This is another photograph from a lab in the Charles Harris Group at UC Berkeley. I previously photographed this effusion cell apparatus from an orthogonal orientation, but I also found this shot at its long axis intriguing. The sense of complexity and purpose, but also the sense of aesthetic minimalism, always attracts me to physics apparatuses.
UC Berkeley’s student machine shop has a truly fascinating collection of old machines that are still fantastically useful. (I’ve posted on it before.) This particular photograph is of a lathe’s controls–both those for moving the tool bit relative to the metal as well as those for the automatic feeds.
When everything I work with in the laser lab is computer-controlled, it’s refreshing to work with a machine that works entirely from a clever design of gears and cogs. There’s a solidity and strength in a device that is completely independent of interference from microprocessors.
Berkeley has a Student Machine Shop, and my scientific experiments would never get off the group without it. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve needed a part that has never before been made–I can only imagine in my mind what I need. I make some preliminary drawings, and I head up to the shop to machine this fantasy part from aluminum or, more rarely, steel. To see that form from my imagination slowly becoming reality is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. (It’s probably worth noting that I started as a sculptor before transitioning to photography.)
This particular photograph is of a milling machine, used to make planes, grooves, and holes in metal. In many ways, it’s a lot more flexible than a lathe (the other ubiquitous machine shop tool), but also a bit more threatening looking.