Great balls of everything
November 5, 2007 7:43 AM   Subscribe

The Minor History of Giant Spheres is an illustrated timeline of, well, giant spheres, including the spherical republic of KugelMugel and the great Darwin Twineball. Also online is the Minor History of Miniature Writing, and the related timeline of timelines [prev.].
posted by blahblahblah (26 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm curious as to why EPCOT's Spaceship Earth isn't on the list.
posted by brownpau at 8:02 AM on November 5, 2007

They don't have the giant silver space sphere that killed Queen Latifah by throwing jellyfish at her.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Where is Perry Rhodan's ship? Where is the Death Star?
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:11 AM on November 5, 2007

1) do they still clean the Parisian sewers by letting big wooden balls roam around?

2) does anyone know anything more about the Costa Rican Spheres of Mystery?
posted by shothotbot at 8:12 AM on November 5, 2007

And what about Rover?

But I thought it was a pretty good list of some obscure giant spheres.
posted by GuyZero at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2007

Spaceship Earth is on the list, and the Death Star is mentioned.
posted by yhbc at 8:27 AM on November 5, 2007

And Galactus' ship.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:28 AM on November 5, 2007

Ah, now I see Spaceship Earth; it just didn't get a photo. The Christian Science Maparium was a new one to me. And doesn't Lewis Fry Richardson's Forecast Factory remind one just a bit of the Galactic Senate?
posted by brownpau at 8:59 AM on November 5, 2007

They forgot about AC/DC.
posted by kimota at 9:08 AM on November 5, 2007

posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:27 AM on November 5, 2007

And what about that Jules Verne one, where the one guy sticks plates of that metal all over the outside & opens it up with flaps & shit? And E E 'Doc' Smith's Skylark?

posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:29 AM on November 5, 2007

I know more about this than is healthy.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:32 AM on November 5, 2007

Wait--go back to the Parisian sewers. What now?
posted by DU at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2007

Also, no Betelgeuse??
posted by DU at 9:38 AM on November 5, 2007

HCM, you may be thinking of the Cavorite-propelled sphere from the 1901 H.G. Wells story, The First Men in the Moon (and the 1964 movie.)
posted by cenoxo at 9:41 AM on November 5, 2007

Oh, the Paris thing is in the article. The buildup of water pressure behind the balls forces them through the tunnel network until they emerge somewhere downstream pushing a mass of filthy sludge.

This seems implausible. It's hard to tell the scale, but it seems unlikely they'd get more than a few hundred pounds of force. Even if no one clog required that much, there's a lot of friction involved in moving the entire mass to the end.

(Googling around, I found another link with almost exactly the same text, which would argue for something like an urban legend. A third link mentioned silt and sand, not sludge, which seems a lot more likely.)
posted by DU at 9:48 AM on November 5, 2007

Then there's the first artificial satellite/space station, launched into a 4,000 mile high orbit by water-powered flywheelsEdward Everett Hale's short story, The Brick Moon (1869).
posted by cenoxo at 10:10 AM on November 5, 2007

That flywheel launcher is awesome, as is the technovelgy site itself. Great link.
posted by DU at 10:24 AM on November 5, 2007

First thing in the morning, I read this as "The Minor History of Giant Spiders." Holy CRAP that would have been awesome.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:26 AM on November 5, 2007

MetaFilter: I know more about this than is healthy.
posted by homunculus at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2007

As ever, wonderful post, blahblahblah, thanks. Didn't expect those spheres to be so interesting. Loved the timeline of timelines too.
posted by nickyskye at 10:44 AM on November 5, 2007

Buckminster Fuller proposes the "Cloud Nine" project, a levitating city of "tensegrity" spheres, each a mile in diameter.

This was the first thing I thought of when I saw this post, so I was glad to find that it was included. And then there's this:

Echo 1, America's first communications satellite. The 100-foot mylar "satalloon" is coated in shiny, radio-reflective aluminum

Between "tensegrity" and "satalloon", my day is pretty well made.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:58 AM on November 5, 2007

Those are some big fuckin' balls ya got there.
posted by quin at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2007


Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that a giant shell of matter be constructed around a star to collect its total energy output. Dyson thought that the idea for such a sphere would be so self-evident to any advanced civilization that he suggested searching the skies for them as evidence of extra- terrestrial intelligence.

I wondered if this doc would mention Dyson spheres, and by golly, it did. I wonder how an advanced civilization would live on the interior of one, though. Would the gravitational attraction from the matter on the shell be sufficient to keep them and everything else in their world from drifting around in the interior of the shell?

If not, then it would be a very peculiar place to reside. For example, it might be neat to be able to fly, like Icarus and Daedalus, around inside one of these things, but also like them, you might have to worry about getting too close to the sun.
posted by pax digita at 12:26 PM on November 5, 2007

And then there's the Megasphere, from Larry Niven's essay "Bigger Than Worlds". For this you dismantle the outermost stars in a galaxy and use the matter to build a sphere around the galactic core. This time you live on the outside. Gravity would be trifling, but you can have an atmosphere light-years deep and effectively live in free-fall.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:55 PM on November 5, 2007

The big balls used for cleaning pipes are known as pigs. At least, they are in petrochemical refineries.

That's a, lemme see now, thirty-one year-old bit of chemistry trivia I never thought I'd use for anything...
posted by pilgrim at 3:45 PM on November 5, 2007

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