David K. Smith
It's simultaneously one of the most adorable and most astonishing things you're likely to see today: measuring just 1/8th of an inch by 1/4th of an inch, I present to you the world's smallest working train.
This model train set was built at a 1-35,200 scale to the real deal by New Jersey train enthusiast David Smith--and the only tools he used to make it were a craft knife and his bare hands. As you watch (and squint) you'll see the 5 car model passenger train make its way around the little hill--the thing actually runs impressively fluidly.
So what's the thing made of? According to the Telegraph, it's "Powered by a standard two-inch-long rotating motor head and carved out of mouldable plastic." What's more, the entire project cost him around all of $12 to make.
While the microscopic model is certainly an achievement, the fact that a model train is getting press is apropos in more ways than the 'wow-that's-tiny' factor. It helps prove that trains may once again be taking center stage in the American imagination--Warren Buffett just announced a multi-billion dollar purchase of railroad lines, and president Obama's stimulus bill famously included support for high speed rail. Both are likely to be sound investments: trains provide a comparatively cheap, efficient, and clean form of mass transit.
Here's to hoping we see innovations as head-turning as Smith's in the trains people can actually ride.