Archive for the ‘Engineering’ Category

Just hanging around

November 16, 2007

It’s an indication of one’s ignorance to say that all crash test dummies look the same. It’s easy to tell the difference when you get to know them . For example, the suspended one (below) has specially modified hips which allow it to sit upright on a train seat. Yes, there are indeed experiments where trains are crashed to see how they can be made safer, and the experts at TRL (the Transport Research Laboratory) know exactly how to prepare the dummies to extract the right information.

The hanging man from

The keen-eyed will notice that the two dummies in the background also look a little different. They once held down good jobs as motorcycle crash test dummies. However, they got knocked about so much that they don’t cut the mustard any more. Today they are merely “make-weights” – strapped into vehicles that need a full complement of inert passengers for a realistic crash test.

The lesson is clear. Don’t judge a dummy by its looks. Take a little time and get to know it. You may be surprised by how much you have in common.


Radio Bionic

November 5, 2007

The figure on the right is a scientist at Queen Mary, University of London. The figure on the left is a hollow “phantom”. The chamber in which they stand excludes electromagnetic radiation.

Radiation phantom from quitehuman

The scientist fills the phantom with fresh lamb meat. He buries a small antenna in the meat and triggers it to send and receive radio signals.
The aim is to design an antenna for implantable medical devices for insulin delivery, pacemaker regulation, cardiac defibrillation and bowel control.
The perfected antenna will improve patient comfort because the implanted devices will then be totally free from wires. A nurse or doctor will be able to monitor and regulate the wireless device inside the patient from their office down the corridor.
But first the scientists must be confident that signals to and from the antenna propagate efficiently and do not affect human body tissue.
Each experiment must stop after four hours. After that point, the meat is no longer fresh enough to have the same properties as living human flesh.
A virtual phantom – a computer model – is being constructed so soon the experiments will be able to continue without visits to the butcher.
In a previous life, the phantom was used to test the electromagnetic radiation from police radio handsets. That’s why its hand is in front of its face.

Cool dude

October 23, 2007

This is one dummy we haven’t yet met and certainly wouldn’t want at the steering wheel of a moving car. He’s called Oscar and he sits in luxury cars, freezing to death or sweating buckets. His job is to reveal the efficiency of aircon systems in cars that are still in development. He’s covered in nasty looking sensors that detect temperature, humidity and draughts. Regular human beings used to do the job but they needed lunch breaks, holidays and wages. Oscar will work 24/7 and doesn’t complain, often. Maybe that’s because he has a small metal cage sticking out of his mouth.

Oscar - aircon dummy from quitehuman



October 8, 2007

At last, you may be thinking, just what I expected to see on a blog dedicated to dummies – a crash test dummy. Well, yes it is, but we do try to be unpredictable so it’s not your ordinary run of the mill, mindless serial impact victim.

This is, we believe, unique. It’s the only pregnant crash test dummy in the world. This immaculate model was conceived from a passion to understand how car seat belts might be redesigned to give better protection to expectant mothers. It’s surprising that nobody had considered improving the safety of pregnant women in cars before.

Standard belts can be uncomfortable when you’ve got a bump with a baby inside so some women choose not to strap in at all, increasing their risk of injury at a time when they really want to be even safer. So this female has a water-filled container inserted above her pelvis to mimic the foetus. Then she is accelerated up to 50 mph (80 kph) and brought to a sudden halt, just to see which kinds of belts work best.

Pregnant dummy from


September 26, 2007

Antony Gormley has been making copies of himself for decades, including an inspired life size silhouette made of sliced white bread. Recently there were dozens of his sculptures on the tops of buildings in central London, “watching” and being observed, as part of his Blind Light installation hosted by The Hayward. While that project was in development, and while he was finalising the design for the 25 metre high Waste Man for The Margate Exodus event, he gave us some time to take this portrait of the artist with a 3D pixellated metal version of himself in his north London studio.

Antony Gormley and his pixellated self, from

There are many people who work with life-size human forms – dummies, manikins, statues, phantoms. We are documenting them in portraits and words and will post them to this blog every week. Here are clips from some which will soon be posted in full.

Detail of blonde dummy head from Detail of man who works with dummies, from Detail of phantom holding hand in front of face, from