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Ever Heard of the Wild 'Burning Man' Festival in the Middle of the Nev. Desert? Here's Your Primer


"unstoppable kaleidoscope of creative visions..."

(Photo: Gizmodo)

What started in the mid-1980s as a group of friends in San Francisco celebrating the summer solstice has morphed into a week-long art festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert attended by nearly 60,000 people.

The Chino News-Review describes "Burning Man," an annual festival named after the inaugural group set fire to an 8-foot wooden man, as an "unstoppable kaleidoscope of creative visions that manifest as art installations, theme camps, performances, decorated bicycles, elaborate costumes, 'mutant' vehicles and a strong sense of community."

One of these "mutant" vehicles was caught by Gizmodo's Brent Rose, who is reporting from the festival running from Aug. 27 through Sept. 3. It is a 3,000-pound robot scorpion that "breathes fire":

When I encountered it, I had a choice: Either run away screaming, or climb up its butt and go for a ride. So I got on board and met its makers.

The scorpion, which can move all of its limbs independently with controls and has a flexible tale, took 7 months to build. The creation was conceived by "longtime-burner" Ken Murdoch and made by Kirk Jellum, a former aerospace engineer.

Check out Gizmodo's post for video footage that shows fire shooting out of the robotic-insect's tail here.

Rose also reported on a bizarre game called "Super Street Fire." He describes it as an "incredible marriage of computer game design, engineering, carpentry, and pyrotechnics." In short, players are given gloves with program that recognizes gestures and these gestures control 32 flame effects:

There are two parallel rails between the two players—one for right-handed moves, and one for left. When you throw a punch, a small flame starts at your platform and travels in a series toward your opponent. Depending on how you move, you either produce a fireball or a sustained column of flame. Special moves send bigger blasts of fire and do more damage. Best two out of three rounds wins.

The Huffington Post interviewed lighting artist Bentley Meeker, who has done displays for Chelsea Clinton's wedding and is responsible for illuminating Burning Man's annual installation -- the Temple -- as well. Naturally, the biggest challenge for lighting in a non-populated area of the desert is energy. Meeker told the Huffington Post a generator powers the festival. Meeker said setting up the lighting last year took about a month, whereas this year it only took four to five days.

Here are some photographs from the festival thus far -- notice the smoke from wildfires in northern California:

To catch some of the scale and transitory nature of this festival, this time-lapse video can give you an idea of what is erected and then removed from the deserted, dry lake bed in Nevada every year:

The Chino News-Review reports tickets for this year's Burning Man, which saw record sales, range from $240 to $390.

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