Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:


Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to

Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

These Gears Really Work?

An evening pause: From the youtube page: Clayton Boyer demonstrates a variety of square, oval, pentagonal, organic and other unbelievably-shaped gears–and they really work!

Hat tip Edward Thelen.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Joe

    Wonder if this guy designs transmissions!

  • Insomnius

    Cool, squaring the circle visualized!

  • LocalFluff

    He’s “cheating” geometry by using irregularly sized and distributed cogs on some of those wheels, the triangular, squared and pentagonal ones. Shows how far one can get by hustling and stretching. If it works it works, and it works.

  • wayne

    Edward– good stuff!
    you might like these as well—

    “12 Bizarre Non Circular Gears”

  • PeterF

    The follow on videos are cool too! This makes me want to assemble the wooden clock kits my kids keep giving me. In my experience unusually shaped gears will result in a output speed that varies rhythmically. The “fish” gears could be used for valves that must open and close periodically. The last set of gears is exactly like the ring / sun / planetary gears in an automatic transmission. This type of device combines two of my interests, woodworking and machinery.

  • wayne

    Neat little Film from the Archive folks, explaining how the “modern transmission” functions.

    “Spinning Levers”
    A Jam Handy Film, sponsored by Chevrolet

  • LocalFluff

    @wayne, you would like Christopher Polhem’s mechanical alphabet formulated 300 years ago (in Sweden of course, where else). There’s disturbingly little illustrations to be found about it online, but here are a couple of examples of the mechanisms with which any movement could be transferred to any other movement.

  • wayne

    I spent some time looking at suggested-video’s as well.

    tangential– anyone remember the Spirograph toy from the early 1970’s?

    I’m no engineer, but I do know some of these gearing-configurations are unstable & subject to unequal forces along their movement.

    Highly suggest anyone interesting in “gearing,” pay a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit and/or the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago. Lots-o-great-stuff on historical methods of transferring mechanical motion into useful work.

  • wayne

    Thank you, I will take a look!

    (tangentially– you are on a roll today with all your varied commentary. Good stuff!)

  • Wayme: Y’know, you find a lot of very cool videos that would make great evening pauses. You might send some of these to me privately so I could schedule them! Once you post them in the comments it is too late.

  • LocalFluff

    @wayne, I’m always on a roll. But for the next hour I’ll listen to the archived weekly FISO telecon of the university of Texas, Austin, that is just out. The topic is satellite servicing, just as I happened to interest myself a bit for that subject. Perfect!

    I’ll look out for some good resources about Polhem’s mechanical logic that really helped the industrialization. And in his days the machinata were made out of wood. Humanity wouldn’t have any industry without wood, it is such a great material. And it just grows up for free. There must be good stuff out there about Polhem, or else there’s an open market for someone to assemble that content well illustrated and in English. There are museum exhibitions of it.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z–
    Thank you. I try to post good quality stuff.
    (I have been compiling a suggestion list of Pause potentials, but have not yet checked them to see if they would be repeats.)

    Highly recommend the Internet Archive for all things audio/visual and text.
    The “Prelinger Archive” sub-collection is particularly interesting, archived 20th century “industrial Films” and the like. (Unfortunately, you can’t hot-link their material directly, but a lot of it is posted at YouTube as well. And all of it at the Archive is available in multiple formats/quality for download.)
    For audiophiles– they have a huge collection of 78 rpm records that have all been digitized.
    (Everything is free & no registration, 100% non-profit.)
    And while I’m shilling for them– they have a particularly use Tool, called the “Wayback Machine.” Part of their Mission Statement, is to “archive the entire internet,” and using the wayback-machine you can look at snap-shots of websites from the past.

    LocalFluff– HA.
    Yes… you are always “on a roll!” (I do enjoy your science factoids!)

  • Wayne: As I have told others, don’t send me too long a list of pause suggestions. I prefer to get them no more than three at a time, at the most.

  • wayne

    Very good!
    (I shall restrain myself from overloading you.)

    tangential– your January 4th, Coast to Coast appearance, is available at YouTube.

  • Wayne: Can you email me the link to the C2C youtube appearance? I have searched and am failing to find it.

    Please don’t post the link here. Email it to me. I will post it on the website.

  • wayne

    Check your in-box.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *