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A kinetic fire sculpture using a large-scale harmonic pendulum system for Burning Man 2012 (and Maker Faires in 2013).
A kinetic fire sculpture using a large-scale harmonic pendulum system for Burning Man 2012 (and Maker Faires in 2013).
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64 backers pledged $2,210 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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The Harmonic Fire Pendula is a kinetic fire sculpture being made for Burning Man 2012. It will also be taken to various Maker Faires next year if it is successful. This will be one of the world's largest harmonic pendula systems and probably the only one which consumes hundreds of gallons of kerosene. 

Full-scale HFP, not showing release mechanism or adjustable weights.

What is a harmonic pendula system? It’s a series of pendula all tuned to swing at just the right speeds to form stunning wave patterns. It's order out of chaos, beautiful complexity out of deceptively simple rules. I fell in love with the concept when I first saw a demonstration. Being a Burner, I immediately wanted to build one really big. And on fire!

I've been developing the mechanical design on a 1/3 scale prototype. The mechanism for releasing all pendula simultaneously was particularly problematic -- the forces add up quickly when you have 10 pound weights on the end of so many lever arms! The prototyping phase also explored different pendulum pivots to give the longest swinging time possible, and different wick designs for the torches to give the longest burn times possible. A program was written to simulate the motion using different parameters, including the effect of loss of fuel mass as the torches burn. This was used to design a system with the best visual properties. All in all, I'm now quite confident that the full-scale version is practical.

A test using the early prototype

I’ve already received art grant funding from the Burning Man organization, but it simply isn’t going to be enough for an installation of this scale. It will cover the 800 pounds of steel and the 200 gallons of kerosene I need but not much else.

What else needs to be paid for? Things like 40 waterjet-cut pivot springs, 64 plasma-cut weight plates, 32 flange-mounted pillow blocks, 200 feet of safety perimeter fencing with lights, a secondary spill containment system for the fuel drum, drip trays to protect the playa surface, 2 big CO2 fire extinguishers for emergencies, and lots of cable and shackles and turnbuckles to hold it all in place. And more beyond that! It's a big project.

Final prototype, showing improved release mechanism and adjustable pendulum weights

If you would like to see one of the world’s largest -- and certainly the most flamingest -- harmonic pendula systems on the playa this year, I humbly ask for your support. Thank you.

Update 6-29:

Things are going quite well! I've added a new $35 reward level, promising thank you videos I'll be filming on the playa. This will retroactively apply to everyone above that level as well.

I'm also issuing a stretch-goal challenge -- if we can hit $2000, I'll boost everyone up one reward level. So get the word out!

FAQ

  • I thought about adding a reward like that, but the logistics are daunting, even for events near me physically. The HFP will need a fairly large, flat surface that can have stakes driven into it for the guy wires yet is reasonably non-flammable. A dried lake bed, basically. If someone *really* want this, I'm not categorically saying no. Just... we'll need to talk.

    Last updated:

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    One Attoparsec sticker. They are very handsome and look excellent on laptops.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A copy of design notes for the project, artistically reinterpreted by a skilled calligrapher. And a sticker!

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    13 backers
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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Access (download or streaming) to special thank you videos. One will cover the construction, assembly and operation of the device, as well as interviews with the team members. The other will be focused just on the device running at night, in all its flaming glory.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    One Attoparsec patch. These will be wearable, fiber-based versions of the sticker. Also the sticker and the notes.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    A patch, the notes and a sticker. IN ADDITION your chosen name will be included on an etched brass plate mounted permanently on the HFP structure.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    One Harmonic Fire Pendula project t-shirt, the same one being made for team members PLUS your name on on the etched brass plate.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    The t-shirt, the patch, notes and stickers. Plus your name on the etched brass plate.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Everything above, except your name will be listed in a LARGER FONT on the plate under the heading "Super donors". You will also get a customized, etched brass name badge.

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    Everything above, except your name will be in an EVEN LARGER FONT under the heading "Super mega donors". In addition to the customized name badge, I will make an etched brass plate using any design you choose up to 36 square inches in size.

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Funding period

- (21 days)