equipment”, but rather to the video/vignette that the “making of” would be documenting it it was a real making of and not the actual piece — videos are also called “pieces” in the ad world, along with posters, audio vignettes and outdoors.

    But again, I’m not saying it’s “real” either, the problem is that it’s being argued that it’s the case for all the wrong reasons. It could well be “just” CG for all I know, but if you bother to read all the text, it follows:

     “We have always loved to share the making-of’s for our pieces, not
    only because we usually have fun developing tools that allow us to
    create them (sometimes in a very masochistic sort of way!) but because
    we understand as professionals that part of the enjoyment of watching a
    piece comes from finding out how the hell it was done.

    The choice of the device to build came shortly after, spurred by some
    painful trial-error process and being the colour balls from the F5 logo
    the last inspiration spark we needed. The video is a document of how
    the happiest machine Physalia has built to date came to exist.”

    Which can more easily be read as that’s an actual machine built, a tool developed, not a plain “fake” making-of. I don’t really know, you can read it a bit both ways, even though I think the “real machine” is the less stretched interpretation. Perhaps it just seems the preferable explanation since CG these days is so common that everyone is skeptical of old school SFX.

    1. Danniel Soares says:

      The other text in the other hand pretty much settles the CG interpretation though, ” “Happy” was the theme we were given by the organizers for this year’s F5
      Re:Play Fest, held in April in NYC, to create this edition’s pieces,
      probably the hardest thing to convey in any artistic expression. After a
      good deal of introspection, and teaming up with awesome motion graphics
      artist Gerardo del Hierro, we decided that happy wasn’t happy for
      Physalia unless pliers, microchips and a bit of soldering were involved,
      and with this idea we resolved to create the happiest machine Physalia
      has built to date.”