Designed by husband and wife team Charles and Ray Eames, this is the Solar Do-Nothing Machine, a whimsy-maker of sorts, but also “one of the first devices to convert solar energy to electricity. The Eames office asked Cal Poly for advice, but instead of sending help, the university sent a team to see what the Eames office had already learned…”
…the Eames made even this lighthearted toy into an innovation. Despite “doing nothing,” it actually served as a testing ground for both solar power and new uses of aluminum. When published in Life Magazine in March 24, 1958, the machine was described as a “forerunner of future solar-power machine” and was subsequently touted by the Aluminum Company of America as “an enchanting harbinger of more useful sun machines for the future.”
Charles’ and Ray’s grandson, Eames Demetrios, discovered footage of the machine in the 1990s and edited it together, as seen above.In the archives, more kinetic sculptures and more Eames work: Mathematica: A World of Numbers… and Beyond and the classic Powers of Ten.