What is this mystery machine?
August 25, 2019 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I found this machine in a vintage shop near Santa Rosa, CA, and immediately fell in love. The owner of the shop didn't know what it was either - my receipt reads "WHAT IS THIS???" I brought it home, have christened it "the portal", and am now using it as a plant stand. However, the mystery remains: WTF was it originally for???

It has handsome blue powder-coating and two complex nested metal bits (gyroelongated square bipyramids!) that spin rapidly when it's plugged in.

The warning label reads: "Components moving at high speeds can cause serious injury. Keep hands, long-hair, and loose clothing away from machine. Keep out of the reach of children and animals. Machine may turn on at any time. Unplug before moving or servicing."

Friends have speculated that it's something food-related, like a stand mixer or taffy puller, but I haven't been able to come up with a plausible vision of how that would actually work. Also, it doesn't seem particularly food-safe -- the exposed bolt heads are prone to rusting and seem difficult to clean.
posted by introcosm to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
posted by yqxnflld at 2:44 PM on August 25, 2019 [40 favorites]

Wow, fascinating. I never would've guessed.

Is this junk science? It feels like something a scammer cooked up to profit off illegal marijuana growth operations willing to do anything to increase their profit, doesn't it? I wonder if it was picked up in a raid and subsequently auctioned off?
posted by bluecore at 2:54 PM on August 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

What a wonderful snake oil machine! This is right up there with structured water, in terms of how much it can help your plants and how much it costs. I am a plant biologist but not your plant biologist.

Btw: You can make greenhouse plants sturdier by vibrating their substrate or blowing wind over them, both of which are much cheaper than this bs.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:00 PM on August 25, 2019 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: This is great news! I love obscure hyper-specialized scams! How fitting that I'm already using it as a plant stand.
posted by introcosm at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2019 [28 favorites]

And whatever you paid for it was apparently a steal!
posted by ejs at 3:54 PM on August 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

That's amazing!

I actually thought of something a lot like this in principle, which involved measuring resonant frequencies of leaves of particular plants, and then playing those frequencies in a greenhouse to stimulate airflow past the leaves under an assumption that CO2 uptake through the stomata was a rate limiting step in photosynthesis in the quiet air of a greenhouse, particularly for plants that had hairy leaf undersides (i.e. those with 'silvery' undersides) where the stomata are.

So I think this might work, albeit not very well.
posted by jamjam at 4:01 PM on August 25, 2019

bluecore is correct, this is very much a “maximize your hydroponic weed yield via bro-science” device.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:29 PM on August 25, 2019 [8 favorites]

I wonder if that was what it originally was for, or if it was some kind of machine that actually did something that was repurposed for scam porpoises. Dammit, I was sure I could think up a pun to go along with that, but I got nothin'.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:41 PM on August 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wonder if that was what it originally was for, or if it was some kind of machine that actually did something that was repurposed for scam porpoises.

I checked the picture before coming to the answers here and my first thought was that it was a dough mixer or some other sort of industrial food agitator... but maybe didn’t work out because of the exposed, rust-prone bits mentioned above....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:29 PM on August 25, 2019

I wonder if it would be possible to modify the electric components so that the 'bipyramids' turned much more slowly. Then you'd have yourself a kinetic sculpture! (Also, come to think of it, that would eliminate any risk of curious kids plugging the machine in and scalping themselves.)
posted by Transl3y at 6:51 PM on August 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Woo-Plasma Field Generator. Make a sign.
posted by theora55 at 7:39 PM on August 25, 2019

I'm sure I saw one of these in a sci-fi type movie recently. I have a feeling that it's older than weed growing woo. The picture looks like a well worn machine with a big industrial warning label.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:02 PM on August 25, 2019

Here is a promo video for these expensive Biowave machines. The subsonic waves are supposed to speed plant growth and repel insect pests.
posted by w0mbat at 9:00 PM on August 25, 2019

From the user manual:

The BioWave machine is a technology that boosts the photosynthesis in plants, it helps the plants to breathe better during the night there is no photosynthesis, and there is no need to use the BioWave. And as most experts shared with us, the plants need to rest during the night, and assimilate the chlorophyll created during the light cycle, and we don’t want to disturb their balance by turning the BioWave machine on.

posted by Toddles at 10:18 PM on August 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

It is true btw that plants spend the night doing different stuff than they do during the day, and do most of their growing and no photosynthesis at night, see a nice video here.

That’s part of how snake oil works, start with some true stuff, garble it a bit, then make a claim with fancy words and charge a high price to suckers. They may even believe it themselves, in which case it’s not technically a scam, I suppose.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:59 AM on August 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Whoa! This is awesome. I love Santa Rosa. Thanks for sharing.
posted by nomdicstephen at 12:36 PM on September 20, 2019

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