The Bodysuit Car Designers Wear to Feel Old

 Friedrich Stark, Alamy
Friedrich Stark, Alamy

More than 46 million Americans are over the age of 65. (By 2060, that number is expected to double.) Meanwhile, in Europe, more than a quarter of the continent’s population has already reached what some British folks like to call “the third age.”

In the 1990s, Ford Motor Company saw this coming: As demographics changed, so too would the wants and desires of most car-buyers. In other words, Ford would have to start making vehicles that were more suitable for older drivers.

There was just one problem. “The majority of engineers and designers were—and still are—young people who find it difficult to imagine living with some of the limitations older drivers face,” Mike Bradley, a former ergonomics researcher at Ford, told the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

The car manufacturer’s solution? A bodysuit that puts young designers inside the skin of older drivers.

Developed by the Transport Technology and Ergonomics Centre (Ergonomics and Safety Research Unit) at England's Loughborough University, the Third Age Simulation Suit is said to add 30 years to anybody who wears it. A heavy vest simulates a weakened back. A neck brace hinders head movement. Joints are stiffened, inflexible gloves mimic arthritis, and a small electrical device causes uncontrollable trembles. It also comes with noise-dampening earphones and glasses that distort eyesight, mimicking the symptoms of glaucoma and cataracts.

“It’s really about inclusive design,” Katie Allanson, an ergonomist at Ford, recently told Chris Zelkovich of The Globe and Mail. “If you’re an able-bodied person, you don’t think about these issues—simple things like getting in and out of the vehicle and being able to grab the door handle.” The gloves, for example, can make it more difficult to adjust the radio. The noise-reducing headphones can muffle the chimes of the vehicle’s alert system. The goggles can reveal just how bad a windshield's glare may be.

Indeed, for many designers, donning the suit can be illuminating—and it has led to changes, big and small: improved seat belts that are easier to find and fasten; new alert systems that allow drivers to know when they’re drifting out of the lane; wider and taller front doors; easier-to-open trunks; and even the near-ubiquitous rear view camera. The first vehicle to benefit from designers wearing the garment? The Ford Focus.

You can view a Third Age Simulation Suit in the design section of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.

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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