Their hearts are not hearts, but clockwork springs. Their lungs are not lungs, but leather bellows. They are: Jack Donovan's Princely Toys [more inside]
Epic Conway's Game of Life. Sure, there's been lots of Conway's Life stuff on MeFi previously [1 2 3], but this squeezes a lot of awesome stuff into a short video.
Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams Detailed and thoughtful exploration of clockwork and automata as a phenomenon in the 17th Century and their development into machines that could imitate human activity - eventually leading to the famous Mechanical Turk (eventually exposed as fake) and the truly astounding "Silver Swan" built by John Joseph Merlin. (Definitely not a fake) [more inside]
Richard Garriott, perhaps better known as Lord British, has a wonderful collection of wooden automata in his house, in his Austin, Texas home Britannia Manor II (complete with observatory, and put up for sale in 2011). Here is an automata museum exhibit courtesy the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre in Glasgow. Or perhaps you would like to see more from individual automata artists? Perhaps you find this new-fangled stuff insufficiently respectful of the past: would you like a history lesson (links to the left)? Or might you like to learn how to make your own, out of paper? If all else fails, how about these anti-war automata?
120 years ago, in Paris, Blaise Bontems made a mechanism for reproducing birdsong. More recently, Michael Start restored it to working condition and recorded a video. [more inside]
12 videos of creepy automata (well, actually only 11, because one of them is no longer online)
Couple on a Bench. Drifting Apart Spooner. Laughing Sailor comes to Life. A Peacock. The Bear who saved the World. The Mechanism of Lady Automaton. Smoking Head. More from The House of Automata.
The Automata Blog is packed full of interesting images, videos and information about all kinds of amazing automata, cool machines, mechanical music, orchestrions and kinetic sculptures. This month's focus is the history of vintage Japanese tin toy robots and the toy robot paintings by Steven Skollar.
Ricky Jay had a TV special in 1989 - Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women - based on the book of the same name, which featured magic, juggling, amazing feats, stunts, and performances, including a musical performance on wine glasses, a human calculator who could determine cube-routes of numbers in her head, and an antique acrobatic clockwork doll. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). (Previously and previously and previouslier)
Karakuri ningyō (からくり人形?) are mechanized puppets or automata from Japan from the 17th century to 19th century. There are many beautiful examples: Arrow shooting, serving tea, the geisha, acrobatics, making magic. [more inside]
The guys at Penny Arcade often refer to their sequential comics as "dreaded continuity," but some of their storylines have created their own microcosms apart from the usual commentary on things in the broad world video games. Prime examples of these storylines include Cardboard Tube Samurai and Song of the Sorcelator, the latter has spun into a world made by its fans. The newest sequential work started from one of three short "treatments," set in a nineteen-twenties crime fiction which unfolds in a time where "machine intellect" has been outlawed. The first page of Automata was set to music that was composed and performed by Christoph Hermiteer. The second fan creation is a short radio program, based on a script written by the Penny Arcade folks.
The Brazen Android by William Douglas O'Connor, is a 19th century science fiction story based on the myth of the Brazen Head, a steam-powered head that told fortunes. It's available as an audio book from the Internet Archives. (Via)
60+ One-Of-A-Kind Robots From Science Fiction. "You'd think a major advantage of robots is you can mass-produce them. They're just metal-and-circuit bodies. But science fiction is full of one-of-a-kind bots. Here are all the bots for whom they broke the mold."
Researchers discover gigantic "Caterpillar" spaceship that travels at (17/45)c. Just another exciting development in the Game of Life (previously).
Sound glimpses into the past. The Phonogrammarchiv was founded in 1899 and is the oldest audiovisual research archive in the world. There are some fascinating sound samples listenable online from the Historical Collections-1899 to 1950, including: The First Expeditions 1901 to Croatia, Brazil and the Isle of Lesbos; Zulu Recordings 1908; Papua New Guinea (1904-1909) and some lovely recordings of old Musical Boxes from Vienna and Prague. [more inside]
Al-Jazari is the best-known Islamic inventor of the Middle Ages, famous for his waterclocks and automata. The wonderful History of Science and Technology in Islam has articles on him as well as other subjects. A medieval manuscript of Al-Jazari's masterwork, a book generally known in English as either Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices, can be perused in its entirety in flash form. It includes 174 illustrations. If you want to see working copies of his most famous automaton, the Elephant Clock, you can go either to the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai (Flickr pictures), the Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle in Switzerland (Cabinet of Wonders post about visiting the museum) or Institute for the History of Arab-Islamic Science in Frankfurt (article about the institute from a feature in Saudi Aramco World magazine called Rediscovering Arabic Science).
"..watched him seize a silver fish from under the water and hold up his head and go through the customary and elaborate motions of swallowing it..."
The Silver Swan is a life-size musical automaton built in 1773 from silver and glass, now housed in the Bowes Museum in County Durham. [more inside]
Karakuri automata are representative of the highest technology in the Edo period (1603 to 1867). Automata were also crafted hundreds of years ago in Europe: The Dulcimer Player by Pierre Kintzing , made in 1772; The Singing Lesson, created by Robert-Houdin; three androids by Jaquet-Droz; the Pooping Duck by Vaucanson (the first link at the top). Ancient robots. The first automaton was created by Al-Jazari: video of his clock. The history of automata [pdf]. Contemporary toy automata. [more inside]
Automaton \Au*tom"a*ton\, n.; pl. L. Automata, E. Automatons. [L. fr. Gr. ?, neut. of ? self-moving; ? self + a root ma, man, to strive, think, cf. ? to strive.] 1. Any thing or being regarded as having the power of spontaneous motion or action.
You may have heard of Conway's Game of Life, where pixels "live" or "die" based on a few simple rules about how many neighbors they have. But did you know that in the 30 years since the game was created, Life enthusiasts have (created? discovered?) an extensive catalog of (objects? creatures?) which interact to form some amazing, nifty, grinning, sometimes beautiful, rube-goldberg, occasionally even a little scary patterns often starting from the simplest of building blocks? (Including a Turing machine!) Or that a lone pixel can exert remarkable control over its environment? Now you can see in a few seconds in a java applet, on your desktop, or even on a PalmOS handheld the outcome of simple patterns that, when first discovered, no computer could handle. A mind blowing example of the power of emergent properties.
"One of the most esteemed documents of modern paleontology is Stephen Jay Gould's doctoral thesis on shells. According to Gould, the fact that there are thousands of potential shell shapes in the world, but only a half dozen actual shell forms, is evidence of natural selection. Not so, says Wolfram. He's discovered a mathematical error in Gould's argument, and that, in fact, there are only six possible shell shapes, and all of them exist in the world. " A must-read article.