Sep 032012

It’s time for another edition of “THAT’S METAL!”, in which we collect images, videos, and news items that we think are metal, even though they’re not music (though sometimes we include music that’s not metal, but it’s “metal”, if that makes any sense, which it probably doesn’t, but we only make sense about half the time around here on a good day anyway).

We have a slug of items for you today, but it’s Labor Day, in which we Americans commemorate the labor movement and the value of hard work by fucking off, drinking copious amounts of beer, and grilling dead animals, so I figure you’ll have time to wade through everything — and it’s all worth the wading.


As usual, Item One relates to that pic you see at the top of the post. That lovely young lady with the flowing tresses is Sue Austin. She’s a British multimedia performance and installation artist who has been wheelchair-bound since 1996 and has devoted much of her art to challenging notions of disabled people as “the other”. She developed an underwater wheelchair with help of diving experts, who installed two dive propulsion units on the chair as well as a clear fin that helps with steering. More details about the development of the chair can be found here.

Undoubtedly, there are more efficient ways for a disabled person to scuba dive than being strapped to a self-propelled wheelchair — in fact, Ms. Austin learned how to dive in 2005, long before this chair became a reality. But there’s a point being made here, and the chair is part of a performance designed to drive the point home — because, as you’re about to see, Ms. Austin also assembled a film crew to create a beautiful documentary of her dreamlike journey through an ocean world.


The clip you just saw, released only a couple of weeks ago, is called “Creating the Spectacle” and it’s the first part of a planned series of live art and film projects involving Sue Austin and her underwater wheelchair. For more info about this, visit this location. Sue Austin’s web site is here. Definitely metal.

(via Presurfer)


The next two items are loosely related. They involve really tall man-made structures. I mean REALLY tall.

Currently, the tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (above). Its height is 828 meters (2,716 feet). It was completed in 2010, and before that the tallest building was the 509-meter Taipei 101, which in 2003 broke the record of the 452-meter Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, which had reigned for seven years as the world’s tallest.

But it’s just a matter of time before the Burj Khalifa falls to second place. A Chinese company plans to begin construction this November on an 838-meter, 220-story tower of residential, office and commercial space in Hunan Province. Using pre-fab modules, they plan to build this in 90 days (details here)!

But that’s not all.  In 2018, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (to the right) is scheduled for completion with a proposed height of at least 1,000 meters.

This building race for the skies is clearly not going to stop any time soon. At some point, of course, limits will be reached. As one article I read explained, “materials, physical human comfort, elevator technology and, most importantly, money all play a role in determining how tall a building can or can’t go.” But are there any physical limits to how high they could go?

William Baker, one of the key designers of the Burj Khalifa, says that the “buttressed core” design of that building could be used to build structures twice as high as the Burj Khalifa, or even more. He also thinks that it’s totally feasible to build much taller than even the Kingdom Tower. “We could easily do a kilometer. We could easily do a mile,” he says. “We could do at least a mile and probably quite a bit more.

Another design approach could lead to even taller structures than that: buildings with massively wide hollowed bases, sort of like a super-sized version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Tim Johnson, the chairman at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and a partner at the architecture firm NBBJ, says that he worked on a project back in the late 2000s for a Middle Eastern client he’s not allowed to identify designing a building that would have been a mile-and-a-half tall, with 500 stories. He says the project was canned as a result of the crash of the real estate market in the late 2000s — but something like this could still happen:

“We proved that it is physically and even programmatically possible to build a building a mile-and-a-half tall. If somebody would have said ‘Do it two miles,’ we probably could have done that, too,” Johnson says. Back to William Baker: “You could conceivably go higher than the highest mountain, as long as you kept spreading a wider and wider base.”

And speaking of mountain-sized buildings, here’s a 1990s-era concept for a two-and-a-half-mile volcano-looking supertower in Tokyo called the X-Seed 4000 that has that look of the Eiffel Tower about it.

All of this is more than enough to cause most people to go “HOLY SHIT!”, but it’s really just an appetizer for what’s in our next item.


Yes, I’m talking about space elevators — a concept with which sci-fi nerds (including me) will already be familiar. But this is looking less and less like sci-fi and more and more like something that may become a reality much sooner than anyone would have thought even ten years ago. The concept, as described in The Font of All Human Knowledge, is this:

Its main component is a ribbon-like cable (also called a tether) anchored to the surface and extending into space. It is designed to permit vehicle transport along the cable from a planetary surface, such as the Earth’s, directly into space or orbit, without the use of large rockets.

An Earth-based space elevator would consist of a cable with one end attached to the surface near the equator and the other end in space beyond geosynchronous orbit (35,800 km altitude). The competing forces of gravity, which is stronger at the lower end, and the outward/upward centrifugal force, which is stronger at the upper end, would result in the cable being held up, under tension, and stationary over a single position on Earth.

Once deployed, the tether would be ascended repeatedly by mechanical means to orbit, and descended to return to the surface from orbit.

Space elevators could also be built on the moon, extending about 31,000 miles toward the Earth, terminating at what’s called the L-1 point between them, which would allow easy access to Earth orbit. Vehicles could be launched from Earth and dock at the end of the lunar space elevator, and from there, you could could back and forth to the lunar surface quite easily via the elevator.

Since, you know, it’s pretty fucken clear we’re not actually sending anyone to the moon by rocket again. Once was apparently enough for that.

What’s making these bug-eyed space-elevator ideas more believable are significant advances in rocketry, robotics, materials science, nanotechnology (yay carbon nanotubes!), computing, communications, and energy generation. It’s gotten to the point where a Seattle-based company called LiftPort has started a Kickstarter project to help fund the construction of the first steps toward a lunar space elevator — which it contends can be built with current technology in 8 years.

That’s right, motherfuckers, Kickstarter isn’t just for broke metal bands any more — it’s for space elevators, too!

The first stage of this project is building a robot designed to climb two miles up a tether to a platform suspended by high-altitude balloons, and in so doing, set a world record. This may sound crazy, but the people involved with LiftPort have actually done this kind of thing before. Go here for details (and make a donation if the spirit moves you — there are goodies available for donation levels as low as $1).

(credit to Phro for the link to the LiftPort Kickstarter.)


I have an idea that I think could help LiftPort lift off: hire Jack Miron of Walton, New Hampshire. Jack’s just an eighth grader, but for a school science project he attached a box that included a video camera, weather recording equipment, flags and a beeping device onto a big weather balloon and sent it off into the sky. Wait ’til you see how far it got before it returned to Earth.

This is fucking metal — and the video is fucking hilarious. You gotta love the contrast between Jack Miron and Sean Toland — the dude whose driveway turned out to be the landing zone for Jack’s science project.



Well, those two items about tall structures and space elevators undoubtedly ran a TL;DR risk, so let’s have a couple more short and simple items to follow them, in honor of Labor Day, beginning with this:

That, my friends is the Beer Tracker Bottle Opener. According to the manufacturer: “Each time you pop the cap off with this device, a digital counter increases by one. When you wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, God, why?” you can look down and have a clear answer available. Resets to zero when you’re ready to do it all over again.”  Fuck yeah.

Costs $10 and it’s in stock. Now if they could only make one that tells you what day it is and where you left your car keys and your pants . . . .


Oscar Wilde wrote: “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.” John Cage wrote: “Food, one assumes, provides nourishment, but Americans eat fully aware that small amounts of poison have been added to improve its appearance and delay its putrefaction.” And Dave Barry wrote: “We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it.”

All these quotes seemed appropriate when I saw this — though of course I still want to eat one, or a half dozen:

Yep, the chocolate eclair hot dog. When I saw this I thought, “American ingenuity wins again!” But ironically, it was developed by Maple Lodge Farms — a Canadian company — for the Canadian National Exhibition. Apparently, the Canadians celebrate Labour Day, too. Of course they also have national public health care.


Okay, this next item does involve music, though it’s not metal music. But this is unquestionably metal — literally.

Factoria Circula is a band from Catalonia in Spain who have created a performance called ‘Rodafonio.’ In this video, the three musicians are inside a giant wheel playing the original soundtrack of “Pilu Spagnolo”. The contraption was created by Cesar Alvarez.

Rodafonio from Factoria Circular from Carmina Escardó on Vimeo.


(via Presurfer)


This next item isn’t quite as light-hearted as the last few, but it sure is fuckin’ metal.

In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius, in what is now Italy (5.6 miles east of modern-day Naples) catastrophically erupted, destroying and burying the Roman city of Pompeii. According to The Font of All Human Knowledge,

“Mount Vesuvius spawned a deadly cloud of stones, ash, and fumes to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing. The towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were obliterated by pyroclastic flows. An estimated 16,000 people died from the eruption.”

And if that sounds like ancient history, think about this (from the same source): “Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.”

What follows is an animation showing the last day of Pompeii. I haven’t been able to find who created it, but it’s scary as fuck.


Well, I have a lot more I could show you, but I’ve probably exhausted your attention span for now, and I’ll just save the other items for the future.

As always, enjoy the rest of your fucking day. Don’t eat too many eclair dogs.



  1. I am so unbelievably excited about LifePort that I might actually give them MORE money, if my job interview goes well tomorrow. (This week’s Phro Metal story is basically about the towers, but not about using them to go to space.)

    You know, if I were the dude who found the box in his driveway, I’d probably call the cops too. Or I’d just steal it and jerk off on it, thinking it was actually from NASA. Mmmm…space boners.

  2. Can we launch an NCS sponsored balloon into a space? And if so can it play The faceless as its distress beacon?

  3. Eclair hot dog..whatever will be an American who figures out how to deep fry it

  4. Space elevators make me feel all funny in my nerd-pants. Cuz quite frankly we’ve got too many goddamn people on this planet and it’s time to start shunting them star side.

    • No lie. I can think of a lot of people I’d like to shunt up to the top of a space elevator and just let them keep on going . . . to wherever their inertia might take them.

  5. NCS is many times the best part of my day. Does that say more about me or you guys?

  6. That Kickstarter project has an $8000 goal. It’s currently at $62,000. Good to see people want space elevators!
    If I was able to, I’d definitely give it money!

  7. If a space elevator gets built, please have a sign that says, “Mashing the button repeatedly will not get you into orbit any faster”.

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