Artificial Horizon

Articles and links about the design process
by Thibaut Sailly

Newton on a bike

July 12, 2008

Jour de fête

version française.

Going for a coffee this afternoon, I saw a fancy cyclist standing still on his two wheels only, waiting for his turn at the red light. He stood like this, without moving an inch for a good 30 seconds : well done, champ.

This had me thinking that in fact, being able to gain equilibrium on two turning wheels is quite striking, as mundane as it can be for us today. On our dear western society technological achievements timeline, the appearance of the bicycle* is oddly late, compared to tremendously more complex concepts that came to us before that.

See, the men who knew there was hydrogen in the sun (Angström, 1861), knew the speed of light (Foucault, 1850), communicated through a telegraph (Morse, 1844), understood the gravity phenomenon (Newton, 1687) and who were 5 years close to discover the automobile didn't know what it was to pedal and move forward at the same time.

Imagine the confusion and awe in Voltaire's or Benjamin Franklin's mind if they had been overtook by a bike while on their morning walk.

* the one with a chain drive, introduced around 1880, not the crotch-cruncher known as the Draisine that appeared in 1818.

Movie still : Jour de fête by Jacques Tati.

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