Time Flies: Levitating Nixie Clock

This is an absolutely amazing artifact whose physical existence is difficult to accept. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that this thing is pushing enough electrons through the air that it can not only hold itself up, but also light up a set of Nixie tubes. It's god damned sorcery, is what it is. This is some Tesla HAARP Weapon Planetary Weather Control shit going on here.

It took just about two years since I ordered it from Kickstarter for it to arrive, which is kind of a standard time frame for Kickstarter, but it was long enough that I had completely forgotten about it.

Some minor gripes:

  • I strongly question the design decision of using 5 Nixie tubes instead of 6. That middle one just alternates between plus and minus, so the numbers only change once a minute. If there were 6 tubes we could have had a permanent second display like the NixieChron does.

  • It is fantastically hard to get it to levitate the first time. It takes me about five minutes each time, and that means that every few seconds the floater slams hard into the base. And I don't mean "fall" I mean "powered descent at 4 gravities". This isn't going to end well.

  • It's supposed to stay floating in case of power failure. It does not. Boom.

  • It didn't come with a manual, not even a URL on a post-it note. Since there have been several kit-based iterations of this, it took me a while to find the operating instructions (which are here, by the way.) Apparently some previous version of this was configured by waving your hands around in the air above it. This version is not that version, but I found that manual first, so that led to quite some time of me wildly gesturing at this levitating glowing thing like some Harry Potter cosplaying lunatic.

  • And the way you configure it is... complete lunacy, even compared to the typical UI standards of "how to set the time on a clock or a Microwave", which was already complete lunacy. You're used to "press button A to advance, press button B to configure, hope you can guess what the beeps mean?" Ho ho ho, welcome to the next level: the control here is an invisible capacitive touch button, just one, and to toggle, say, setting 3, you gesture near the button until the audio tone changes frequency 3 times... and then you wait a little bit longer and flee quickly. Oops, you advanced to 4! Try again! It's koo-koo-pants.

Still. It is sorcery. Glorious sorcery.

Update: After a few weeks, I couldn't tolerate it any more, and packed it away. The slightest bump makes it fall, and then I would be compelled to stand there wasting 5 minutes trying to get it to float again, and failing. It was like having an itch you can never scratch. So now it's in a box somewhere. Want it? It's yours.

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13 Responses:

  1. Wout says:

    1. Amazing
    2. Funniest review I read in a long time!

    • ssl-3 says:

      You might like bigclive's youtube channel. It is chock-full of amazing stuff that doesn't actually fucking work.

  2. tfb says:

    Mine will stay floating on power failure: did you install rechargable batteries, set the switch in the right position (towards the middle of the control thingy) and wait for it to charge? It took me a while to realise I needed to do that. The problem mine had other than me not knowing some/all of that was crappy contacts in the battery holder (holders?) which you can check by looking for volts across it: I think I fixed that by just fiddling with it and bending the contacts until it gave up and worked.

    You can test the staying-floating thing by turning the power off to it without the flying bit on it: at least some of the LEDs should stay on on the control unit (this is how I worked out the batteries were not actually connected).

    I launch it by putting a couple of layers of bubblewrap over the base: when it crashes this makes it less bad, and once it is stable you can pull the bubblewrap out gently so you don't perturb it.

    I'm pretty sure that the whole thing is something that has leaked in from a better future which never happened.

    • jwz says:

      I'm pretty sure that the whole thing is something that has leaked in from a better future which never happened.

      Very much this.

  3. Gene says:

    Any interference or whatever with speakers, amplifiers or whatever sound-producing hw you have?

    • tfb says:

      Mine sat on top of one of my speakers for a while, & next to the amp and there wasn't any noticable interference.

  4. Juttipat says:

    Mine (all) has a little Bug:
    (I like to use the BIT14,1, e.g. it dimms down after a short time and dimms up, if there´s a movement)
    - the dimming feature switches itself of. (means: dimms down, never awakes)
    But: if there´s always a Bluetooth-Signal around (even if not connectedd)
    the dimming feature stays alive.

    Hope the UI gets better with the App....

  5. BHN says:

    > It didn't come with a manual, not even a URL on a post-it note.

    One does not learn black magic from a 'manual'.

    ObLovecraft: Do not calle up That which you can not put downe.

  6. Passerby Commenter says:

    Sorry for the nitpicking, but: the electrons are not being pushed through the air, they stay in the coils while the field is transmitting the energy. To me, the fact that the electromagnetic field is not just some bookkeeping device for the forces acting on charged particles but that it's actually, physically, there, that it can carry energy and momentum just like matter, is even more magical.

    • tfb says:

      Really it's just a transformer: the primary is in the base an the secondary is the floaty bit. No electrons get from the primary to the secondary of a transformer, either (or, if they do, it usually involves smoke).

      Except it's not 'just' a transformer because there's some theorem that says you can't do this: there's no dynamically stable equilibrium for something to be purely electromagnetically suspended (you can cheat by having some physical point of contact to stop the thing falling off). So presumably it is watching the field all the time, working out the position of the floaty thing, and continually adjusting it so it stays in place.

      And, apparently (I asked), most of the power goes to lighting the tubes: the floating bit is cheap to run.

  7. Can't tell from the pic - does the flyer have LRF support to cushion the landings?

  8. o.o says:

    I know the color scheme has been discussed to death on here, but I'm wondering if anyone has noticed it more difficult to read as they get older. I had LASIK in 2000 and have had 20/20 vision ever since, but I'm getting old enough that presbyopia is setting in and it's getting harder to read things like small print, even more so in dim light. I don't have a small font on my browser, but reading this post and its comments really messed with my eyes; I wouldn't say that it "hurts", but it's difficult to focus on, and looking away or switching to a different tab takes a couple of seconds to adjust.

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