Blue Ant > Floating Bed

Hollis Henry stays at Bigend’s Vancouver apartment toward the end of Spook Country, and gets a mysterious warning call on the way there:

“Do you have any piercings?” he asked.

They took a right.

“Excuse me?”

“Piercings. If you do I must warn you about the bed in the master bedroom. The top floor.”

“The bed.”

“Yes. Apparently you don’t want to crawl under it if you have any magnetic bits. Steel, iron. Or a pacemaker. Or a mechanical watch. the designers never mentioned that, when they showed me the plans. It’s entirely about the space underneath, visually. Magnetic levitation. But now I have to warn each guest in turn. Sorry.”

When they arrive, Hollis finds Bigend’s bed is “a perfect black square, ten feet on a side, floating three feet above the ebony floor.”

Magnetic levitation bed. Seems reasonable, or at least possible. Where are the floating beds then? The most likely analog dates to 2006, one year before the publication of Spook Country. Tech and fancy thing blogs flocked to an invention released at the “Miljonaire fair” in Kortrijk, Belgium, represented by a 1:5 model of a magnetically floating bed. Several blogs tell the same story, Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars is offering a product six years in the making, a levitating black platform tethered by thin cables, almost identical to the description in Spook Country. Yours for $1.5 million. In fact, Time listed it as one of the best inventions of the year.

One troubling fact that you could easily imagine tech blogs overlooking, is that there’s almost no documentation of the full-size product. Every blog features the same photo displayed here, no variation. There’s a YouTube video for the project that shows one other still, and an interview with the architect. And yet, besides the model, there’s no evidence of the Floating Bed. So with a retail price tag of $1.5 million, my guess is the thing never existed.

That’s not to say the architects were pulling one over on us. It’s actually hard to tell if they ever claimed there was a full-size version. But I don’t think it really matters, because the bed is really a piece of conceptual art. Designers showing that they don’t have to follow the laws of gravity. And neither do you if you are willing to pay a million bucks for a bed.

Which of course, nobody is. Except maybe an eccentric Belgian billionaire named Hubertus Bigend. And if he did, nobody would ever know. In that sense, the Floating Bed is the perfect Gibson artifact — a marvelous built object that scratched at the outside of the known world, and may or may not have broken through in an apartment in Vancouver.

BTW, recently a Reddit user claims to have made his own hovering magnetic bed. This one is far more credible, but far less glamorous. Equally practical.

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