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Mystery item 0325. Credit: NIST Museum

Frances Webber, Public Affairs Specialist, NIST Public Affairs Office

In Unidentified Museum Objects I, we asked for help identifying some mysterious whatchamacallits in the collection of our very own NIST museum … and you enthusiastically responded. The Twitterverse helped us close the case on item 0266, and NIST staff sent in a number of leads on some of the other gizmos.

Read on for some theories on that last round of objects and to see photos of even more unidentified doohickeys.

Three theories and one answer

Item 0305

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Item 0305. Credit: NIST Museum

Tobias Huber, JQI postdoc: “Looks like the heart of a liquid flow cryostat, perhaps an early prototype. The whole device would need to sit in vacuum for thermal insulation. The brass (copper?) disk could be a heat exchanger, where liquid helium is pumped through the piping…”

Adam Creuziger, materials research engineer, NIST Center for Automotive Lightweighting: “Looks similar to many induction coils for heating.”

Item 0325

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Item 0325. Credit: NIST Museum

Ricky Sprow, mechanical engineer, NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR): “Possibly a device for remote valve operation or pressure control. Or, a revolving sample chamber.”

Item 0266

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Item 0266. Credit: NIST Museum.

More unsolved mysteries!

Three new (old) unidentified museum objects are pictured below. Any ideas as to what they could be?

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Item 0306: A mini Einstein-Rosen bridge device? Made up of a metal cylinder with a coiled copper wire. Credit: NIST Museum
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Item 0497: A primitive glow stick, perhaps Superman is missing a memory crystal from his Fortress of Solitude? Credit: NIST Museum
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Item 0539: A prototype tricorder? Or a steampunk Walkman? Credit: NIST Museum

If you’ve got any inkling of what one of these thingamabobs might be, leave us a comment!

Edited April 17, 2018, to update photos

This post originally appeared on Taking Measure, the official blog of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on September 29, 2017.

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About the Author

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Fran Webber is, among other things, a writer at NIST. She recently received her master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri, completing her thesis research in science communications. A (more) youthful Fran dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. She’s not really sure what went wrong.

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NIST promotes U.S. innovation by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

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