Pipe Dream: The Wacky Plan to Pump Antarctic Ice into Australia

iStock/atese
iStock/atese

Arthur Paul Pedrick hated his job at the British patent office. He spent each day doing the same boring task: reading dense applications and determining whether the inventions therein were truly original. “[It’s] the most soul-destroying professional occupation in science or technology,” he once moaned. So when Pedrick finally left his job in 1961, he found a way to liven things up at his old workplace—by becoming one of the most prolific, and unusual, inventors of all time.

Over the next 15 years, Pedrick applied for approximately 160 patents, each one wackier than the last. He dreamed up a golf ball that could steer itself onto the fairway after a bad hook or slice. He sketched a device resembling a hovercraft. In response to the 1973 oil crisis, he patented a horse-powered car that literally put the cart before the horse. To prevent nuclear war, he designed a radiation detector that worked simultaneously as a “peace-keeping” bomb and, oddly, as a cat flap that admits only orange-colored felines.

(The patent was titled “Photon Push-Pull Radiation Detector for Use in Chromatically Selective Cat Flap Control and 1000 Megaton, Earth-Orbital, Peace-Keeping Bomb.” The application includes commentary from Pedrick’s cat, Ginger: “Purr-purr … That’s quite clever.”)

But Patent GB1203136 (A) takes the cake. In it, Pedrick planned a pipeline for carrying “ice balls” from Antarctica to central Australia. The pipes would harness Earth’s rotation to whisk dense snowballs at a speed of 1000 mph into a mountainous reservoir in the “dead heart” of Australia. The surplus of fresh water, Pedrick argued, would help create an agricultural wonderland that could be used to halt famine all over the world. (Fittingly, the patent was titled “Improvements in the Irrigation of ‘Deserts’ by Snow Piped from Polar Regions for the Purpose of Minimizing the Impending World Famine.”)

Nobody is certain whether Pedrick was serious about his inventions or if he was just trolling the system he loved to hate. The most likely explanation is that he pitied the poor, bored patent examiners and wanted to give them something to smile about. (After all, many of his applications spiraled into amusing diatribes and included poetry.)

Regardless, one thing stood in the way of his dream to turn the sandy landscape of central Australia into a watery paradise. “My ginger cat has just come in and I shall have to go and open another tin of cat food, which continues to rise in price,” he wrote in the application, “so how can I afford to get my ‘Ice Balls’ rolling into the ‘Deserts?’”

Watch 32,000 Dominos Fall in an Extremely Satisfying Way

iStock/Khongtham
iStock/Khongtham

Lily Hevesh, known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, has achieved viral fame many times over with her ambitious domino videos. She's shown us dominos falling up a flight of stairs, dominoes toppling in a three-part spiral, and dominos collapsing in a continuous chain of record-breaking length. To make the video below, she collaborated with six fellow domino artists and set up an elaborate, freestyle design that leads to a domino fall that's incredibly satisfying to watch.

According to the video's description, this was the biggest project Hevesh and her collaborators built during a domino event she hosted earlier in 2019. The artists—which in addition to Hevesh5, included YouTube creators NC Domino, StickTrickDominoDude, Chris Wright, Jaytar42, jackofallspades98, and SmileyPeaceFun—gave themselves three-and-a-half days to set up 32,000 dominos using the most oddly satisfying domino tricks they knew.

Hevesh writes in the video description: "Everything in this setup (besides one field) was freestyled so we did not draw out a detailed floor plan. All we had was a list of satisfying domino project ideas that we built and connected on the spot."

In less than four minutes, the video showcases pyramids, spirals, and artistic patterns, all made from toppling plastic bricks. Whether or not you can name all the domino tricks that are featured, seeing them in action is mesmerizing. You can watch the full video below, and then subscribe to Hevesh5 for more domino creations.

What's the Difference Between Art Deco and Art Nouveau?

iStock/Getty Images Plus/Lepusinensis
iStock/Getty Images Plus/Lepusinensis

The Quick Trick: It all comes down to "flowery"vs. "streamlined." Art Nouveau is the decorative one. Art Deco is sleeker.

The Explanation: Both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements emerged as reactions to major world events; the Industrial Revolution and World War I, respectively. While both embraced modernist elements, they're easy to distinguish if you know what to look for.

An Art Nouveau Jugenstil building in the historic center of Riga, Latvia.
An Art Nouveau Jugenstil building in the historic center of Riga, Latvia.
iStock/Getty Images Plus/juriskraulis

Art Nouveau (it means "new art," but you probably figured that out) reigned from roughly 1880 until just before World War I. Art Nouveau embraced Europe's new industrial aesthetic rather than challenging it. It features naturalistic but stylized forms, often combined with more geometric shapes, particularly arcs, parabolas, and semicircles (think of the paintings of Gustav Klimt, or the arches of the Eiffel Tower). The movement brought in natural forms that had often been overlooked, like insects, weeds, and even mythical faeries, as evidenced by Lalique jewelry or Tiffany lamps. The black and gold robe Kate Winslet doffs in the erotic portrait session scene in Titanic is quintessentially Art Nouveau.

A stainless steel Art Deco winged sculpture on the facade of an embellished building.
A stainless steel Art Deco winged sculpture on the facade of an embellished building.
iStock/Getty Images Plus/Kevin_Lucas

Art Deco, on the other hand, emerged after World War I. In fact, the deprivations of the Great War years gave way to a whole new opulence and extravagance that defined the Jazz Age and the Art Deco aesthetic. The movement took its name from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which was held in France. The style was prevalent from the 1920s until roughly the start of World War II and is characterized by streamlined and geometric shapes. It also utilized modern materials like chrome, stainless steel, and inlaid wood. If Art Deco dabbled with natural materials, they tended to be graphic or textural, like zebra skin or jagged fern leaves. As a result, Deco featured bold shapes like sunbursts and zigzags and broad curves. In fact, if you check out the spire of the Chrysler Building, the hotels of Miami's South Beach, or the "coffin nose" of a 1935 Cord Model 810, you'll be staring at the very definition of Deco.

Of course, you don't have to go outdoors if you're looking for Deco. Furniture from the period—like the black leather and chrome chaise longue by Le Corbusier or the Barcelona chair by Bauhaus giant Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—is still coveted by design aficionados and can be found in finer hotel lobbies everywhere.

This post was excerpted from Mental Floss's 2006 book What's the Difference?, and was updated in 2019.

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