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Monday, August 15, 2005
Last week's mystery photo has been identified as a Fascination, designed by an inventor called Paul Lewis and built in 1974. Many thanks to Kelly of the Kelegraph for digging this up with the help of a friend. Lewis is an interesting character. He built several versions of the 'all-plastic' Fascination (originally called the Airomobile) from around 1934, using a three-wheeled layout for aerodynamic efficiency. The originals cars had a conventional front end but an aquatic-looking tail (almost manatee-like). Quirky as it may have been, the 1974 Fascination didn't really represent 40 years of technological advance (simply reversing the wheel layout and drawing even more inspiration from Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car).

However, part of Lewis's dream was for the vehicle to incorporate an electro-magnetic motor, as detailed in this page on articles about one Edwin Gray Sr., who was alleged to have invented an 'engine that consumes no fuel.' Admittedly, the publication in question was The National Tattler, which was lurid, to say the least ('Man Eats Girl', thankfully not supported by any visual evidence. Other front pages were rather nastier: I, II, III, although still black and white. All found at Bad Mags. Doesn't this December 1977 issue of Punk Rock magazine appear incredibly contrived, as if a student was playing about in Quark? Even though December 1977 was pretty much the height of the punk movement, contemporary culture makes us suspicious of authenticity).

But we digress. The original Tattler articles on Edwin Gray were at the Rex Research site, which hosts hundreds of documents on contemporary arcana. There's more on Gray at Free Energy, who do fancy stuff like Cold Electricity (not to be confused with Heavy Electricity. Related, 'how Chris Morris hoodwinks his victims'). Here's a picture of Gray demonstrating his motor in 1977. The Fascination's failure, and the fact that Gray's invention, which 'Could Change History By 1984', is little known and forgotten belongs in that category of urban myth spin-offs - the world-changing innovation that is promptly shut-down by the powers that be, its inventor driven insane, or vanished, or worse. Snopes has a nice page on the Pogue Carburetor, a device invented by the Canadian Charles Nelson Pogue that was claimed to improve fuel consumption ten-fold. Claims for the carb snow-balled, but none was ever officially tested, and rumours spread that the test models had been stolen.

The Pogue Carburetor refuses to die, and there's even an organisation, HIMAC, dedicated to 'help get the truth out about the super fuel conversion carburetor technology' (although they have a greater agenda than mere fuel efficiency). As others have noted, Pogue's invention would violate the first law of thermodynamics. Yet the device has earned a place in the secret history of suppressed inventions, almost all of which follow the tried and tested narrative of little man versus big, oppressive government, zealously guarding the interests of business and national security.

*

Other things. The end of the Lomo LC-A, via the excellent scrapbook (a Citroen enthusiast!) / Monday Night, 'a journal of new literature' / music links and more at Basement Galaxy / MeMo, a culture blog / bomb shelters in Israel / do you have the time to find out more on the story of Jamie Kane, virtual pop star, deceased? / on archaeology and idolatry: the Destruction of Mecca / Crime in Chicago, scare yourself with Google maps. It seems a bit unfair that getting threatening phone call puts you on the map / we're thinking of getting into FreeCycle. Anyone with any experience?

Merz, edited by Kurt Schwitters and published in Hanover from 1923-1932 / some more odd-shaped automobiles / paintings by Andrew King (via City of Sound). King's landscapes appeal especially - they have a definite Tom Thompson-Group of Seven feeling about them, which is apparently rather unfashionable. King's other work seems rather Biggles-inspired (much like the game Crimson Skies, which had a similar stiff-upper-lip theme).