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!

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.

Friday, July 29, 2016

pneumatic bread

I've just been to San Francisco, which stakes claims to being one of the sourdough bread capitals of the world. Coming from Melbourne, where sourdough is also raised on a pedestal as an art form, I was intrigued to try some of the best. I tried several loaves, from the touristy sourdough factory on Fisherman's Wharf, to a line-up and queue little bakery on the other side of town.

The bread was good, but where I really discovered something different, was at the SciFoo conference I was attending a few days later at Google in Palo Alto. There I found bread which had been raised to new heights, not through artisanal techniques, but rather, pneumatic technology.

As part of an MIT winter course, Lining Yao was teaching students how to design pneumatic food. Playing with the puffy qualities of fermenting bread dough, the instructors had already experimented with a food plotter that cut the dough into a designing shape, as well as a pneumatic system to blow air into the food. Here are some of the results of those experiments.

Through hands-on-learning the students in the class also experimented with pneumatic food of different kinds such as cheese and sugar. I know this is a bit of a stretch from pneumatic tube systems, but I just couldn't resist sharing these beautiful pneumatic food creations with you.

Images from

Saturday, July 23, 2016

running outdoors

Long Branch Mike has alerted me to another amazing pneumatic tube system - the one running underneath Indiana University Health's People Mover, which connects several hospitals in Indianapolis.

These outdoor hospital tubes are pretty impressive - they remind me of riding the monorail to Disneyland as a kid. The gaps in the rails are designed to prevent the collection of snow. Although as Mike wonders, how do they keep the tubes from freezing in the winter? Must investigate.

Image by Dina Wakulchik from Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - Clarian Health Partners People Mover, CC BY 2.0,

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

how iphones helped solve a medical mystery

While hospital pneumatic tubes work well a lot of the time, sometimes there are mishaps - contents of containers might spill for example, or objects get stuck, or blood samples clot. There are all kinds of ways of finding out the problem spots in pneumatic tubes - I am currently writing a book chapter on how sound is used for example. But today I wanted to write about another method used recently at the University of Virginia - the iphone repair method.
Two pathology professors at the university theorised that it may be due to points of high pressure that there were problems and sent two iphones through their hospital tubes to check. One phone had a sensor app and a light source and the other recorded the journey of a blood sample. The footage surprised them - the blood's journey was like a blender, "like you are mixing a margarita". The hospital no longer sends their blood on long journeys to avoid the cocktail-effect.

You can read more and listen to the story here, on WVTF public radio.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

shoe tubes

I bought my first pair of Nikes when they started knitting them. But I would have bought a pair earlier if I had known they would have been delivered by "shoe tubes"!

Read more here in the Baltimore Sun.

Thanks once again for another wonderful pneumatic tube tip Patryk! Image of shoe tubes in Niketown from Honolulu Star article.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

part victorian, part jetsons

"The dream of the pneumatic tube will never die" ....

And so begins a carefully and beautifully collaged video of pneumatic tubes by Vox - watch til the end to see what they did with the goldfish!