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Ferrolic (ferrolic.com)
356 points by jpatokal on Aug 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments


The designer (http://zelfkoelman.com/) is Dutch, and the name is actually a pun in Dutch. The word 'Ferrolic' is pronounced almost the same as the Dutch word 'vrolijk', which means 'happy' or 'joyful'.

His name "Zelf Koelman" in dutch literally means "You're cool yourself" which I find hilarious.

I pronounced his name as "Self Cool Man" :D

It's also a pun on the English frolic (which derives from the Dutch word, apparently).

Also "ferrofluid" because the fluid is ferrous (contains iron.)

It reminds me of the game World of Goo - those uncanny black blobs floating around.

As the site says, the device can only withstand a few months of sustained use - which is a pity.

I wonder why that is. Given that the container is sealed properly, and they use electronics with magnets, I just don't see any part that is subject to such massive wear.

EDIT: Thanks, jpatokal, that cleared things up.

Ferrofluids are fundamentally unstable. They're colloidal suspensions that rely on surfactants to keep the particles apart, and as the surfactants degrade, the particles start clumping together and falling out of suspension.


As a practical demonstration of this, there's an ancient ferrofluid exhibit (80's?) at a local science museum. While the fluid itself kinda-sorta "works" in that you get the pretty spiky shapes when zapped with an electromagnet, the edges and bottom of the glass case are thickly coated in viscous black gunk.

Ferrofluids are magnetic nanoparticles, usually iron oxide, with small molecules called surfactants stuck to their surface. These stop the nanoparticles aggregating. Eventually the surfactants themselves will come off, causing aggregation. Lumps of iron oxide precipitate out of the liquid and sink to the bottom. No doubt better surfactants will be developed that take a very long time to degrade.

Could you confirm or deny that you are using the word "nanoparticles" carefully?

I think that the ferrous particles in ferrofluids are mere particles. They'd have to be very, very small to be classified as nano, and we've seen before that making particles of an ordinary material that small can change its properties, ala "transparent titanium dioxide".

"Ferrofluids are composed of nanoscale particles (diameter usually 10 nanometers or less) of magnetite, hematite or some other compound containing iron." - Wikipedia

Makes one wonder about the usable lifetime of such an art piece.

Indeed, a piece designed to degrade within a few months seems like an art trope.

My first thought after seeing the video was "you could make a really cool James Bond-movie introductory title scene or five with this".

At first I thought 'this is so cool' , but then after thinking about it for a while, I realised that it's no cooler than any of the 200 videos or pictures with 'cool stuff' that I see every day.

I think it's a pretty useless expensive gimmick created out of toxic materials to excite the numb neurons of the bored inhabitants of the digital realm for 2 minutes or so. Then we'll all forget about it and move on to the next thing. I'm already looking for something else :).

The problem with reductio ad nihilum arguments like this one is that you can make them about absolutely everything and anything in life. It's a slippery slope.

Yes, I am doing that and it's a shitty way to see things, because it makes me sad and angry and everything is gloomy. Probably a phase I'm going through right now - my bullshit-filtering glasses are broken.

I go through this phase after a startup or project that I've been working on is over. Without a project to focus on, I see the world as it is - a sharade of people bullshitting each other and hiding from who they are. I need a new project :).

You might like to read the transcription of Sartre's lecture "Existentialism is a Humanism." It's available online at https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exis... . He wrote a lot on how to reconcile living in a world that he believed was devoid of inherent meaning and the sense of despair that this causes most people.

> I see the world as it is

That is no more as it is than anyone else's way of seeing the world.

You're simply seeing the world through the lens of your own discontent.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our little computers and programming languages and internet that we forget that there's a much bigger world out there.

Go sailing. Learn how to carve wood. Make out with another human on a beach. Go take pictures in a foreign country. Learn how to play an instrument. Grow some vegetables. Volunteer in your local community. Go to a bookstore/library, pick a completely random fiction book, and force yourself to read it from cover to cover.

It gets better.

The problem isn't that the world is small, it is that it looks pointless.

(I am experiencing a somewhat similar "phase" with codeshaman)

Self fulfilling prophecy. If all you do all day is sit at home and think about how the world is pointless, it'll look pointless. If you engage it (for ideas, see my previous post), it will quickly appear less so.

You gotta eat your vegetables.

To me, it's like a dog chasing its tail (or, rather, I am like one!): In order to engage and find meaning I need to find meaning so I get inspired to engage. Do I just jump out of this cycle of thinking and pretend I find meaning in something so I can escape?

(Damn, I sound so lost! :D)

P.S: Your comment on the Tinder topic a couple of days ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10019527) was spot on, you really nailed it. Thanks for sharing all these thoughts.

"Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while, a long while, it will be true." —Steinbeck (East of Eden)

Thank you for your thoughts, they are helping.

You are right again, it's a self fulfilling prophecy - the more you dwell on it, the more pointless the whole thing becomes. But as sebkomianos said, it's like a vicious circle: In order to engage and find meaning I need to find meaning so I get inspired to engage.

The solution is, I guess, to pretend for a while and just do something and then it will start making sense again. I'm doing that, trying to produce sparks to ignite the fire, I'm almost there....

All too often I see children playing on the playground, and I always do my best as an adult to inform the children of their pointless immature meandering. /s

That's certainly an elaborate way of calling it art.

you have never seen good art?

How would good art differ from this?

At first, I thought your comment was interesting. But then, I remembered that we're all going to die.

What a boring philosophy.

You mean it's 'art'?

If you like this sort of machine for art's sake, you'll love the kinetic sculptures of Arthur Ganson: http://www.arthurganson.com/pages/Sculptures.html

Check out "Machine with Oil": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__GhJl_UQg0

How are they creating a magnetic field that writes out the time? Is it a large grid of magnets or something more clever?

The second tab: 'Where digital meets Nature' has a brief summary of how it works. Sounds like a grid of magnets:

"In the front, the display has a basin comparable to an acquarium in which Ferro Fluid can move freely. Behind the scenes powerful electromagnets enable Ferollic to influence the fluid’s shape, to pick it up and move it around. Both modules, the basin and the electronics, sit secure in an aluminium frame."

This is brilliant .. a wonderful piece of artwork and technological whimsy in a way that playfully pushes the edge of display as an art-laden tool, and of course makes me wonder the difficulties of emulating it in software, so that everyone can have one and so that the ferro-fluid part isn't necessary (runs out of magnet-juice, requires containment, is icky in real life, etc.)

This paper (PDF) contains some more information on the design. http://isea2015.org/proceeding/submissions/ISEA2015_submissi...

What will this cost in retail? I hope it isn't anywhere close to 7.500 euro.

To the people downvoting me:

7500 EUR is what it currently costs: http://www.ferrolic.com/inquiries/

Does anybody know where I can find other music similar to that of the video?

Aphex Twin: Avril 14th https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeLuQ6X2ixI

Boards of Canada: Dayvan Cowboy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2zKARkpDW4

Solar Fields: Reborn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD2bLKIDaT0

Brian Eno: Music for Airports https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KGMo9yOaSU

And so forth, I have something of an incomplete playlist of similar 'ambient' http://audiosplitter.fm/playlists/ambient/2289864

similar style musicians are often in the cycle on http://soma.fm

hey thanks for this! awesome.

Reminds me a lot of this BT's album This Binary Universe that came out in the mid 2000's. Here's a youtube playlist of it:


BT ftw.

There is a Music credit at the end of the video for Rhian Sheehan: Imber. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjR4IInfOa4

Things I want to see:

* the game of life

* someone blowing smoke rings

* Robert Patrick from Terminator 2

* maybe a waterfall

That video is the most mesmerizing thing I've watched in a while.

Almost as good (and cheaper and longer lasting) would be a nice JS tool to render text in a "Ferrolic" font, with dripping, re-forming, etc.

Maybe this will be my next weekend project.

Same thought here... Funny thing, if I put such app on the wall with a state-of-the art flatscreen display, I should be as mesmerized, if you consider how extraordinary such a device is. Chances are it won't have this effect at all. We got used to wonders.

If you have seen Ridley Scott's Prometheus, this might be a bit unsettling to have in your home. Last thing I need is a Xenomorph running around the house!

Yup. Our house already has two little nightmares running around.

24 pieces on pre-order at 7500€

This first urge is to build an AI around this, because it seems to be alive. But it's too expensive as a gadget.

Amazing! Loved how I felt an instant emotional connection with the product! Great product, great video!

I'd be interested if they made a clock out of this, somehow.

Did you stop watching before the one-minute mark? Or are you asking about an analog clock?

Honestly I think they should have showed that way sooner, because that's what turned my interest from "That's kind of cool" to "Whoa! Now I want it!".

Nice to see someone has done this finally!

Modern day Lava Lamp. Very nice!

Shut up and take my money.

Thats pretty amazing!

This is very beautiful. The clock is probably the "killer app" for this.

It would also keep the cats amused; like watching a fishtank for them.

why would cats find it more amusing than watching the fish tank screensaver?

Or Pebble Watch, Xenomorph edition.

(It might eat a cat or two.)

Seeing this, I just can't stop thinking of why they choose to create an entertaining device and if this fluid has any practical applications.

It does have practical applications, but that doesn't mean you can't use it for entertainment too.

Art has the practical application of being interesting to the beholder without necessarily being otherwise functional. Although with this piece, a clock is practical and it also seems natural that it could become a programmable display platform like a Pebble Watch.

Because that's been done and there are plenty -- your hard drive probably contains some!


Passive cooling of a speaker's voice coil is pretty neat.

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