Wednesday, November 23, 2016

never getting off the (under)ground

The JSTOR Daily Digest recently highlighted an article in the history of technology journal ICON, on pneumatic tube systems. The article documents Beach's system in NYC for human transportation, highlighting the social, economic and political reasons it never really got "off the (under) ground".


The article looks great and I have downloaded it to read - if you can't access a copy but would like to read it too, let me know by email and I will forward a PDF through my library.

Image of Beach's system by Scientific American - Scientific American - March 5, 1870 issue, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27708042

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

travel by tube "a thing"

The Hyperloop continues to make news and continues to be linked to pneumatic tubes. See the latest in this article in Automobile, which calls the Hyperloop a "series of powerful pneumatic tubes", or the human equivalent of the plastic tubes in bank drive-thrus.


Image from Kevin Krejci's Flickr, used under the Creative Commons lisence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

posting wishes into the abyss

The London Design Biennale, the first ever, took place over a few weeks at Somerset House last month and lucky visitors were be invited to meet a rather special series of pneumatic tubes. The theme was "Utopia by Design" and what better example of this than the beautifully dystopian/utopian pneumatic tube system.

Archinect reports on Turkey's contribution, the installation in the Biennale of The Wish Machine, by Istanbul based Autoban: a tunnel made of transparent hexagonal pneumatic tubes. The tubes are situated in a mirrored space, amplifying the effect of the multiple passages of the messages that are passing through. Visitors have a chance to write their own notes, their own hopes and wishes for a utopian future and feeding them into the Wish machine. Just like throwing coins into a wishing well, the final destination of these notes will remain a mystery.

The website reports that the installation was "inspired by the cultural tradition of threading a note or momento to the branch of a tree as an act of hope born out of hopelessness".

Thanks to Jess for first letting me know about this!

Unfortunately I cannot find any images from the exhibition which are free to share (please let me know if you have any!). There are however lots of great images on the online platform Archinect, as well as De Zeen.

The installation was at the Design Biennale 7th to 27th September 2016.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

sent via atomic fairies and unicorns

Plenty of pneumatic tubes have been captured on Kodak film, although unlike today's camera, the smartphone, it would have been difficult to make the kind of videos I reported on last week with a film camera.


It turns out that Kodak was using pneumatic tubes themselves, but for a very strange purpose - to transport nuclear tests as late as 2006. They had their very own nuclear reactor which was housed in a "closely guarded, two-foot-think concrete walled underground bunker in the company's headquarters" in Rochester New York, according to this Gizmodo report. Reminiscent of the fantastical contemporary art installation in Paris recently, it was "fed tests" by pneumatic tube system, with no employees ever making contact with the reactor. In a sarcastic wink to the fact that humans are always mixed up with technologies, Gizmodo report that apparently the system must have been operated by "atomic fairies and unicorns".

Thanks again to Long Branch Mike for sharing with me another fascinating piece of pneumatic tube pneus.

Flickr image by Asja Boros used under the Creative Commons lisence.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

smart hospital

When the University of Virginia hospital had problems with some of their blood samples in their pneumatic tube system, they turned to one of the most increasingly ubiquitous and handy tools so many of us now have at our disposal: the smartphone.
Using their old smartphones' accelerometer to assess the forces acting on the blood samples during transit, a clinical chemistry postdoctoral fellow and a professor of pathology conducted an experiment. With one smartphone taking recordings and the other shedding light on the video, they sent their phones through the hospital's system. The footage was revealing - the longest track of tube was the problem, and they found frothiness and bubbles which dissipated soon after arrival. They concluded that the smartphone was a great way to monitor such systems.

The pneumatic tube experiment has been written up in the journal Clinical Chemistry. You can find the video footage which supplements the article here. Could this be the first time that tube cam footage has been submitted as scientific evidence??

Read more in the UVA Today article.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

pneumatic waste collection meet-up

You may want to consider a trip to beautiful Barcelona this November if you are a pneumatic tube enthusiast, particularly one interested in the ins and outs of trash disposal.


The International Pneumatic Waste Collection Association Conference is to be held on 16th November, as an official side event of the Smart City World Expo Congress. More information on their website.

Image my own.

Monday, September 12, 2016

99% pneumatic

In the midst of sorting out which podcasts I want to listen to during my late summer holidays, I thought I would share a recent one from a great site, 99% invisible, on the incredible pneumatic fish cannon - enjoy!

http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/fish-cannon/

Image from treehugger.

Friday, August 19, 2016

a pneumatic experiment

Paris loves pneumatic tubes. For decades they used to send love letters (and bills) through the vast networks under the city. Today, pneumatic tubes find themselves in all sorts of interesting places, including contemporary art galleries. I had previously missed Shultz's installation in the foyer of Palais de Tokyo, but had no idea I would have a second chance to see some pneumatic tube art in this wonderful gallery on the banks of the Seine.

Wandering through a maze of bizarre settings and videos by the artist Mirka Rottenberg, my dear friend Pamela and I were having great fun with the swishing ponytails and videos of weird pearl and fast food productions. We came then to a room which had some multi-coloured terry towelling dressing gowns, and we sat down to have a look at the scientific apparatus on our right, and a large video on the wall.


What appeared before us was a crazy pneumatic tube experiment. In some unnamed dessert, a single man walked for what seemed like hours, into the dust. He stopped at a point and brought out a pneumatic tube carrier, taking a sample of the dry earth.


He makes the long walk back then to the sampling headquarters, a small hut where a group of men in overalls are gathered. One takes the tube and sends it off in his machine ...


On the other installation screen, above scientific looking equipment, we see where the tube has headed - to a bizarre scientific laboratory where one can only imagine the kinds of work that is going on.

The exhibition is an re-enactment of a series of performances and an installation that was shown at Performa 11 in New York City (you can watch the video here). For this installation, called SEVEN, Mika Rottenberg collaborated with Jon Kessler. Visitors got to wear the multi-coloured robes and possibly participate in the experiment. Actually judging from the photos of the Paris show, from this gallery here, we should have also donned the robes!


Well they say you never know what you are going to find in Paris, but it never ceases to astound me the number of pneumatic tube discoveries to be found there, in the city of air.

Images from exhibition my own.

For my other posts on Paris, see one on the sewer system, museums, the Dreyfus affair and petit bleus

Friday, August 12, 2016

airing the dirty laundry

I visited Stanford University the other week for the first time. I met an inspiring doctor and educator there, Errol Ozdalga, who is part of the Stanford 25 program, as part of my new research. I saw the beautiful eucalyptus trees that reminded me of Australian university campuses. I watched undergraduates play with Virtual Reality sets in the luxurious campus shopping mall.

But what I didn't see unfortunately were those famous Stanford pneumatic tubes.


Nonetheless, I still have an update from the Stanford Medical Centre for you. The hospital is soon to not only transport blood and other clinical samples by pneumatic tube, but also their recycling and laundry too.

More and more of the material products in circulation in hospitals are going behind the walls and in ceilings, rather than on trolleys and carts. I have already written about pneumatic waste disposal systems under cities - whether the Stanford model for pneumatically transporting waste and laundry will now also become the mainstay for hospitals too is yet to be seen.

One thing is for sure though, this airing out of the dirty laundry will certainly will add some extra grit to the next Stanford pneumatic tour!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

postings from Hong Kong

When we went on holidays as a family, we always used to joke that my architect father took more photos of buildings that he did of us. Of course, there were plenty of photos of us all, but now my appreciation of his building shots has taken on a whole new level with this image of a human pneumatic tube system he sent me the other day from a holiday in Hong Kong.