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Jan. 05, 2010

Science Behind Ghostly Design Exhibit

by Shelley DuBois

Click to enlarge images


ballooonlamp

If you like your light fixtures slightly spooky, or you’re into the idea of dining chairs that seem to fade into the ether, check out the exhibit by design firm Nendo at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan before it ends on January 10. The science behind the objects is simple, but the effects are otherworldly.

At the exhibit, walnut chairs appear to float out of a white floor. The chair legs are made of clear acrylic–they’ve been painted to look like wood at the top, but they fade to the clear base color at the bottom. In another room, little mushroom-shaped lights bloom on a table. The lights were formed by blowing up balloons inside a special kind of heated fabric, then allowing the fabric to cool into bulbous lanterns.

One of the displays, called “Phantom-Waves” is probably the most striking example of making magic with simple science. It shows vases that appear to have dark shelves in them, even up close, but if you look inside, they’re hollow. The designers created this effect by using polarized film, which only reflects light in a certain direction. When a piece of film overlaps another piece that’s been rotated by 90 degrees, it creates an dark area that, in the vases, gives the illusion of a shelf.

The founder of Nendo, designer Oki Sato, breaks down his methodology here, in a video posted on the Museum of Arts and Design website.

Coming to the chic living room of the future near you.

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About Shelley DuBois

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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