Toroidal Ring Vortex machines pulling the crowds

After years of scrabbling around in the back blocks of Australia’s farm ‘resource collections’ (i.e. the back paddock dump) a second Toroidal Ring Vortex machine has been discovered and has being successfully restored.

Controversially, this is apparently a World War 11 German Wehrmacht machine known as a HF99. The HF apparently stands for Himmel Furz. Finding parts has been very tricky indeed especially something known as “die Klappe Foofer”. Any suggestions welcome.

If you do not know of the Toroidal Ring Vortex Machine, the video clip below shows one being operated by IBYS head chutney consultant Billie Justice Thomson.

Here is another recent demonstration of the HimmelFurz

The Toroidal Ring Vortex Generators are available for hire under certain conditions (email to start that conversation). They are an enduring source of wonder for all. The first Ring vortex Generator has now been hit/whacked/hammered an estimated 100,000 times plus.

The new/old Himmelfurz in action at Tonsley Innovation Hubarama, South Australia

And in case you wondered whether they pull a crowd, check out the clip below from Science Alive 2017. Long queues!

The Shearing Days

Recent research work by IBYS associates has thrown more light on Australian Inventor Henry Hoke’s “missing years” which currently seem to be fairly elastic – they could have taken up most of his life.  Photos taken in a remote shearing shed prove definitively that Henry really did work in the shearing industry- these stencilled letters which spell out his name on the shearing shed wall are part of a longstanding tradition when a shearing season comes to an end. The exact year of the stencilling is unclear.

Henry Hoke was thought to have invented the now-common shearer’s pizzle guard.

Any stories or anecdotes about Henry’s experiences as a shearer are always welcome.


Broken Hill String

I’ve been up in Broken Hill and surrounding areas recently working on the wire project – which is about all the resourceful ways that people use wire to repair, adapt, create.

I’ve been on the track of “Broken Hill String”, which is the wire used in the local mines to set off explosives. Once used it is discarded and taken home by the miners who find literally hundreds of uses for it. It is a sort of predecessor to cable ties. There’s a great sense of pride in local resourcefulness here and a slight annoyance from the older miners I spoke to about the general wastefulness of modern life. More to come soon. I’ve also been out into a few local pastoral properties looking at the way people use wire (usually a lot heavier gauge wire) to repair and make things. Some of the building techniques are clever.

Mark Thomson

Research Director, IBYS

Where’s the Henry Hoke exhibition?

The immense Henry Hoke tool collection is currently located in Canberra where it resides in the care of the Questacon, the national science and technology centre. The researchers there are giving intense thought as to the potential uses of the collection, which does include a partly constructed Quack of Doom and the only genuine functioning analogue Random Excuse Generator (well, it works sometimes).


As a result of the Question arrangements, we hope to see a whole new generation of young thinkers, scientists  engineers and makers wrestle with the brilliant mind of the great Henry.


There was rain forecast on the television last night. Oh that’s good, everyone says, but there’s an edge of doubt in how they say it.

Three days a week I work in Renmark in South Australia’s Riverland region, where I am helping some friends compile a book on propagating citrus. There’s an irony to this task as the country has been hit by severe drought and the once mighty flow of the Murray River’s irrigation waters – that gave the citrus industry an essential ingredient in what would otherwise be desert – have lessened to an increasingly sluggish and salty trickle.

Despite this change, there is a great beauty about the place in the time before dawn, when I go for my daily walk.

I walk through arrow-straight rows of oranges and vines, laid out in flat precise grids and dotted with modest houses. Each house, apart from its 10 or 20 acres of fruit trees, is surrounded by its own protective clump of palms, gums and ornamentals to stave of the heat of a baking summer. These homes were established in the twenties and thirties, the products of unbounded optimism and of ‘the blockies’ – fruit block owners who got up at 4am and worked very hard all day.

In the still air of the deep violet dawn in the east, there’s a sense of momentous occasion to the place; it’s as though it’s all a film set and an orchestra is playing some inspiring overture. The rich red sand and dark green trees are slowly and softly set aglow by horizontal golden light in the rising dawn. You can almost hear the violins sawing away.

In this pleasant setting every morning I try to take a different route through the grid of roads spreading out from the town. This morning, the air is chilly but not unpleasant: the rain has, once more, failed to materialise.

There is no-one else around.

As I approach one house, close to the road, I see a man is sitting on an armchair on his verandah.

He would not expect anyone walking along the road at this time of morning and has not seen me. He is in his fifties, scrawny, very suntanned and wearing a bleached Drizabone raincoat over his shorts. His posture on the armchair is not comfortable: he is sitting on the edge of chair, looking down at the ground, with his hands clasped together between his open legs.

He is completely lost in his thoughts and I stare at him, feeling a sort of embarrassment for intruding. Perhaps he really had expected it to rain when he got up and put on his raincoat as some gesture of optimism.

Then my clumsy steps passing him by alert him to my presence and he glances up.

He has the look of a haunted and troubled man and for a moment I feel I am witness to some grievous personal tragedy. Maybe it involves the family or the banks or the bills piling up or the fact that the fruit block his father carved out of the scrub may soon return to that state and after a lifetime of hard work he, the son, will have failed. I don’t know.

He gives a brief nod of acknowledgment and I do the same. The blockie gets up and goes inside, slamming the screen door behind him.

Walking back to my comfortable desk work on the computer for that day, I suddenly realise perhaps I disturbed him praying.

Praying that his hopes won’t curdle, that the farm won’t go for a pathetic song at auction.

For just a bit of rain that won’t make him feel like a fool for putting on his raincoat.

he experience has stayed with me because it was the briefest glimpse into some unknown region. Perhaps it was what climate change might mean at the personal level. Or the fate of farmers and people on the land throughout history. Or of just someone else’s life.