Unexpectedly Intriguing!
June 5, 2015

Zen gardening is a now ancient practice than began sometime in the 14th century, where Zen Buddhist priests first created gardens where they could meditate and develop their appreciation of beauty by seeking to create the impression of water without water. Using stones, pebbles and sand, the Zen gardeners would orient them and even rake ripple patterns into sand in ways that would be reminiscent of the ebb and flow of water over time.

Bruce Shapiro has worked out an ingenious way to automate the process of creating a Zen garden, using step motors, rotating, telescoping arms and magnets, to make it appear as though perfectly round steel ball bearings are carving out intricate ripples in the sand all on their own (via Core77).

Shapiro calls the device the "Sisyphus Machine". The timelapse video below shows what it can achieve after being programmed and left to its own execution.

If you recall your ancient Greek mythology, Sisyphus is the man who was condemned by the gods to forever roll a stone up a hill during the day only to have the results of his day's labor erased as it rolled back down to the bottom, where he was compelled to endlessly repeat the cycle for eternity. And now, even Sisyphys' labors can be replaced by a machine. Or freed by one.

Whether that's a sad or happy ending to the story has yet to be determined.

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