The Thin Line Between Genius and Crank


I have a soft spot in my heart for those people who decide to spent a good chunk of their life pursuing endeavours that will lead to either massive change or something less than a footnote in history.

One person who I’d say fits this criteria quite nicely is Theo Jansen.  He’s a Dutchman who started out interested in evolution and designed computer games where worms would try to kill each other and only those who evolved survived.  However, then he found metal tubing and decided to build giant beasts that would walk along the Dutch coast.

For the past few years he’s been creating different giant creatures that are powered by wind and move along the beach.  If they’re destroyed by wind he knows the design was poor; if they aren’t destroyed then their design evolves in the next generation of the beach beasts (Strandbeest).

These things are actually amazing-watch the movies on his website and check out how fluidly they walk.  His goal is that one day they will evolve on their own, but no word as to how that’s going to happen.

Incidentally, a bunch of Germans are making a movie about him and if you pick up the catalogue of the 2005 LOOP festival there’s a nice 17 minute video of him in it.

Also, here’s a potential future genius/crank: the D’Andrea Group has created a robotic chair that falls apart and then puts itself back together.  Genius!  Craziness!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

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