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Gadgets | Technopolis

Perpendum

This ‘kinetic sculpture’ is a source of endless fascination

Perpendum

Image: Hugh Threlfall

November 23 2011
Jonathan Margolis

Anyone old enough to remember the Newton’s cradle executive toys of the 1980s and earlier will recall that when you weren’t actually setting those clackety chrome balls a-swinging, they were rather useless objects, more irritating than inspiring. They also made an annoying racket that even now I fancy I can hear in my head, although I haven’t seen one of the silly things in decades.

This updated take on the executive toy, which is equally – more, I think – suitable as a living-room ornament, doesn’t only do its intriguing, curiously hypnotic thing all on its own, driven by battery power, but it does so in total silence. The Perpendum kinetic sculpture is a quite amazing mechanism and it has actually been hard to resist the temptation to crack open the casing of my sample model to find out how the heck it works, and how in particular it manages to run for three years on a set of four AA batteries.

I would like to try to describe the seemingly infinite, perpetual-motion-like way its elegant arms swing and twist, but it’s practically impossible. Suffice it to say, they rotate constantly and appear never to be in the same configuration twice. It’s a really beautiful and well-made thing that a lot of people – although perhaps not the proverbial maiden aunt – would love to receive.